Giro d'Italia

Giro: Deceptive first stage could prove decisive

Friday’s race against the clock could have much more impact on the Giro d'Italia's race for pink than many expect.

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JERUSALEM (VN) — Months of hype and anticipation come to a frothy head Friday with a 9.7-kilometer time trial in Israel.

The Giro d’Italia is three weeks long, but the question is: How much will the hilly and technical course preempt the GC battle? Some are downplaying its importance in the context of the monster climbs waiting in the Giro’s second half, but Friday’s race against the clock could have much more impact than many expect.

Chris Froome (Sky) and Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) will certainly be looking to press the advantage in the opening shot even if both downplayed their chances over the undulating course in the hills around Jerusalem.

Froome was evasive about how important Friday’s TT opener will be, insisting that the time trials won’t crown this Giro.

“I am not going to be able to rely on time trialing to try to win the Giro,” Froome said. “The race is extremely well-balanced race this year. There are a lot of mountains. It’s not going to be a one terrain that wins this Giro. It has to be the full package.”

Froome might be saying that publicly, but he knows how important early gains are when comes to a three-week slugfest.

In last year’s Tour de France, for example, Froome took critical gains in the opening-day time trial in Dusseldorf, Germany, that played in his favor all the way to Paris. That race was longer at 14km and flatter, but Froome ended up taking 51 seconds on Tour runner-up Rigoberto Urán.

Defending three-time race winner Chris Froome (Team Sky) took sixth in stage 1 of the 2017 Tour de France — 12 seconds back. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Dumoulin also knows what it’s like to win open-day time trials. In a similar TT at the 2016 Giro over much flatter roads in Apeldoorn, he took a whisper-thin win over Primoz Roglic with some big seconds over other rivals. That year, Dumoulin, was still a shadow of the GC contender that emerged to win last year’s Giro.

Of the top GC favorites lining up Friday for the “Big Start” in Jerusalem, Froome and Dumoulin stand to gain the most.

“It’s not the end of the world if I don’t perform in the opening time trial, but it would be nice to get a good result and hopefully win it,” Dumoulin said. “I haven’t seen the course yet but, in the book, it seems hilly, so it’s good.”

Most of the riders have yet to train on the time trial course as the roads were still open to traffic on Thursday afternoon. The peloton will get their first full look during course inspection on Friday morning.

Riders like Jos Van Endem (LottoNL-Jumbo), Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin), and Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) will be the favorites for the stage win, but Dumoulin and Froome will be right there nipping at their heels.

And even more importantly, the duo could take some vital early gains that could help them set the tempo on the race’s opening day as well as put their rivals on the defensive right from the gun.

“Look at Tom Dumoulin, Chris Froome, or even Rohan Dennis, those guys can ride time trials exceptionally well and are going to put big time into riders like myself,” said EF Education First-Drapac’s Michael Woods. “It’s going to be up to Fabio Aru, Domenico Pozzovivo and guys like me to be on the attack later on in the race.”

Tom Dumoulin snatched the Giro’s pink jersey after a strong time trial in stage 21. Photo: Tim De Waele |

On paper, the hillier course should help GC contenders like Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) and the other climbers limit their losses. Aggressive climbers such as Miguel Angel López (Astana), Esteban Chavez (Mitchelton-Scott), and Louis Meintjes (Dimension Data) will be under pressure to stay close.

All the climbers know that of anything more than 20 to 30 seconds in losses is very difficult to recoup against the likes of Froome and Dumoulin when they are climbing well.

The Giro’s first climbing stage comes with the Mount Etna summit in less than a week’s time in stage 6, followed by a pair of back-to-back summit finishes next weekend in stages 8-9 along the spine of central Italy.

Those mountains will reveal who will have the legs to go the distance to try to win the Giro.

Friday’s time trial, however, will provide the first glimpse of just how strong Froome and Dumoulin look. Both have been somewhat enigmatic so far this spring. Neither has won a race and both have relatively few days of racing. Dumoulin admitted he was off his best in his approach to the Giro, and only has 12 days of racing in his legs. In contrast, Froome seemed to be growing in form as he rides into the Giro with 17 days of racing.

Both of the Giro’s big “capos” will want to avoid mishaps on the tight corners that punctuate the course, but the so-called “race of truth” will reveal much even if it’s a relatively brief affair.