The riders with pretensions at wearing the maglia rosa on the podium in Milan hardly made a dent into the over 3,000 kilometres in this year’s Giro d’Italia. It was just 8.6 kilometres for the opening stage time trial in Turin but it already saw gaps being opened up among the top contenders as they fought it out behind stage winner Filippo Ganna (INEOS Grenadiers).
The more decisive mountain stages can see even the top riders separated by minutes, so even the more extreme time losses here aren't insurmountable.
The best performance from a GC contender came from the revelation of the 2020 Giro, João Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep), who finished fourth on the stage with a time of 9'04. His time served as the benchmark for the rest of the pink jersey hopefuls like teammate Remco Evenepoel, who finished just two seconds down on his Portuguese teammate.
The high finish is an important marker for the young Belgian superstar, who is coming into the Italian Grand Tour with no racing since his horrific crash last year at the Giro Il Lombardia, where he crashed into a low wall of a bridge while descending, suffering a broken pelvis in the fall into the ravine. He returned to the bike a long time over six months ago, but setbacks in his recovery have seen the bright light of the sport delay his return to the bike until his major target of the season, the Giro d'Italia.
Pre-race favourites Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) and Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers) put in creditable performances on the flat course to finish 38 and 39 seconds respectively behind Ganna. Neither will be fazed by the time loss as they aren't noted exponents of the race against the clock, and should be happy with having limited their losses.
Other pre-race contenders Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo), Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious), Pavel Sivakov, Daniel Martinez (both INEOS Grenadiers), Vincenzo Nibali, Bauke Mollema (both Trek-Segafredo) and George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) all finished near the same mark.
Australian hope Jai Hindley (Team DSM) produced a decent performance but conceded 46 seconds to Ganna and more importantly 29 to Almeida.
“I felt that was a pretty good ride and I left it all out there,” explained Hindley after the stage. “I don’t think I could have done much more really, the pacing plan from the team was spot on. The equipment with our skinsuit and TT bike felt good out there so I’m super happy with that.
"We’re happy with where the form is at the moment so it’s a good start to the race for us. For now, the coming days our main focus will be on staying safe and avoiding any problems ahead of the tougher stages to come.”
The West Australian had anumber of the pre-race favourites finish behind him, with the likes of teammate Romain Bardet, Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious), Emanuel Buchmann (BORA-hansgrohe) and Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) all finishing behind the Australian.
Martin was the worst of the big names, 57 seconds adrift of Ganna in 108th position. It's not an unfamiliar spot for the Irish climber, but he starts behind the pack again in a Grand Tour.