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Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) drew first blood at the 2023 Giro d’Italia, storming to victory in the stage 1 time trial to take the first pink jersey as overall leader.
It was a superlative display from the young Belgian, who not only put 22 seconds into Hour Record holder Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) but also dealt huge damage to his general classification rivals, notably putting 43 seconds into Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma).
At 19.6km, this was the Giro’s longest ever opening individual time trial and Evenepoel produced a historic performance to take his first stage win at the Italian Grand Tour make a huge statement as the favourite to lift the Trofeo Senza Fine in Rome in three weeks’ time.
He was fastest through the two intermediate checkpoints across the 17km flat section on the bike path that ran up the Adriatic coast, and he skipped up the gentle climb up into Ortona’s old town to stop the clock on 21:18 – an average speed of more than 55km/h.
Ganna, already an eye-watering 12 seconds down at the half-way mark on his preferred terrain, had to settle for second place at 22 seconds.
Third place, at 30 seconds, went to Joao Almeida, who came out on top of a strong UAE Team Emirates trio that also saw Jay Vine and Brandon McNulty in the top 10.
Tao Geoghegan Hart was the best of the Ineos Grenadiers leaders in fourth place at 40 seconds, while time trial specialist Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) nudged into fifth ahead of Roglic, who finished on the same time at 43 seconds.
After Vine and McNulty – at 46 and 48 seconds respectively – came Aleksandr Vlasov at 55 seconds and, rounding out the top 10 a second later, Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), who was fast on the flat but faded on the climb.
“I’m super happy. It’s the best result we can get,” said Evenepoel. “I said in the bus that I thought it would be 21:30 to win, and in the end it was 21:18 so I was quite close to my guess. I felt from the start in a good rhythm, always the same gear, same cadence.”
After one stage and just 19.6km, the time gaps were eye-watering, and that was just the top 10. There were greater wounds for a number of big names, with the Bahrain Victorious duo of Jack Haig and Damiano Caruso losing around 90 seconds to Evenepoel, along with Thymen Arensman (Ineos) and Rigoberto Urán, whose EF Education-EasyPost teammate Hugh Carthy shipped 1:56.
“I’m not really focusing on the time gaps,” Evenepoel said. “I just wanted to try to win the stage and in the end we won it, so mission one accomplished.”
How it unfolded
The Giro’s longest-ever opening ITT took riders 19.6km up the Adriatic coast from the Fossacesia Marina to Ortona, finishing with a 3km fourth-category climb up into the old town.
There were blue skies and whips clouds in the Abruzzo skies and the wind was relatively light and stable throughout, ensuring similar conditions for all 176 starters.
Laurens Huys (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) was the first rider down the ramp and the first to the finish, while the first proper benchmark time cam from South African champion Stefan De Bod (EF Education-EasyPost), who would spend an hour in the hot seat but would finish well over a minute down.
Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) raised the bar with 22:20 but then the GC contenders started to come, and Brandon McNulty underlined that UAE can have a leadership trio, shortly before his teammate Jay Vine came home two seconds quicker. Vine himself didn’t last long as Geoghegan Hart became the first rider to break the 22-minute barrier, with 21:58.
Almeida had beaten those riders on the flat and stormed up the climb to clock 21:48, which would turn out to be the day’s third best time. As he did so, Thomas was hitting the climb after a storming start but soon came undone.
At that point it was time for the late starters and the mouth-watering cluster that saw Evenepoel, Roglič, Küng, Ganna, and Vlasov set off directly after one another. All riders looked fluid and it was all eyes on the intermediate checkpoints – one half-way and one at the bast of the late climb – to see how things were shaping up.
At the first checkpoint the writing was on the wall, with Roglič trailing Evenepoel by 26 seconds, then Küng by 32 seconds, and even Ganna by 12 seconds. By the second checkpoint and the end of the flat bike path, the trend had continued – Roglič was at 42 seconds and Ganna at 15 seconds.
Evenepoel wasn’t all that quick up the climb, appearing to open the tank in the first portion of the race. He only put a further second into Roglič uphill, seven more to the heavier Ganna, and he actually lost four seconds of his lead over Almeida.
But that didn’t change the fact that Evenepoel was the dominant stage winner, the first maglia rosa, and now the one big favourite at this Giro.
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