Giro d’Italia Stage 1 Preview

Welcome to the start of three weeks of daily previews. Time trials are a theme of this year’s race as there are three of them and today is a crucial stage, this is not a warm-up antipasto prologue, it’s a hearty main course.

The Route: at 19.6km and the novelty is most of the course is on a coastal cycle route, a dedicated cycle path built on top of the old Adriatic railway line (not new, remember the 2015 Giro’s opening team time trial in Sanremo). It’s sometimes so close to the sea that a gently breaking wave can spray a passing rider although the real interference is likely to come from the sea… breeze.

It’s flat until the finish in Ortona when it turns off the cycle path and heads up into town during the final kilometre but it’s never steep, some final corners will rob speed. This uphill finish is timed and a fourth category climb, the fastest will take the mountains jersey.

The Contenders: the obvious question we’re trying to settle is who will win but it’s worth asking who wants to win today? Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-Quickstep) hopes to take time on all his rivals for the maglia rosa, but he doesn’t need to win today and has said if he does, he’ll aim to get out of the maglia rosa by being delighted if the right breakaway can go away although he might find it harder to give away the white jersey and fully escape his media duties.

However this is a time trial, not a menu. Filippo Ganna (Ineos) should love the first part along the coast and he’s been more dependable this year in the time trials after a couple of erratic seasons but he’s not quite the banker he ought to be. His win would be a boost for Italian cycling and the Giro needs a home star and better still one that can beat the foreign star. But’s less nationalism, more commercialism, TV audiences rise if a local is doing well and if the organisers could chose they’d surely want Ganna… knowing Evenepoel is likely to get his time in pink soon enough.

Roglič’s searing jump uphill applies to time trials as well, it’s how he won Olympic gold so he’s a third pick but it’s harder to see him winning outright.

Can someone else win beyond these three? Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) has beaten Ganna this season but is more often close to the win. Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma) looks like he could play rugby with Ganna. Josef Cerny (Soudal-Quickstep) won the Romandie opener but that was a flat course with some cornering. Lennard Kämna (Bora-hansgrohe) can get his Giro off to a great start with a win but it’d be a surprise result, likewise with UAE trio Jay Vine, Brandon McNulty and João Almeida.

Ganna, Evenepoel
Küng, Kämna, Affini

Trabucco, trabocco This part of the Adriatic coast is called the Trabucco Coast, named after the fishing huts where giant nets are lowered into the sea, there are different spellings. It’s a local feature and we’ll get plenty of close-up shots of the contraptions on TV. But these devices are not unique as they’re found all over the world, especially in Asia.

Today’s course is on the Adriatic cycle path. There’s a project to have a cycling route all along Italy’s eastern coast which is a work-in-progress but today’s course showcases a part of this and the idea is that one day it’ll allow locals to bicycle down for some net-caught fish; while tourists can ride the entire length of the country.

Seeding: a quick word on the time trial order. With no reverse GC order to go on, team managers met the organisers yesterday and drew lots from 1-22. This creates the order for departure with each team having able to fill the vacant slots. So a team can start their best rider first or early if they think there’s an advantage because of the weather, or vice versa. Everything else being equal teams prefer to start the best riders later as they can get feedback from colleagues about the course – a slippery corner here, a section where the wind blows etc – and also compare times to rivals. However the last slot can be reserved for the past year’s Giro winner.

As it happens Evenepoel is off at 4.34pm, followed a minute later by Roglič, then Küng and then Ganna, all at one minute intervals.

Weather: mainly sunny, 22°C in town and an onshore breeze that could pivot during the day becoming a touch more favourable to later starters, one forecast says it’ll go from 3/4 headwind to crosswind, another from crosswind to possible tailwind but it’s a light breeze.

TV: the first rider is off at 1.50pm and the last due in at 5.10pm CEST. Tune in early for images of the coast, towards the finish to see action. It’s on RAI for locals and worldwide on Eurosport/GCN.

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

  1. Yes, Roglic likes a TT with a bit of uphill if not a steep climb! Should see him shed not too much time.
    I would guess that Ganna will be going all out.

  2. The photo reminds me of how much and why I hate chrono bikes. Forza Pippo, even though the aesthetics are ghastly with everyone. Nobody looks good on one of these contraptions..and that’s before so many start doing the move that reminds me of a cat scratching it’s a__ on the carpet!
    They should play “Let’s go to the hop!” as background music. I like to count how many crank revolutions between each “hop” since chrono stages are so dull.
    But we’ll pop the cork on a bottle of Astoria Prosecco DOC rose which will spice things up 🙂

      • A friend of mine just bought a TT bike and went out expecting to smash his PBs on a flat route. There was only a gentle wind but he said the handling was so scary and unpredictable that he ended up going much slower than on his usual road bike!

        I guess this means there’s added skill in mastering a TT machine, though I’m ambivalent about whether this adds or detracts from the spectacle

        • Please tell me he bought it to compete in actual time trials (even a triathlon would be acceptable) and not just to try and claim Strava segments?!
          He’s either too terrified to pedal, has it set up incorrectly or forgot to put the wheels on. The first time I rode a TT bike was one I borrowed off a friend. It wasn’t set up correctly and I couldn’t reach the gear levers. I slogged round in too big a gear but still took a minute for off by 10 mile pb. Then when I upgrqaded that I bought a more modern one off a friend. The first time I tried that after only adjusting the saddle height I still took 40 odd seconds off my pb. They do work.

          • The one time I rode one more than around the block on a test-ride I thought I had it figured out: you pedal as fast as you can to get it over with!
            This was before geek-bars, perhaps they’re not as uncomfortable now though I can’t tell by looking.

      • Actually, I find a highly skilled TT rider like Evenepoel or Ganna quite esthetic to watch. At least in the shots from the back. The perfect isolation of motion to the legs, with the back muscles visibly working to keep the shoulders still, is quite graceful to me. Especially if the camera than turns to a shot of a less skilled rider that is heaving up and down .
        Putting out power while maintaining an aero position is a skill that requires talent and practice.

        • Seemed to me Roglic looked uncomfortable and had excessive upper-body motion in today’s TT. He under-performed in the TT.
          Covid-positive tests disqualified three key J-V riders in last few days. I wonder if Roglic caught a low-grade infection that didnt quite result in a covid-positive?

  3. I’m predicting a nice solid win for Ganna and an equally nice 20-30 seconds gained by Evenepoel. Maybe not quite that much on Roglic.

    I would welcome the return of the novelty prologue. Roll it into one with the rider presentation. It would fit nicely into a friday or Saturday evening slot. Walk out onto stage, quick interview, straight on your bike for a 2km blast round the town centre, job done.

  4. Who will take the climbers jersey? Will a climber from a smaller team focus on that? It will be very hard to beat the GC guys time up the climb, I expect.

  5. I still find it strange that Thomas, with an outstanding track and TT background, no longer merits a solitary chainring. What happened?

  6. What a brutal shock it must be for young Gloag, thrown into the Giro at the last minute with no specific preparation. Is he expected to survive to the end, prosper…and how does he feel about it?

    • You’d hope that a combination of the team not putting any pressure on him and the fearlessness of youth would mean he goes in confident and excited. I’d like to see him show well in a breakaway or mountain stage support role

      • He can be useful in the mountains but as someone so young they’d normally try to preserve him, possibly to pull him out before the third week. But that’s when he might be needed most, not obvious. Still, they just needed help and couldn’t raid their Tour team, eg call-up Kruijswijk.

  7. I always find a TT such an uninspiring way to start a grand tour, and it also seems a bit unfair as so few people have a chance of taking the jersey and, more importantly, will possibly have no chance at all after today. Stage 3, for example, would make a better Stage 1.
    Could be the perfect day for Evenepoel: take time on the other GCers, and hopefully Ganna takes the jersey.

    • I kind of agree. You can’t beat the drama and spectacle of an out and out sprint stage when there’s an actual prize at the end of it. People talk about the last stage of the Tour as the world championships of sprinting but they’re all on their ar5e by then, if they get there at all. Gent-Wevelgem is too hilly, Scheldeprijs too small time and Paris-Tours too ruined. The real world championships of sprinting are the ones early in a grand tour. If the jersey had been up for grabs for a few days maybe some more sprinters would’ve come. I’d be in favour of a GT with a couple of fast flat stages to start before a TT forms an order.

    • Agreed, to me the best is a first week with slightly different fast stages, a couple of pure sprints, some with short walls or côtes, nothing brutal but just what you need to create and maintain an actual contest for the provisional maglia rosa played on few seconds differences. Time bonuses can be good, too, in this case you can just use them in the first week or so. ITTs are liked by organisers for several reasons, in weekends they score better audience and on the opening weekend they tend to beat “normal” stages. Curious, but it usually works like that in viewing figures terms. Sponsors love them as a starter, too. But they could keep it down to a prologue, a short one even, in order to allow a decent number of riders to keep themselves close enough to then reclaim the maglia rosa sprinting or with a finisseur attack, or being worth trying at least.

    • I hate TTs in the first week. A good ride by Remco and various problems for the next 1 or 2 contenders and the Giro is over. Long wait until the TDF.

  8. Regarding that photo. Have the rules been changed as i thought that the setup required your forearms to be nearly flat. The praying mantis position (was it landis who tried to use it) i recall bei9ng banned.
    Even if this rider looked up he still couldn’t see down the road.
    I can just imagine all the risks as amateurs tried to practice this (or people not having someone in a team car behind to tell them about dangers ahead).

    • Yes, rules were recently changed to allow a different setting for taller riders. Limits are adapted to height, but athletes are divided in “categories”, it’s not a purely progressive factor; and the echelons were being to broad on the top end, hence forcing the likes of Ganna or Küng into positions which were comparatively unfavourable to the relative geometry allowed for essentially all the rest. That said, I don’t know if it’s something so manifest in a photo, well spotted if it was..,

  9. For all those knocking time trials I would have to say that the first cycling attention getter for me was the sight of Indurain blasting past someone back in the 90’s.
    When these guys are on their game they are exciting to watch.

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