Rainbow stripes turned to pink after newly-crowned world time trial champion Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) destroyed the field in Stage 1 of this year’s Giro d’Italia. On home soil, Ganna put 22 seconds into João Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) who earned a surprise second, and TT specialist Mikkel Bjerg (UAE Team Emirates), with overall race favorite Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) finishing fourth – but how fast the fortunes would turn for the Welshman.
For all the talk about EF Pro Cycling’s new kits, they would back up the hype over the first three stages, beginning with Lawson Craddock riding into the Top 10 on stage 1. Brandon McNulty (UAE-Team Emirates) kicked off his GC ambitions with a solid ride in the time trial while fighting against unfavorable wind conditions.
As predictable as the final outcome may have seemed, the opening stage of the Giro d’Italia was packed with drama and heartbreak from beginning to end. At just 15.1km, the individual time trial wasn’t expected to be a game-changer, as the gaps between riders would be quite small
But the wind had other ideas. A roaring tailwind pushing towards the coast in Palermo would be at the riders’ backs for the middle section of the course, which also happened to be downhill, and with two switchbacks to test their technical skills. Victor Campenaerts (NTT Pro Cycling) was the first victim to taste the Sicilian pavement, and later, Miguel Ángel López (Astana) flew awkwardly into the barriers after losing control of his bike before a corner. Both riders escaped serious injury, but their demises painted a worrying picture of an ultra-fast TT course.
Also up for grabs in stage 1 was the King of the Mountains jersey, which would be awarded to the fastest rider over the first 1.2km climb. After leaving the start house, riders were straight onto the category four Monreale (Cattedrale) which contained gradients of over 12 percent. Rick Zabel (Israel Start-Up Nation) was the fastest, finishing the climb in just one minute and 35 seconds. A quick look at the chart below, and we can see the unbelievable numbers that riders produced on this opening climb.
Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) was just one second slower than Zabel, with home rider Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) being the third fastest on the day.
Ballerini – Monreale (Cattedrale):
Average Power: 666w (8.6w/kg)
Average Speed: 36kph (22.4mph)
Average Gradient: 4.5 percent
Following the climb, riders descended for two kilometers before slamming on the brakes for two switchbacks, and then another six kilometers of downhill heading towards Palermo. The first part of this descent was one of the fastest sections of road we have ever seen in an individual time trial. Steep and wind-assisted, many riders eclipsed 100kph heading into the switchbacks. Lawson Craddock (EF Pro Cycling), who would go on to finish 8th on the stage, was nearly one of them.
Craddock – first 2km of the descent:
Average Power: 167w (2.4w/kg)
Average Speed: 77.8kph (48.3mph)
Max Speed: 95.8kph (59.5mph)
After navigating the two switchbacks, riders still had 5km of descending to go, but this time at a much shallower gradient of -2 percent. With a strong tailwind, riders were holding nearly 70kph on this stretch which lasted about five minutes. We saw all sorts of ultra-aero TT rigs on display at the Giro, but what really stood out was the size of their front chainrings. Ganna’s was the biggest of the lot at 60T, and I’m not sure there was a rider in the peloton that opted for smaller than a 55T.
Craddock – final 5km of the descent:
Average Power: 390w (5.5w/kg)
Average Speed: 68.7kph (42.7mph)
Max Speed: 87.9kph (54.6mph)
Perhaps the only “normal” part of the TT was the final 5km around Palermo, but even that had seven corners plus a U-turn. Ganna continued to put time into the field on the flat, averaging over 52.5kph for the final 5km. Craddock, with the eyes of a cartoon duck sticking out above his forehead, was going well, pushing close to 450w at every chance he could.
Craddock – final 5km of stage 1:
Average Power: 401w (5.6w/kg)
Average Speed: 49.6kph (30.8mph)
In the end, it was a dominant win for new world champion Filippo Ganna, who pulled on the maglia rosa for the first time in his first-ever Grand Tour. 22-year-old Brandon McNulty (UAE-Team Emirates) started near the end of the order, hours after the first rider had gone off, and suffered from rapidly changing wind conditions. Despite putting out 20w (and more importantly, 0.6w/kg) more than Craddock, McNulty was 18 seconds slower than his fellow American and a bit further down the order in 24th place. But, the performance bodes well for McNulty who, at the time of this writing, just finished 20th on Mount Etna alongside the likes of Ilnur Zakarin (CCC Team) and Louis Meintjes (NTT Pro Cycling), and is well up the order in the GC battle.
With a total of eight Americans in this year’s Giro d’Italia, and Craddock and McNulty already showing themselves alongside the heads of state, there is much to look forward to over the next three weeks in Italy.
Lawson Craddock – Giro d’Italia stage 1: 8th (+:41):
Average Power: 386w (5.4w/kg)
Average Speed: 55.8kph (34.7mph)
Brandon McNulty – Giro d’Italia stage 1: 24th (+0:59):
Average Power: 407w (6w/kg)
Average Speed: 54.8kph (34mph)