Primož Roglič in command
Over the course of just 8.2km Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) managed to land a significant blow to all the other GC contenders.
He gained a significant 28 seconds over both Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and Miguel Ángel López (Astana) and 23 seconds over Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida, whilst even the rider who came closest to matching his time, Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), was 19 seconds adrift.
It was a devastating ride by the Slovenian, who currently looks like the man to beat at this year's Giro. We knew going into the race that he was the in-form rider, having already won the Tour de Romandie, Tirreno-Adriatico and the UAE Tour over the past few months, and today he confirmed just what a threat he is.
The question now is will he be able to maintain such high standards? Gaining so much time over his rivals is surely a bonus, but taking the pink jersey so early in the race might put undue pressure on his Jumbo-Visma team.
They will be happy to let breakaways go and for another (non-GC rider) to take over the jersey in the coming days, but his lead is already large enough for that not to be a straightforward task.
Yates, Nibali and López best of the rest
As the only rider to finish within 20 seconds of Roglic, Simon Yates looks like he’s again in great shape for the Giro, and has retained his pre-race favourite as one of the major favourites.
Heading into the race, both Vincenzo Nibali and Miguel Ángel López were being discussed as just below Yates and the top tier of favourites, but their chances look enhanced by their their performances today. Neither would usually expect to gain an advantage against the clock, with López even claiming that he’d be happy to lose two minutes across all three of the race’s time trials, so both will be delighted to finish third and fourth on the stage.
López has impressed during the early season, having won the overalls at the Tour of Colombia and Vuelta a Catalunya, and has apparently brought that form to the Giro, while experienced campaigner Nibali appears to be peaking just in time for the Giro.
There is of course a long way to go, with most key GC mountain stages reserved for the final week, but the early signs are that Yates, Nibali and López all have the legs to compete for pink.
A topsy turvy time trial
Most bike races are slow burners, characterised by slow starts and a burst of activity towards the end of the day.
Even time trials tend to follow a similar pattern, with the favourites generally preferring to line-up later in the day to give them a chance to suss out the course from observing other riders’ performances.
Today, however, was exactly the opposite, with forecasts of an impending storm prompting the big names to set off as early as possible.
Tom Dumoulin was the first rider out of the start gate, and most of the other GC candidates followed in quick succession, ensuring a frantic opening half hour of action.
Then followed a lull as the race’s domestiques took to the course, before it was finally the turn of Simon Yates, who was the only GC contender to choose to ride late in the day.
Thankfully for him the expected storm never came, and he was able to post a very competitive time, leaving Roglič unsure of the stage victory until the very end.
Parcours favoured climbers over specialists
Despite constituting less than a quarter of the course, the 2km San Luca climb at the end proved to be crucial, with climbers generally out-performing time trial specialists.
The likes of recently crowned Hour Record holder Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Soudal) and former Giro stage winner Jos van Emden (Jumbo-Visma) were nowhere near in contention for the stage, while GC riders like Tom Dumoulin and Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) were unable to make the kind of gains they’d usually expect to.
Most riders calculated that it was not worth swapping their time trial bike for a road bike before the climb (the one notable exception being Trek-Segafredo's Bauke Mollema, who pulled off a successful switch to finish ninth), but still the climbers were able to gain significant inroads while going uphill.
Luckily for the time trial specialists, there will be more chances to shine later in the Giro, with two more stages against the clock at the end of the first and final week - although they too contain a fair amount of climbing.
Other winners and losers
One of the most eye-catching rides came from Tao Geoghegan Hart (Team Ineos), who put in a very impressive ride to finish seventh on the stage.
The leadership at Team Ineos is up for grabs following Egan Bernal’s injury, and the young Brit currently looks like he might be their best bet ahead of Tour of the Alps winner Pavel Sivakov and Ivan Sosa.
His was the best of several promising performances from young riders, including Roglič's Jumbo-Visma teammate Laurens De Plus, who was eighth, while a sixth place finish suggests Rafał Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) could be in shape to make a sustained GC bid for the first time since making the Vuelta podium way back in 2015.
Among those left disappointed will be Mikel Landa (Movistar), who already finds himself over one minute adrift of Roglič, and Ilnur Zakarin, who lost a whopping 1-20 and looks unlikely to be in the mix for GC - another blow for his Katusha-Alpecin team, who are in desperate need of some big results.
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Stephen Puddicombe is a freelance journalist for Cycling Weekly, who regularly contributes to our World Tour racing coverage with race reports, news stories, interviews and features. Outside of cycling, he also enjoys writing about film and TV - but you won't find much of that content embedded into his CW articles.