Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In


Giro d'Italia

How Saturday’s opening time trial will shape the entire Giro d’Italia

Giro di Hoody: Will the time trials take the air out of the GC fight even before hitting the Dolomites? It will for a few pink jersey contenders.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Saturday’s opening 19.6km of pain will put the plot lines into motion that will play out across the next three weeks at the Giro d’Italia.

Any ITT as long as this one so early in any grand tour will see potentially race-changing GC shakeups right from the gun.

The test against the clock will play an outsized role of who will have the pink jersey when the race ends May 28 in Rome.

Top time trialists such as Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) and Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) might not be winning the stage or the first pink jersey against the likes of Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) or Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), but they should be grabbing serious chunks of time against their direct GC rivals.

“For me, the time trials on stage 1 and stage 9 will be hugely important in the first part of the Giro, and only then we can look further,” Evenepoel said. “As always, the last week will decide the Giro, but the time trials are very important this year.”

That’s the understatement of the week.

In the modern era, where the Tour de France eschews the opening prologue in favor of a road stage and the trend is toward shorter time trials, the Giro is going old-school this year.

Time trials are back, and Saturday’s opening foray will set the narrative for what could be a thrilling corsa rosa — that is if the TT’s don’t suck the air out too soon.

Also read:

Even though the Giro typically favors an all-rounder who can climb and go the distance, this year’s Giro could well be decided against the clock.

The 2023 corsa rosa packs 73.2km of time trialing across three stages, high by modern grand tour standards.

In a sport that is used to see individual time trials as long as 100km in one stage, seeing a grand tour packing this many TT’s is a new twist for today’s young guns.

Losses of three or four seconds per kilometer will put a whole fleet of would-be GC challengers on the back foot right out of the gate.

‘It’s not an ideal way to start a grand tour’

Some riders will be at a disadvantage right off the bat. (Photo: Chris Auld/VeloNews)

The Giro’s notorious final week will still tip things back in favor of the climbers, but if they’re already several minutes off the back due to the stage 1 and stage 9 time trials, the race for pink could be all but moot.

Of the other favorites behind the “Big Two,” almost all of them can expect to lose a fistful of seconds and perhaps even north of a minute on Saturday.

And everyone knows it’s harder to earn back time in the mountains than it is to gain it on a pure power, rolling time trial courses like the peloton sees Saturday and in stage 9.

There won’t be Miguel Indurain-level gaps of six minutes, but in today’s tightly wound peloton, two minutes in the wrong direction can seem like a mile.

Podium contenders João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates), Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious), Alexsandr Vlasov (Bora Hansgrohe), and Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost) will all be under pressure to limit the losses.

The likes of Almeida and Vlasov should be able to defend — and perhaps even snatch a few seconds on a good day — but Haig and Carthy could see their GC chances all but torpedoed right out of the chute. Last year at the Critérium du Dauphiné, Haig lost nearly 4 seconds per kilometer against Roglič in a similar course the peloton faces at this Giro on stage 9.

“It’s not an ideal way to start a grand tour for a rider like me,” Carthy said of the time trial. “We start with respect for everyone, but not fear. The Giro is hard in the last week, so we hope to arrive there still in contention.”

Fans of time trials are happy to see the accent put back on the discipline. Teams and bike companies put huge efforts into improving their TT capacities, and a well-executed time trial is a delight to watch.

‘The recipe for victory will be to get time in the time trials’

This year’s Giro sees three decisive tests against the clock. (Photo: Chris Auld/VeloNews)

Saturday’s stage should see smaller differences because everyone comes with fresh legs.

Yet it will also reveal who will likely buckle even more by next week in the longer, more challenging stage 9.

The final time trial is the feared 18.6km climbing stage that favors anyone who still has legs, but as Roglič is being reminded of daily during the lead-up to this Giro, the wheels can come off in dramatic fashion.

Roglič’s TT travails in the 2020 Tour de France, when his yellow jersey unraveled in dramatic fashion against Tadej Pogačar, has been one of the talking points all week.

In typical Roglič fashion, the Slovenian is brushing off the comparison.

“We will see after day one about how the time trials go, and we will see how the situation is later in the race,” Roglič said. “Looking at the Giro, normally the final week is the hardest in the whole Giro.

“It looks like it will be the same this year. For sure if you need to choose when to have the best legs it would be ideal to have it in the last week,” he said. “You just have to be fastest at the finish line, it’s no big science.”

That penultimate climbing time trial stage route might be altered due to questions about logistical support, but it’s the first two time trials — Saturday’s opener and the 35km power course waiting in stage 9 — that could really prove to be race-breakers for some.

Those two stages add up to 54.6km, plenty of terrain for the likes of Evenepoel and Roglič to distance their would-be pink jersey rivals.

For any rider who loses three to four seconds per kilometer in both of those stages could be two or three minutes off the back even before the first major mountains.

Of course, anything can happen on any day, but Evenepoel knows that the time trials will prove decisive if he hopes to be pretty in pink in Rome.

In fact, it’s the Giro’s time trial-heavy course that drew the likes of Evenepoel, Vlasov, Roglič, and Almeida chose to race here this month.

Evenepoel knows exactly where his best chance of victory lurks in the coming three weeks.

“I had doubts last year whether I could climb as well as Roglič, but those doubts are gone after the Tour of Catalonia,” Evenepoel said. “I think we were equal there. The recipe for victory will be to climb as well as he does, and get time on Roglič in the time trials. He is the Olympic time trial champion, so that will be very difficult.”

Ineos Grenadiers also packs a very deep squad loaded with TT weapons, including 2018 Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas and Tao Geoghegan Hart, who is the only former Giro winner at the start line Saturday.

In what was a promising sign at Tirreno-Adriatico, Geoghegan Hart was only three seconds slower than eventual winner Roglič in the 11.5km flat time trial to open the race.

Thomas, though he’s had a rough-and-tumble start to 2023, can also put down a solid test against the clock.

Ineos Grenadiers, like most teams, will be looking to limit their losses in the first half that includes the two longest time trials.

“I’m not afraid of them, but I do know that they will certainly be the two strongest riders,” Thomas said of Evenepoel and Roglič. “Especially after what they have already shown this year, and also in recent years. They are super strong, but we have a good chance to beat them.”

Early time losses against the clock will put pressure on anyone behind the favorites to attack. At least that’s the dynamic race organizers are hoping for.

Those same time trial kilometers, however, could serve as judge and jury before the opening half of the race is over for more than a few riders, and turn the Giro into a race for leftovers earlier than anyone would like to see.

The Giro always delivers surprises. And in a Giro seeing a revival of the sometimes blighted art of time trialing, the penultimate TT could decide everything.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.