Primoz Roglič of Jumbo-Visma has won the opening time trial of the 2019 Giro d’Italia. The Slovenian dominated the stage to take the win ahead of Simon Yates of Mitchelton-SCOTT and Vincenzo Nibali of Bahrain-Merida.
Bologna to San Luca kicked off the 2019 Giro d’Italia. The opening stage was 8.2km in length but the sting was very much in the tale with a 2.1km climb averaging 9.3% bringing the stage to a close. The climb hit sections of 16%, making for a very interesting ride up which would potentially neutralise any advantage that the time trial specialists might gain
Unexpectedly, the first rider to leave the start ramp was none other than the 2017 champion, Tom Dumoulin of Team Sunweb. With stormy conditions predicted later in the day, Dumoulin along with a host of the big name favourites, opted to take to the start early in anticipation of the coming weather. Dumoulin went through to the foot of the climb in 6.59mins but the climb itself was a completely different beast and the final 2km took the Dutchman to a time of 13.22mins with the roads absolutely packed with spectators.
Ilur Zakarin of Katusha-Alpecin, Miguel Angel Lopez of Astana and Vincenzo Nibali of Bahrain-Merida were among the early starters, and it was surprising to see how strong the latter two were. Lopez just edged Dumoulin’s time, also stopping the clock in 13.22mins having actually gone through the first time check 2 seconds faster. Nibali was even more impressive, going 5 seconds faster than Dumoulin to set the early benchmark.
The question over the potential for bike changes saw most of the GC contenders go without the change, but of the early starters it was Arnaud Demare of Groupama-FDJ who was the first to opt for a road bike at the foot of the climb up to San Luca.
Primož Roglič of Jumbo-Visma was among the most eagerly anticipated riders over the course with his combined strengths against the clock and on the climbs. Roglič was the twelfth rider to go and he hit the foot of the climb fastest by 4 seconds and quickly set about catching his minute man Amaro Antunes of CCC Team and even his 2 minute man Arnaud Demare of Groupama-FDJ. The notable difference between Roglič and Dumoulin is the style of riding up the climb. While Dumoulin appeared to be much more laboured, pushing a bigger gear, the Slovenian spun his way up the climb with comparative ease and stopped the clock in 12.54mins to go a full 28 seconds faster than Dumoulin, 23 seconds up on Nibali.
The rest of the day was a wait to see not who could beat him, but who could get closest. No one would produce a sub-13min ride with Rafal Majka of BORA-Hansgrohe going well 33 seconds down, and Teo Geoghegan Hart arguably producing the surprise of the stage, finishing 7th at 35 seconds.
Others weren’t so fortunate. Tony Gallopin of AG2R La Mondiale conceded 1.02mins, Mikel Landa of Movistar was 1.07mins slower, Ilnur Zakarin conceded 1.20mins; as the impact of the stage began to be felt in a big way on the GC contenders.
It was interesting to note that although almost all of the GC contenders had opted to start at the beginning of the day, Simon Yates of Mitchelton-SCOTT waited until almost the very end before he left the start ramp to begin his effort. Before the stage began he’d been brimming with confidence, taking on the mantle of race favourite. Whether his late start would prove a tactical success or not was yet to be seen.
The last of his teammates to start before him was Jack Bauer. The Kiwi and former national time trial champion got underway at 7.21pm local time, 22 minutes before teammate Yates. The expected storms hadn’t materialised at this point, and although Bauer wasn’t expected to challenge for the win, he made the most of the flat early sections; going through with the fifth fastest provisional time; 7 seconds behind Roglič but with the monstrous climb to come.
Bauer opted to stay on his TT rig, and as expected he did lose time to the climbing specialists, although he did almost catch his minute man, Simone Consonni of UAE Team Emirates, with the Kiwi crossing the line with a time of 14.11mins which would provisionally be good enough for 42nd place and eventually landed him 46th. His style again was interesting to note, with Bauer spending prolonged lengths of time out of the saddle on the climb as opposed to Dumoulin or Roglič who were largely in the saddle.
The only rider expected to be any sort of challenge to Primož Roglič from here was Simon Yates. The third last rider to go left the start ramp with conditions cooling but still excellent for the riders. All the while from the start of the day until the end the crowds had not relented in their volume as they cheered Yates onward on the climb. The Brit went through the first time check in 33rd position, 18 seconds back on Roglič at the foot of the climb, and it looked like the pre-race favourite might have underestimated the challenge.
But it was on the climb that Yates came into his own as he caught minute man Fernando Gaviria of UAE Team Emirates. There was no catching the Slovenian who would claim the first maglia rosa of the 2019 Giro d’Italia; but Yates had conceded almost no more time on the climb, stopping the clock in 13.13mins, losing just 1 second to Roglič on the climb itself to finish 19 seconds behind his rival and slot into second place.
Tomorrow’s stage, a lumpy 205km from Bologna to Fucecchio, is likely to suit the sprinters but with a couple of KOM climbs and a long uncategorised climb at the start of the day a breakaway will fancy their chances early.