A dream start for Tom Dumoulin who gets the big win the home crowd wanted. Now the race heads for the packed roads of the Netherlands and a probable sprint finish.
Stage 1 wrap: Tom Dumoulin did it. Sometimes being the home star is a disadvantage, it brings expectation and pressure and cannot make the legs turn any faster. See last summer’s Tour de France where Dumoulin was fourth in Utrecht. This time he won, although by miliseconds ahead of Primož Roglič of Lotto-Jumbo. We expected Jos Van Emden but he crashed; Martijn Keizer was an outsider but instead it was the Dutch team’s Slovenian recruit who finished second and presumably launched a race against time for print media to file something about the ex-ski jumper to meet their deadlines. Among the others Andrey Amador was a promising third, Marcel Kittel was an excellent fifth (14 seconds ahead of the next sprinter Moreno Hofland) while Vincenzo Nibali put a few seconds into his main rivals, a boost to the morale.
The Route: just 25km separate Arnhem and Nijmegen so today’s course takes a wide circular loop westwards towards Tiel around the Waal valley. The course is flat but this is the Netherlands so the roads are peppered with street furniture. Yesterday’s time trial will remove some of the pressure from the peloton, already most of the field know they’ve lost their chance to take the pink jersey, at least for today so this should reduce the pressure and in turn the likelihood of a crash. That’s the theory but practice could prove otherwise and in 2010 the Giro’s Dutch start begin with an opening time trial on Stage 1 and then crash carnage on Stage 2 saw the race split into different groups as Bradley Wiggins lost the overall lead.
There is a climb in Berg en Dal, literally “mountain and valley” in Dutch, a poetic licence where the start in Beek, “stream” shows the more modest reality of the terrain. Still there’s 3-2-1 points at the top for the first three, a podium visit to collect the blue mountains jersey and the chance to start in front of the cameras the following day so this a valuable strategic point.
The Finish: two laps of an 8.6km finishing circuit in and around Nijmegen. As they approach the finish line they cross the Waal river on a wide bridge and the road bends gradually towards the finish on a wide road.
The Contenders: Marcel Kittel was unbeaten the last time he rode the Giro, if only because he won the two Irish stages in 2014 before falling ill and leaving. His Dublin sprint is a masterpiece, a shotgun finish as he blasted up the finishing straight. He’s in form and has taken well to Etixx-Quickstep where Łukasz Wiśniowski, Fabio Sabatini and Matteo Trentin offer precious lead out support. He’s also in excellent shape as the time trial proved and his win in Romandie showed he was climbing well, staying in the pack when a good number of riders were ejected out the back. In short he’s got the ability, the team and the form.
André Greipel lacks the star power but gets the job done year after year and we have to go back to the 2007 Vuelta a España to find a time when the German started a grand tour and didn’t win a stage. He’s in form again with a recent win in Turkey. Does he get his win today or later? Or has mentioning this run now cursed him?
There are then a string of less regular but still very fast sprinters and when you cast your name over each of them a stage win is entirely plausible however there are more candidates for a win than there are sprint stages. Elia Viviani is the third pick, he triumphed in Genoa a year ago ahead of Moreno Hofland who’s had a quiet spell, his sprint promise hasn’t come through but here’s a chance
Like Hofland, Arnaud Démare is torn between the sprints and the classics but with Milan-Sanremo collected and light injuries sending him out of the Tour of Flanders he’s been training once again with the Giro in mind knowing that he might skip the Tour de France.
They say Caleb Ewan is riding the Giro as “a test” but surely he passed the test in the Vuelta last year when he won a stage. Now this is a story of confirmation and whether he can deploy his aero sprint against even fiercer competition. Luka Mezgec, a Giro stage winner himself, will be a precious aid, a little and large combo in the finish. Ewan is going to be a great sprinter but he was beaten twice last weekend in Yorkshire.
Ewan hasn’t pateneted the low tuck and another low profile sprinter is Jakub Mareczko was Italy’s most successful cyclist last year, at least if measured in wins. However they’ve all been at a lower level, partly a function of his modest Southeast team but also because he’s only 22. Now he’s faces his biggest test ever but he was beating Greipel in Turkey and has a low aero style which suits a fast finish. Yet he was last in yesterday’s time trial which could have been a calculated cruise but probably tells us about his experience and athletic ability right now.
Second last yesterday was IAM’s Matteo Pelucchi pops up to win big when people don’t expect it, take his Tirreno-Adriatico stage win last year, proof he can beat the best in a World Tour test. There’s a reputation as a daredevil/kamikaze depending on whether you’re being generous or not.
Giacomo Nizzolo won the red jersey in the Giro last year but didn’t get a stage along the way, a reflection of a consistent career but he’s often a runner-up rather than a winner. Sacha Modolo won three stages last year but with Kittel and Greipel it’s hard to see him getting the better of them. Finally Kristian Sbaragli got a stage of the Vuelta last year but remains an infrequent sprinter.
|Marcel Kittel, André Greipel
|Elia Viviani, Caleb Ewan
|Mareczko, Modolo, Hofland
Weather: warm and sunny with a top temperature of 27°C. A breeze from the SW of 18km/h, maybe just enough of a crosswind at times, if not to split the field but to make the bunch nervous.
TV: coverage starts at 1.45pm CET on RAI, 2.15pm on Eurpsport and the international feeds and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm Euro time.
Eurosport is covering the race across most of Europe. beIN SPORT has the rights in the US and France while Italian host broadcaster RAI offers the best coverage with experienced commentators as well as roving reporters on motorbikes to add extra coverage. As ever cyclingfans.com, cyclinghub and steephill.tv are the go-to sites for schedules and pirata feeds. The timing will vary but the finish is expected for around 5.15pm CET each day.