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.
|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.