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Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) came off best of the GC riders, taking fourth-place on the downward-pointing time trial and gaining over one minute on GC rivals Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Vincenzo Nibali (Trek Segafredo). Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) put in a solid ride to cede only 23 seconds to the Welshman.
Where does the opening stage leave the GC contenders, and what could happen on the summit finish to Etna on Monday? And what do we make of the unusual time trial route, which started with a short climb before barreling its way downhill for nearly 10-kilometers?
What did you make of the Palermo time trial route? Would you like to see more downhill TTs in racing?
Jim Cotton (@jim_c_1985): Within limits, why not? The bumpy road sure did make it sketchy, but once the high winds died down toward the second half of the stage, it seemed safe enough – just. I think the dynamic of the steep opening climb before the madcap downhill and tight hairpins halfway made it a very “watchable” TT compared to, for example, an all-flat prologue. That said, race organizers can’t push it too far – I can’t see a return of something like the Poggio downhill time trial of 1987 being welcomed by anyone.
James Startt: I wouldn’t particularly want to see more time trials like that. This stage was a bit too much about descending. I am all for a good descent in a TT but this one could easily have gone sour with the winds that we had in the morning. Pretty amazing that it didn’t. But that is no reason to test one’s fate.
How much of a setback is it for Fuglsang, Nibali and Kruijswijk to have lost over one minute on Thomas already?
Jim: If one of those three was an aggressive natural climber such as Tadej Pogačar, I’d say it was less of a worry, but let’s face it, Fuglsang and Kruijswijk are big diesel motors unlikely to launch spectacular attacks that grab them 2o or 30 seconds at a time. Nibali has that attacking flair, but The Shark’s fins are not as speedy as they used to be. Those three would have been gnashing their teeth Saturday night, especially after Simon Yates rode strong to lose less than 30 seconds on Thomas. Oh, and don’t mention the loss of Miguel Ángel López to Fuglsang….
James: It’s a setback for sure. But then Pogačar lost over a minute in the winds in the Tour de France and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The pressure is off them. They can go on the attack!
Andrew: In a word — huge. At the Tour de France, most of the significant time differences were made in time trials or splits caused by the wind. Everyone talks about how hard the Giro’s final week is, but that shouldn’t crack Thomas unless he simply doesn’t have the legs to go the distance. Taking a minute so early is very significant, and puts his rivals at an immediate disadvantage. Sure, it’s not their specialty, but to lose one minute in 15km?! It’s a sign that this Giro could be wacky, or a blowout. We shall soon see.