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Only a few hours in, and the 2019 edition is already heating up with Sicilian Vincenzo Nibali taking issue with Yates’ brashness pre-Giro.
“I’m interested in seeing how Yates performs because he said we all need to ‘go to the toilet,'” Nibali said. “I don’t know if that’s what he exactly what he said, things get blown up at the Giro.
“We’ve all got to show some respect for everyone who is fighting for victory in the Giro.”
Yates led the race for 13 days in 2018 before fading. He returned to win the Vuelta a España. The Englishman, on the eve of the Giro said that “I would be scared, I’d be shitting myself” if he was in his rivals’ position.
When asked who the number one favorite for the Giro d’Italia, Yates said, “me.”
The 26-year-old Englishman said, “I’ve been thinking about this race for almost 12 months, I’m very focused, I’m been very dedicated towards it.”
Yates is the only star starting the eight-kilometer time trial late today in Bologna. All the other stars decided to begin early because of the threat of rain later in the day.
Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) sat the best time at 12:54, but Nibali was not far off at 23 seconds. Nibali already won the 2013 and 2016 editions of the Giro d’Italia.
The San Luca stage, starting in Bologna, ended with a two-kilometer steep climb to the local sanctuary.
“I think I rode it well, I felt good. I know the climb pretty well because we’ve raced it a lot of times in the Giro dell’Emilia,” added Nibali.
“I tried to go progressively harder and deeper as I went up the climb, all the way to the finish. I think it’s been a good ride but we’ve got to stay humble and focused.
“I’m happy with my ride but we’ll have to analyze the final results to make a real judgment.”
Roglic did not surprise. Already this season, he won all three races he entered – the UAE Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico, the Tour de Romandie.
“The way Roglic has ridden this season and today confirms he’s one of the contenders but he’s not the only one,” continued Nibali.
“He’s had to stay at the finish but for us who started early but lost time to him, we’ve gained some extra rest. Every little bit can help because this is going to be a very hard Giro.”
Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), the 2017 Giro winner and 2017 world time trial champion, was 28 seconds off of Roglic and just behind Nibali.
“I’m a little surprised to beat Dumoulin by a few seconds but he only raced Liège-Bastogne-Liège before the Giro so maybe he needs some race days to get going,” said Nibali.
“The profile of the first week will help him find his legs and I’ve always got huge respect for him as a rider. We’ll see if he goes on to be the dominant winner of the Giro.”