Giro d’Italia Stage 1 Preview

A time trial and ever since the route was announced Filippo Ganna felt like the certain pick only his form’s not so reassuring of late. Today also brings some answers about the form of the GC contenders.

Turin: Torino to locals and an elegant city that’s home to grissini breadsticks and two importers of Colombian goods: coffee roaster Lavazza and Gianni Savio. It’s also the second home of Urbano Cairo, the media mogul who controls RCS which promotes the Giro. Today’s 8.6km course is a big boulevard affair, running up and down the banks of the Po river and rewards riders capable of pushing a giant gear while holding the most aero of positions possible for long sections.

The Contenders: Filippo Ganna (Ineos) should have been the runaway pick, the world champion seemed unbeatable in time trials and is now riding in his home race, on a course gifted to him by the organisers. Only he was dethroned in the Tirreno-Adriatico time trial after falling ill, and then twice in the recent the Tour de Romandie, is the form a problem? The talk has been that Tokyo is the big objective but there’s room to aim for this today too. Romandie’s two hilly TTs were less to his liking but the doubt is there now and we should have a contest for the stage win.

Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck-Quickstep) is the form pick. He did win in Romandie and is a time trial specialist, only he’s not yet the “human metronome” stereotype. Instead, like a Frenchman faced with pasta, he’s prone to overcooking things too soon. However since Franck Alaphilippe’s joined the team as a coach they’ve been working on this.

Team mate Remco Evenepoel gets an instant test of form that will tell us plenty and if he’s back to his best he’s capable of winning here although that would still be an surprise, he’d be a stronger pick for a hillier course but his career is one of surprises so far. Staying with the Quicksteppers, João Almeida should be close too, it’s harder to see a win but a strong ride can put him in a good position for the maglia rosa once the climbs come and the big TT specialists fall out of the overall classification only this holds true for Evenepoel too.

If you like colossal Italian chronomen then Ganna isn’t your only pick, Jumbo-Visma’s Edoardo Affini is an outsider. There are plenty of specialists like Victor Campenaerts (Qhubeka-Assos), Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), Jan Tratnik (Bahrain), Jos van Emden (Jumbo-Visma) and Maciej Bodnar (Bora-Hansgrohe) but it’s hard to see them winning. The Israel team has three in Alex Dowsett, Mathias Brändle and Paddy Bevin with the latter one to watch because if he finish high today he’s also handy on short climbs and bunch sprints and so could aim to collect the race at some point next week.  Alberto Bettiol is not a TT specialist but can do well here, the same for Tobias Foss (Jumbo-Visma) and Max Walscheid (Qhubeka-Assos) too but beating Cavagna and Ganna?

Filippo Ganna, Rémi Cavagna
Remco Evenepoel
Bevin, Almeida

Weather: dry, sunny and a top temperature of 19°C. A light NE breeze means a tailwind to the first time check and a small headwind for the final 2.5km.

TV: last rider is home at 5.10pm CEST and most of the big names feature in the final hour, all going off at one minute intervals. It’s on RAI for locals and VPN users, Eurosport/GCN for much of the world and Australians get treated to coverage on SBS.

46 thoughts on “Giro d’Italia Stage 1 Preview”

  1. Its fairly short so could a sprinter with good solo ability go close if they tried. Sagan is who i have in mind as someone who may try to do well to set up the pink jersey later on stages 2 or 3.


  2. Sorry but I find these short prologues to be a waste of time. All the hullabaloo of the start and we get 8kms or racing. Anti-climax. Roll on tomorrow.

    • A waste of time? We should get some insight into who of the GC candidates is ready and who is not: how much will Bardet, Landa, Nibali and Martin lose to Yates, Soler and Almeida, is Evenpoel really back to his best (if he is he’ll win the stage)… Tomorrow won’t tell us anything about GC but should confirm Ewan’s position as star Giro sprinter – an afternoon for a stroll along the Moselle before the fun starts later in the week.

    • I’d love a finish atop the Superga today too but it’s a grand tour, the longest of sports events, so worth waiting a few days to let things develop.

      Also imagine you’re Mauro Vegni. Some Australian, Colombian, Kazakh or Belgian is always going to win something, but an Italian? Your race needs home success that helps the coverage, it’s your real market. That’s not so obvious with Nibali waning but along comes Filippo Ganna and you’ll be tempted to start the Giro with a time trial for the next decade.

      • Maybe I expressed myself badly. TTs and prologues can be fascinating and revealing while mass bunch finishes often give little away. Anyone who enjoys tables, data, calculation, and cycling too will find interest in a TT result. As they say: no hiding place!

      • It’s way simpler than all that (nationalism, narratives, narrow differences…).

        For some unknown reason, ITTs, which normally produce awful TV results whenever they happen in a GT, on the contrary tend to grant – and that’s quite unexpected! – decent audience figures on weekend days. And, even more important, they are the *only* sort of stage which (normally) gets a decent number of people watching as the first or last stage of a GT. That is, people (especially in Italy and in Spain – but I specify that because those are the data sets which I know better) just hate to watch the final sprint of any GT – and that perhaps makes some sense? – but they also avoid to watch the very first one, even if it’s a slightly interesting road stage.

        I’d prefer a road stage to keep the fight for the leader jersey open in the following stages, or a very short prologue with the same objective in mind, but, hey, watching figures still matter a lot.

    • Having a short stage as an opener makes sense. The time gaps are likely to be small, unless something truly disastrous happens (hopefully the drain covers have been dealt with) no one is going to “lose the Giro” on this stage. I know this is a bit too long for a prologue but it serves the same purpose as in a novel or film of setting the stage for the narrative ahead.

    • I wouldn’t call it a waste of time – because the time gaps are relevant – but for me it is anti-climactic. A classics-style stage (even just something like Stage 3 of this year’s Giro) would really wet the appetite, and this short TT could be stage 2 or 3. A flat sprint stage would probably be little more exciting. I’d have thought that an exciting first stage would really peak people’s interest, but inside Italy an Italian leader will probably matter more, such is the nonsense that is nationalism.

      • It is absolutely true that we cannot exclude purely nationalistic reasons – or perhaps more kindly put a desire to excite and please the home crowd – but prologues and short time trials are very much the tradition and classics style or sprint stages that open the race, though not exceptional in any way, are not something that organisers must especially deviate from.
        Giro has opened with a prologue even in years when there was no great Italian hope to favorise – or am I completely wrong?
        Besides, there is already enough excitement and interest, it’s difficult to peak something that has already peaked (and will probably not peak again until the last few days, if then).
        The whole purpose of the opening day is to find someone to wear the pink jersey – and I personally wouldn’t be a bit more excited and interested to find out who it will be if I knew it would quite definitely be most likely to turn out a sprinter or a classics rider.
        Last but not least, a time trial today means those of us who seldom watch them don’t have to skip it later in the race : D

      • Hardly nationalism.
        If you want to read about true nationalism and Turin, look up Fiat’s role in the rise of Mussolini between the wars, partly in response to the growth of left wing politics affecting northern Italian industry at that time.
        The Agnelli family have an interesting history, of which football’s proposed European Super League is another chapter.

  3. For what will probably be a slightly boring day, this review is fantastic. Love the writing, importing Colombian goods, French pasta, just brilliant.

    • Agreed. Very strong, Maglia Rosa-grabbing, form from our host to start the race.
      And, as Larry says below, it’s funny because it’s true.

  4. “Instead, like a Frenchman faced with pasta, he’s prone to overcooking things…”
    HA! That brought back some (bad) memories from my daze chasing LeTour. Our boss insisted on trying “Italian” eateries there instead of more local fare…somehow hoping they’d get it right. ONE time they did, at a place run by Italians who imported their own cheese, pasta, espresso, etc. via their trucking company based near the border with Italy. The rest of the time…yuck!

    • It was the coffee that got me. From my days working in the alps, I couldn’t work out why it was so good in courmayeur but terrible in chamonix
      Thanks inrng for the information on lavazza beans. It’s our go to back in the UK, miles in front of segafredo.

      • Lavazza was apparently the first to blend coffee but they blend different arabica beans and degrees of roasting. Segafredo often uses robusta beans in the mix and so has a more “French” taste (think burnt wood rather than vanilla and chocolate). It’s partly a story of taste shaped by colonialism with Italy invading Ethiopia and Eritrea, France trying to make coffee plantations work in Vietnam and Cambodia but that’s for another day.

        • Lazazza certainly use Robusta beans in many of their blends, at least 20%?
          Their espresso coffees particularly have that strong, bitter taste (in a good way, I should add) but worth checking on the packaging before you buy.

        • Probably shouldn’t be surprised, but our host’s knowledge in coffee is as deep and nuanced as his understanding of cycling.

        • Well, now days there are independent roasters popping up here and there (shocking, even in the UK) which are usually very good. Though it is an art to produce good coffee at industrial scale. Not sure if anyone had ever truly succeeded.

          The Italians probably faired better than the likes of Nespresso which I particularly distaste because of their “fake recycling” of aluminium. I suppose Sainsbury’s are sufficient if your goal was to be waken up.

    • Yes you’re right, and often you can guess it at the name of the restaurant (dozens of “Pizzeria Venicia”, for instance). But, Larry – would you go in a french restaurant in Italia, called Le Bon Formage ?
      It’s fair to say, though, that usually italian restaurants are better than french ones ; a lot of them is just heating precooked meals, alas…

      • Back then we went with the boss as he was paying! On nights when we were on our own in France we’d often look for Chinese or Vietnamese…at least those folks knew how to cook noodles!
        Caffe was another sad situation – all those Cimballi or Faema machines but somehow what came out of them was just awful. I remember a few years we stayed in Briancon and rode over the border into Italy, where I’d race into the first bar I came to, hoping to be in-time to still get a cappuccino 🙂

  5. I love a Prologue, though it should be noted this isn’t one. It’s stage 1. I can’t necessarily explain why, I just do.

    Rather than picking who will do well of the GC men, who do we think will ‘do a Lopez’ and chuck it into the pavement? There’s always at least a couple of GC men who are out of it after the first couple of days.

      • Under 8km and it can be a prologue. You can have a 500m Stage 1 if you want, it’s down to the organiser. The second difference is you don’t have to finish the prologue, if you crash out and don’t cross the finish line, you can start the next day but with the same time as the last rider. If you don’t reach the finish on Stage 1 then you’re out for good.

        • Has this ever happened? –

          ‘The second difference is you don’t have to finish the prologue, if you crash out and don’t cross the finish line, you can start the next day but with the same time as the last rider.’

          • Not in a WT race that I remember, but I do recall it happening in the Sun Tour the time that the race started in Melbourne with a 2km prologue along the Yarra River in the Southbank precinct.

            There was a rider from one of the Continental registered domestic teams who had the presence of mind to not finish rather than record a very slow time after crashing due to a puncture.

          • I remember French commentators quoting this rule when Chris Boardman crashed at St Brieuc in 1995. That was before the extent of his injuries was known, and it was of course irrelevant seeing as his ankle was broken.

          • I have a vague memory that there was a recent WT race where someone took the start, but then abandoned in the neutral zone due to their injuries, but can’t recall any details.

  6. This should be up Martinez street, not that he can beat Fillipo but top ten? He is a bit of a TT specialist before he arrived at INEOS has something changed?

    • Surely better for hilly days? One to watch as given some space he’s a GC contender but likely to be used as a helper here and also Ineos won’t want the maglia rosa that much until late in the race.

      • I agree for shorter distances hillier the better but in Itzulia 2019 he beat Allaphillipe and Kwia, then UAE this year just a few seconds slower that Almeida over 13km.

  7. 3 weeks of Giro and TIR’s fantastic writing and analysis to look forward to, what a treat.

    And +1 for a coffee company centred world history in due course please.

  8. The organizers should have made the first stage 3x as long–then Ganna could have taken enough time to win the whole race.
    I loved hearing Sean Kelly muttering “oh, oh, oh” in the background at one point he was so taken aback by Ganna’s aggressiveness.

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