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With only 26km of time trialing in the 2022 edition of the Giro d’Italia, Saturday’s stage 2 TT takes on an additional layer of complexity and importance.
This 9.2km stage in the heart of Budapest is a rare chance for the likes of Tom Dumoulin and the rest of the proven time trialists to gain a slim advantage over some of their rivals. But in truth, the gaps should be relatively small given what’s to come in the mountains, later in the race.
The small gaps will be partly due to the short distance of the stage, but also because of the fact that riders like Romain Bardet and Miguel Ángel López should be able to limit their losses through the technical sections before possibly taking time back on the 1.3km fourth category climb to the finish.
“It’s technical enough but you’ll still throw a 30-second time gap over the GC guys,” BikeExchange’s Matt White told VeloNews.
“It’s around 200km on the first stage so that allows everyone to open up the burners for a stage. That means everyone should be ready. For us, Simon Yates has recent competition in his legs because he raced right up until a few days ago.”
A spread of just thirty seconds might sound like a significant breadth of time, especially on stage 2 of the race, but White is confident that such a time gap would pale compared to the winning margins expected later in the race when the Giro dives deep into the mountains.
“The Giro rarely comes down to seconds. You miss one selection on a mountain stage and you lose minutes. It’s not like the Tour de France, where it’s so tight. At the Tour, you can lose five to six minutes in the time trials.”
The course for the 9.2km test can essentially be split into three portions. A flat, somewhat basic section that leaves Heroes’ Square in the center of Budapest before heading towards a crossing of the Danube River. The course then hugs the corresponding bank and takes in a number of the city’s attractions before making a tight u-turn just before hitting the final 1.3km climb to the finish line.
According to Marco Pinotti, a six-time national time trial champion of Italy, and a two-time stage winner at the Giro, the middle portion, between roughly 2km in and the climb, is the most technical part of the course. There are around 20 corners in total along the route but that middle section demands the most concentration. If it’s dry, then Pinotti expects riders to sail through regardless, but if there’s rain then the roads could quickly become slick due to the sheer amount of traffic the busy roads can see.
“It’s quite a technical route – but only in certain sections,” Pinotti told VeloNews.
“The first part isn’t too technical but the section between there and the climb is quite technical. We’ve not seen it yet without cars, so hopefully, it will look a bit clearer. The first part is really quite normal for a time trial with a few corners in the city. It’s fast and the surface is generally good.”
Riders have not had a chance to ride the closed course yet – that will follow on Saturday morning – but Pinotti has checked out the final climb in the team car, and he expects time gaps to expand over the 1.3km ascent. According to the Italian, there are pitches of around 10 percent at the start with a sector of cobbles coming soon after the steepest section before the gradient eases to a more manageable four to six percent.
“It’s difficult at the start but then it flattens,” he said.
“Some of the heavier riders will lose a lot of momentum at the beginning of the climb because the final approach to the ascent isn’t that fast. There are two or three corners before you reach the start. That will slow riders down, but the climb itself is around 1km in length, maybe a little more. It’s difficult to say but that’s probably a two-to-three-minute effort. You can still take it on with the big ring once you get over the first steep part. The first 150m are steep but on asphalt but then you turn left and the next section on cobbles comes almost right away.”
“I don’t think that the pure climbers will lose too much time. Maybe López because of his history with time trials. The good thing for them is that they can limit their losses on the flat because it’s not too long, and then they have the climb where they can maybe take some seconds back.”
One unknown factor is still the weather. Rain has been forecast for several days in Budapest but has not yet materialized. Because the majority of GC riders finished roughly together on stage 1 it means that they will start the time trial in relatively quick succession. So if one of them has dry roads, the others should expect the same.
“It could be the weather, even if the latest forecast says it will be dry for the riders. If it rains then that slows things down for the riders through the corners but the key will be racing fast on the flat and then having the ability to change pace on the climb. I think that riders will spend about 20 percent of their time trialing the climb,” Pinotti said.
The Italian tipped Tom Dumoulin, the Giro d’Italia winner in 2017, as the favorite for the stage.
“Going through the start list, Dumoulin is the favorite. He’s a world-class rider against the clock and normally he prepares well for key appointments like this. Otherwise, Arensman, or even João Almeida who is a good time trialist and a good climber.”