Roglič trounces the field again
Another time trial, another crushing Primož Roglič victory. The Jumbo-Visma rider followed his triumph on the opening day of the Giro d'Italia with a second stage win against the clock this week, landing another major blow over all of his GC rivals.
Early on, it looked as though Roglič’s gains would be minimal, as he posted times at the first and second time check that were only a matter of seconds ahead of his major rivals, Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida).
But everything changed on the uphill final third of the course. Roglič stormed up the climb, managing to stay in his saddle for much of it, and decimated the times of his rivals - 1-05 quicker than Nibali, 1-16 quicker than fellow time-trial specialist Bob Jungels (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) and a whopping 3-11 and 3-45 over Yates and Miguel Ángel López (Astana) respectively.
He even managed to better the time of Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Soudal) to win the stage, despite having to compete in far wetter conditions.
Roglič might not end the day in the pink jersey, as he did after the earlier stage win, but his position on GC now looks so strong that he’s a very good bet to be the man in the jersey come the final stage in Verona.
Simon Yates sheds time
The signs earlier this season were that Yates had significantly improved his time trialling ability, with his biggest win of the season so far coming against the clock at Paris-Nice.
And indeed at the first couple of time checks things appeared to be going smoothly, with the Mitchelton-Scott rider successfully limiting his losses.
However, at just the part of the course where everything fell into place for Roglič, something went very wrong on the climb for Yates. As a lightweight climber, you’d have expected Yates to gain ground on the uphill, but instead he capitulated, losing time not just to Roglič but also most of the other GC contenders.
Did he set off too fast and paid for it at the end? Or were there any other technical or physical issues that caused him to finish so slowly? Things are unclear at the moment, but whatever the reason Yates will surely be bitterly disappointed to have lost so much time.
Yates now lies 3-46 behind Roglič on the GC. For him to have any chance of winning this Giro, you feel that he’ll have to depend on Roglič suffering the same kind of collapse that Yates himself experienced last year.
Is it up to Vincenzo Nibali to take on Roglič?
Yates wasn’t only GC contender to lose time. Miguel Ángel López endured an even worse day, posting a time 3-45 slower than Roglič after an early puncture derailed his ride.
That leaves him 4-29 down on Roglič on GC, which is an awful lot of time to make up in the mountains even for a climbing specialist like him.
Mikel Landa (Movistar) is another star climber who finds himself even further down at 4-52 following another costly time trial, while pre-race long shots for GC threats Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) and Richard Carapaz (Movistar) now look like even more of an outside bet as they’re both over three minutes down.
Good days were had by Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Britain’s ever improving Hugh Carthy (EF Education First), who limited their losses to 1-00 and 1-30 respectively, but neither rider really have the pedigree to be expected to challenge for the top spot.
That leaves Vincenzo Nibali as the man who looks best equipped to take on Roglič over the next two weeks. He also did a very good ride, posting a time that was just over one minute slower than Roglič, putting him 1-44 down on GC.
That’s still a big lead, but considering how long there is to go, and the fact that the riders haven’t even faced a single proper mountain yet, there’s plenty of time for twists and turns in the GC race.
Nibali has years of experience chasing Grand Tour GCs, whereas this is the first time Roglič has found himself defending a lead during a three week race. With this taken into account, 1-44 suddenly doesn’t seem like so much of a gap.
Campenaerts a slipped chain short of winning the stage
You had to feel sorry for Victor Campenaerts. The European time trial champion was sat in the hot seat for much of the day having set the the best time early on, and looked a safe bet for victory once Roglič - in all likelihood the last rider on the road capable of bettering his time - passed through the second checkpoint 51 seconds behind.
That was before Roglič started the climb, on which he gained over one minute over Campenaerts, to defeat him by 11 seconds.
Even more frustratingly for the Belgian, he probably lost in excess of 11 seconds when his chain slipped as the finish line neared.
The following bike change was agonising, as the member of staff tasked with looking after him in the car behind mistakenly pushed the rider before he had fully mounted his new bike, forcing him to get off and start again, requiring the assistance of another push from a spectator to get him up to speed.
On the other hand, Campenaerts did enjoy the luck of making his ride before the rainy conditions took a turn for the worse later on. But it will still hurt that, were it not for that incident, the recently crowned new Hour Record holder would have landed a first ever Grand Tour stage win, and picked a second stage wins in as many days for his Lotto-Soudal team following Caleb Ewan’s success in the stage eight sprint.
Valerio Conti defends the pink jersey
Another story played out away from the battles among the GC contenders and for the stage win, involving the immediate future of the pink jersey.
Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates) was tasked with defending leads of 1-32 ahead of José Joaquín Rojas (Movistar) and 1-41 over Giovanni Carboni (Bardiani-CSF) to end the first week as race leader still.
Over such a long, challenging time trial, and as such an unproven entity against the clock, this defence was never certain, but Conti road with aplomb to not only keep hold of the jersey, but actually put time into both riders.
Roglič is now the closest rider to him on GC at 1-50. It’s impossible to imagine Conti maintaining the lead when the race reaches the mountains, but with two flat stages kicking off the second week, he should hold onto pink until stage 12 at least.
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