Filippo Ganna takes opening stage and Pink Jersey – Giro d’Italia

Giro d’Italia 2020

Stage 1

Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) took victory on the opening stage of the 2020 Giro d’Italia, powering to the win on the short opening time trial to Palermo.

The world champion finished 22 seconds clear of João Almeida (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) in second place, riding at over 58km/h average speed on the tricky course that featured a technical descent.

Ganna now leads the overall but for Ineos Grenadiers it will be Geraint Thomas’ placing in the GC that will be most important. The Welshman took the early advantage over the rest of his GC contenders, finishing 26 seconds ahead of Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), 1-06 ahead of Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo), 1-21 ahead of Steve Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma), and 1-24 ahead of Jakob Fuglsang (Astana).

The technical downhill on the course and the rough roads caused some nasty crashes for riders this early in the Giro, with Hour Record holder Victor Campenaerts (NTT), and former Giro podium finisher Miguel Ángel López (Astana) among those to hit the deck, with the latter forced to abandon.

‘How could the opening time trial of the Giro d’Italia top the closing one of the Tour de France?’ You may have asked before the start in Sicily. Well, you didn’t have to wait long for an answer.

Filippo Ganna on his way to victory in Palermo.

One of the first riders to start, Victor Campenaerts (NTT), span out on a corner of the tricky descent from Monreale to Palermo, while birthday boy Alex Dowsett (Israel Start-Up Nation) was forced into a bike change after suffering a mechanical.

Campenaerts was scathing of the course after the finish, saying the corners were oily, perplexed as to why they hadn’t been cleaned before the start. Neither Campenaerts nor Dowsett, both pre-stage contenders, posted times that would fail to trouble the upper placings, while Rohan Dennis also finished down on Joao Almeida’s time, the Deceuninck – Quick-Step youngster putting in a strong performance and early best time of 15-46.

Dennis wasn’t as critical of the course, saying it was the same for everyone, finding himself more concerned with winds that buffetted him around on the closing flat section, forcing his hands to remain off the TT bars as he feared being blown off the course, the Australian not willing to take too many risks on the first of 21 stages.

The next closest riders to Almeida’s best time were also young upstarts. 2019 Tour de l’Avenir winner Tobias Foss (Jumbo-Visma) came within nine seconds of the 22-year-old, before Mikkel Bjerg (UAE Team Emirates) then missed setting the new best time by half a second.

Geraint Thomas had his game face on before the start and put in a performance to match. He settled down onto his TT bars as the wind subsided slightly. He crossed the line a second down on Almeida to set an imposing test for the GC contenders to come.

Simon Yates had already been out on the course for a TT he says only his worst enemy could have dreamt up. He fared better than he would have expected, however, having only lost 26 seconds to Thomas by the time his compatriot crossed the line.

Astana’s Miguel Ángel López was rushed to hospital in an ambulance after hitting a bump in the road and falling hard.

As riders navigated the hairy switchbacks of the descent with trepidation, Miguel Ángel López suffered a nasty crash after becoming unhitched by a bump in the road at the second intermediate time check. The Colombian veered off into the advertising boards and was eventually carted away by an ambulance, his race over a mere 10 minutes after it had begun.

Then came world time trial champion Filippo Ganna (Ineos), sporting a gold bike as he looked to take the maglia rosa in front of a home crowd. He looked imperious throughout his 15km ride, turfing Almeida out of the hot seat after he put 22 seconds into the Portuguese rider’s time.

Amongst the late starters were a handful of GC hopefuls in Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo), Steven Kruijswijk and Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), and all four would have wished for better performances.

Nibali was the best of the quartet, shipping just over a minute to Thomas and 40 seconds to Yates, while Kruijswijk was a further 15 seconds slower than Nibali, followed by Fuglsang, who lost 1-24, and Majka, 1-37 down.

Rick Zabel took the first king of the mountains jersey with a quick sprint over the first kilometre on a road bike before switching it out at the team car.

No-one managed to get close to Ganna’s time, who caps off a great couple of weekends featuring two coveted jerseys. Thomas also already finds himself in a commanding GC position, to round out a great day for Ineos. There’s obviously a lot of racing to come but the early indications are that this could be Thomas’ Giro to lose if he can repeat this time trial performance in the two remaining races against the clock.

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