Surprises (good and bad) from the Giro’s opening time trial

And a few obvious conclusions as the first Grand Tour of the season gets underway.

Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) wears the first pink jersey of the 2023 Giro d’Italia after storming to victory in the stage 1 time trial. Photo: © Cor Vos

Kit Nicholson
by Kit Nicholson 06.05.2023 Photography by
Cor Vos
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The Giro d’Italia’s opening time trial gave us what many expected: a Remco Evenepoel victory – Remco in Rosa. But with his main rival apparently way off the pace and specialists sent scrambling, there is plenty to talk about as the first Grand Tour of 2023 gets going.

Here are some things that surprised us (and a couple that didn’t, not really).

Evenepoel’s margin of victory

That Evenepoel won the opening time trial of the Giro should not come as a surprise. That he did so with such an advantage – 22 seconds clear of runner-up Filippo Ganna, a whole km/h faster at the first time check (the flat one!), and with a buffer of half a minute to his nearest GC rival in João Almeida – has put the whole field on notice.

With two more tricky ITTs to come, including the long and flat course that closes out the first ‘week’ on stage 9 and which will suit the Belgian national champion, Evenepoel could just arrive in the mountain-heavy third week with a buffer between two and three minutes.

He does though hope to give away the pink jersey at some point this week, giving his teammates a few days off before he, in all likelihood, takes it back in next Sunday’s 35km race against the clock… Evenepoel even pointed to stage 4 as a likely contender, so expect the fight for the breakaway to be intense as the peloton heads for the hills of Campania.

Roglič’s tail spin continues?

Primož Roglič is not a rider blessed with luck. Whether it’s a nasty crash, a superior teammate or a Covid-19 outbreak, he’s a man who has had more than his fair share of misfortune and bad timing over the years.

He’s recorded DNFs at three of the past four Grand Tours he’s started, and with all his eggs in the Giro basket this year – Jonas Vingegaard naturally number 1 on the Tour de France call sheet – he stacked his spring with statement performances to give himself the best foundation to go for the maglia rosa, and keep it.

However, he also has to count on a strong team, and it was looking good with a healthy mix of workhorses and climbing domestiques to cover the challenges spanning all three weeks. However, Covid-19, other illness, and injury have ravaged the Jumbo-Visma camp, ruling out Tobias Foss, Robert Gesink, Jos van Emden, and Jan Tratnik, forcing a major shake-up that didn’t stop quivering until neo pro Thomas Gloag arrived at the team’s hotel in the small hours of Saturday morning.

One positive *ahem* for the Olympic TT champion is that after the longer flat section along the coast, he raced up the final climb just one second slower than his young rival, not to mention his moderate margin to Filippo Ganna (just 21 seconds slower). Small mercies at the end of a tough few days for Jumbo-Visma and Roglič, who was apparently “super happy” post stage.

EF on the back foot

While it’s true that EF has historically loved a team time trial, few of their Giro roster can boast superlative TT results, and though Stefan De Bod showed off his South African national champ’s jersey on his way to an early benchmark, it was a far from ideal start for the American squad.

It wasn’t a course that would suit either Rigoberto Urán or Hugh Carthy, or even Ben Healy, on their best days, but with Urán best of them (third in the team) at a deficit of 1:35 and Carthy 1:56 down, they have work to do. Mind you, the Colombian is not miles away from some of the other outside favourites.

Carthy caught his minute man Alessandro Tonelli on his way to a modest 57th on the Giro’s stage 1.

Perhaps we should be looking out for their striking new threads on stage 4 as they seek to reduce their deficits…

UAE has a three-way leadership dilemma

Big surprise? Maybe not. But the strength in depth at UAE Team Emirates is worth noting. Brandon McNulty was first to fly through with the new fastest time, but he barely had 20 minutes to plant himself in the hot seat before teammate Jay Vine trimmed off another two seconds.

Better than both though, was former pink jersey-wearer João Almeida who will be glad not only to finish on the stage podium – slower only than Evenepoel and former world ITT champion Filippo Ganna – but also put himself ahead of everyone on his team bus. That’s not to say that there’s already in-fighting or even scope for any unpleasantness to arise; while we’ve seen it go wrong a number of times, the multi-leader model can work, and that’s the method they’ll hope to take advantage of.

Geoghegan Hart in the Grenadier driving seat

It’s never a surprise for the Ineos Grenadiers to sprinkle their Pinarello-mounted riders throughout the top 10, nor is it a surprise, given recent form, that Tao Geoghegan Hart should be riding so well.

If we’re to find the surprise wearing this particular team jersey, it’s that Geraint Thomas fell victim to his own dodgy pacing, screaming through both intermediate checks with the fastest time only to sag dramatically on the climb to the finish, crossing the line 55 seconds down on Evenepoel.

Meanwhile, 2020 Giro winner Geoghegan Hart laid down another strong performance to further tuck away his doubters. This fourth-place finish – his best result in a time trial at any level since the 2018 Tour of California – and ahead of some big-name specialists including Stefan Küng, is one more notch in a season that has seen the Londoner finish in the top six of every stage race he’s done, including third at the WorldTour Tirreno-Adriatico and overall victory at the Tour of the Alps.

Geoghegan Hart on course to catch his best ITT result in five years.

No big surprise, then. Maybe. But it’s great news for any and all who have been waiting for the Brit’s star to rise again. And as for Thomas, who was only 15 seconds slower than Geoghegan Hart, he conceded that it was a pretty “average” day for the 2018 Tour champion, so all is most certainly not lost.

In short, the Giro has started as anticipated, only with slightly bigger gaps than expected, which will make it a little more challenging for rivals of the world champion. But of course – as almost every rider said on the finish line today – there’s a long way to go yet.

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