Giro Notebook stage 1: No time bonuses in key mountain stages; Phinney joins history books

European Correspondent runs down the key stories from Saturday's opening stage and looks ahead to Sunday's wind-battered affair

HERNING, Denmark (VN) – Giro d’Italia officials introduce a new twist on the sometimes-controversial impact of time bonuses in 2012.

For this year’s Giro, time bonuses will not be awarded on five key mountain stages, yet will remain in place on flatter road stages.

The move is designed to prevent time bonuses from skewing the fight for the overall GC, but keep the door open for the sprinters to fight for the pink jersey in the transition stages.

The sprinters like time bonuses because it allows them to have a chance to win the maglia rosa in the opening week or so. The GC contenders are happy with the tweak of rules because it will not skew an otherwise taunt GC battle.

Besides the five decisive mountain stages, time bonuses are still in play in the remaining road stages. Intermediate sprints award bonuses of six, four and two seconds, while finish-line bonuses are 20, 12 and 8 seconds. Per tradition, time bonuses are not awarded in time trials.

Four years ago, the Tour de France eliminated all time bonuses, both at intermediate sprints and at the finish line. The winner wins on the “real time,” but the race lacks the spark of the early-stage duel amongst the sprinters chasing the maillot jaune.

Time bonuses have proven decisive in the overall standings in multiple grand tours. The most recent case was last year’s Vuelta a España, when Juan José Cobo beat Chris Froome by 13 seconds. Thirty-two seconds in bonuses paved the way for Cobo’s win. Without the bonuses, Froome would have won the race by 19 seconds.

Giro stages without finish-line time bonuses:
Stage 14: Cherasco to Cervinia
Stage 15: Busto Arsizio to Lecco/Piani dei Resinelli
Stage 17: Falzes to Cortina d’Ampezzo
Stage 19: Treviso to Alpe di Pampeago
Stage 20: Caldes to Passo dello Stelvio

Four times in history: Pink start to finish

Only four riders have held the pink jersey from start-to-finish, a feat that’s almost unheard of in Giro history. The first to do it was Constante Girardengo in 1919, when he also won seven stages en route to the first of two maglia rosas.

Alfredo Binda, who won a record-tying five Giro titles, was the second to pull it off in 1927, when he won a record 12 Giro stages. The feat stood untouched until Eddy Merckx went tape-to-tape in pink in the 1973, the year he skipped the Tour de France and won the Vuelta a España as well.

Gianno Bugno was the last rider to complete the pink sweep, in 1990, when he won three stages, and also won the Milan-San Remo.

Place in history

With his win on Saturday, Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) becomes only the third American to wear the maglia rosa. Andy Hampsten was the first, who went on to become the only American to win the Giro, in 1988. Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Barracuda) held the pink jersey for one stage after the team won the TTT to open the 2008 Tour.

With his victory in Saturday’s time trial, Phinney becomes the eighth American to win a stage of the Giro d’Italia. Others include Ron Kiefel (1985), Greg LeMond (1986), Hampsten (1988), Tyler Hamilton (2002), Fred Rodriguez (2004), David Zabriskie (2005, 2008) and Tyler Farrar (2010).

Race Notes

Jury decisions:
No report

Injury report:
No report

Stage winner: Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing)
Pink GC: Phinney leads Geraint Thomas (Sky) by nine seconds
Red points: Phinney leads Thomas 25 to 20 points
Blue climbers: no jersey
White young: Phinney leads Boaro by 15 seconds in the young rider’s jersey

Weather: Cold and wind

Highs of 49F in Herning, partly cloudy, with west, northwest winds to 10 to 15mph. Cooler on the coast, with gusts up to 30mph.

Tomorrow’s stage: Danger for echelons

Stage 2, Herning-Herning, 206km
The 95th Giro d’Italia will be a wind-blasted affair in Sunday’s 206km second stage starting and ending in Herning.

The dead-flat roads present no technical challenges, but heavy winds coming off the North Sea could produce splits in the peloton. The course drives west across Jutland and turns north at Sondervig at 48km. The following 60km swoop north along the North Sea and will be open to blasting winds up to 30-40kph.

There is a rated climb at 117km over a short hill to award the climber’s jersey (Cat. 4 Lemvig Osterjberg) and then the route drives south over flat farm roads toward Herning. There is a 12km circuit course around the city before what should be a finale favoring the sprinters.