If it took you a dozen looks at the results sheet to figure out what was going on after the opening time trial of the Giro d’Italia, don’t worry, you weren’t alone.
The pack of GC contenders racing in Italy this month is deep and sprawling. Sure, there are five-star favorites Simon Yates, Egan Bernal, and Remco Evenepoel, but behind them is a pack of around a dozen dark horses, all with eyes on the podium and the potential to pounce.
So what’s the lay of the land after the opening skirmishes this weekend?
The broad shoulders of Filippo Ganna are filling out the pink jersey, and just 20 seconds behind him sit the first GC contenders, Evenepoel and his teammate João Almeida.
With the Deceuninck-Quick-Step duo as pseudo classification leaders, here’s Jimbo’s virtual GC:
Jimbo’s virtual GC ahead of stage 3
- Remco Evenepoel: Jimbo’s GC leader
- João Almeida: S.T.
- Aleksandr Vlasov: +7
- Pavel Sivakov: +17
- Hugh Carthy: +21
- Pello Bilbao: S.T.
- Simon Yates: S.T.
- Egan Bernal: +22
- Vincenzo Nibali: S.T.
- George Bennett: S.T.
- Marc Soler: +25
- Jai Hindley: +29
- Mikel Landa: +32
- Romain Bardet: +35
- Emanuel Buchmann: +38
- Dan Martin: +40
Opening weekend winners: Time trial triumphs and bonus-second scores
Remco Evenepoel, João Almeida, Aleksandr Vlasov, Ineos Grenadiers
Remco Evenepoel was clearly paying attention to bike racing when he was in his hospital bed.
The 21-year-old took a page from the Tadej Pogačar and Primož Roglič grand tour playbooks by blitzing the time trial and then cannily grabbing two bonus seconds in stage 2’s intermediate sprint. Those extra seconds left Evenepoel level on time with teammate João Almeida, the other big winner from stage 1.
Roglič went to within a stage of Tour de France glory last year through his canny accumulation of time bonuses, and it seems Ineos Grenadiers and Deceuninck-Quick Step took note.
Pink jersey Filippo Ganna barreled across the line first, with Evenepoel marking his wheel. The Italian’s acceleration could make all the difference in two weeks’ time.
“I sprinted just to take the seconds, not for the other jerseys, but to take away time from the other leaders, and so to help Egan and Pavel in the GC in the next few days,” Ganna said. “If we take the jersey or not for three seconds, it will be worth it.”
It's 👌 and 3⃣ bonus seconds for @GannaFilippo as he wins the late intermediate sprint.
— INEOS Grenadiers (@INEOSGrenadiers) May 9, 2021
The last big winner from the opening weekend was the man nobody’s talking about, Aleksandr Vlasov. The young Russian rode the TT of his life to finish 11th in Turin on Saturday and now sits just seven seconds down on the Deceuninck duo and 10 seconds up on the pack behind.
Opening weekend losers: Time trial traumas and teammate tumbles
Romain Bardet, Emanuel Buchmann, Dan Martin
The opening time trial was a bad day for Bardet, and even worse for some of his rivals.
Romain Bardet, Emanuel Buchmann, and Dan Martin all suffered in the lactate bath that was the short opening time trial, leaving them all 35 seconds or more down before they’d even clicked into a road bike Sunday morning.
Also read: Dan Martin determined to make mark on Giro
Is a prologue-style TT a good indicator of what may be to come for the tragic trio?
For Bardet and Martin, it was a case of the inevitable, with racing against the clock always proving their undoing. Bora-Hansgrohe was hoping Buchmann’s early loss was a lingering altitude hangover.
“We had admittedly hoped for a better result with Emanuel today,” said sport director Jens Zemke. “However, he has just come from an altitude camp, and so that is always a bit difficult. However, in this Giro, there are some very tough stages in the final week, which is when the race will ultimately be decided.”
Buchmann and co. have literal and metaphorical mountains to climb in the next 19 stages.
In the dialed-in modern peloton, regaining 30 to 40 seconds is a huge hurdle. Multiple-minute stage wins are a thing of the past, and these three will need to rely on rivals losing their legs, a steady accumulation of seconds, or an all-out hail mary.
And it only gets worse for Martin, who has already lost the wheel of teammate Krists Neilands. The Latvian workhorse hit the deck in a freak crash riding back to his hotel after stage 1, leaving Israel Start-Up Nation one rider and 40 seconds down in its ambitions to send Martin to the podium.
Opening weekend somewhere-inbetweeners
Pavel Sivakov, Hugh Carthy, Pello Bilbao, Simon Yates, Egan Bernal, Vincenzo Nibali, George Bennett, Marc Soler, Jai Hindley, Mikel Landa
Ten riders sit between 17 and 32 seconds down on Almeida and Evenepoel in a tightly coiled mid-pack.
Of the “somewhere-in-betweeners,” it will likely be Egan Bernal and Vincenzo Nibali with the broadest smiles ahead of stage 3.
For Bernal and Nibali, a 55kph+ opening time trial would have made for a cruel start to their Italian ambitions. Bernal was coming off the back of a two-month pause in racing to iron out any final kinks in his back injury, while “The Shark” had stopped swimming for three weeks as he raced to recover from a broken wrist.
The duo came out of the weekend on-par, which for them is likely a win after an opening inspection of their injuries. And for Bernal, Ganna’s bonus-point thievery was the cream atop the tiramisu.
Follow live rider data from Stage 1's ITT with our Race Centre 👇
— Velon CC (@VelonCC) May 8, 2021
And what of one of the top favorites, Simon Yates? The BikeExchange captain held his own in the TT and sits poised 21 seconds back on Almeida and Evenepoel. Expect mayhem when Yates hits his favored terrain in the mountains in the stages to come.
“Today was about getting through safely,” sport director Matt White said after stage 1. “There’s a couple of the GC riders that have ridden better but the vast majority of the GC guys are within five or six seconds. Now we can start the real racing.”
Stages 3 and 4 to shuffle the deck
The GC may be delicately balanced right now, but it won’t be in a few days’ time.
Stage 3 into Canale on Monday packs a series of hills into the final 80km before a flat run-in to the line. The tricky parcours and a forecast of rain bode for a finish that could see all sorts of scenarios — maybe even a few punches in the fight for pink.
No matter what happens Monday, the GC landscape is likely to look altogether different after stage 4 on Tuesday. A long grippy stage through hilly ground finishes with a 4km, 10 percent kicker before a short dash to the finish line that is sure to see the pink jersey pulled from Ganna’s brawny back.
Evenepoel and Almeida may not be at the top of Jimbo’s virtual GC too much longer.