The weeklong Italian stage race was Campenaerts’ last road race before travelling to Mexico, with his shot at beating Bradley Wiggins’ distance of 54.526km set for April 16 or 17.
"I didn’t need this victory to get perfect normal to go to Mexico, but it is an extra boost,” Campenaerts said proudly, “I was confident before and I’m confident now.
"I’ve done a very specific two-month training camp in Namibia. Now I’ve done my first WorldTour race and I’ve taken by first victory. It’s also the first WorldTour victory, so I’m very happy.”
Campenaerts set a time of 11:23 for the out-and-back 10km time trial on the San Benedetto del Tronto seafront, beating Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First) by three seconds, with Jos van Emden (Jumbo-Visma) third at four seconds.
Other overall contenders perhaps paid for the hard racing in the Le Marche hills and finished further back. Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) was seventh at eight seconds, and time trial world hampion Rohan Dennis (Bahrain-Merida) was eighth at nine seconds.
Campenaerts pushed a huge gear when a tailwind blew in the first half of the stage and then dug deep and stayed as aero as possible as he fought into the headwind.
“I think this was an unofficial world championship,” he suggested.
“Maybe Michal Kwiatkowski would be a good competitor at this distance, but all the other time trial specialist were here, so maybe this was one of the most difficult time trials I’ve ever started. But I won it, so it’s really good.”
Wiggins set his record at sea level in the Lee Valley VeloPark in London used for the 2012 Olympics. Campenaerts will make his attempt on the Aguascalientes velodrome at altitude, with the lower air pressure making it one of the fastest tracks in the world. Vittoria Bussi set the women’s Hour Record there in September 2018, covering 48.007km and bettering the mark set by Evelyn Stevens in 2016.
Campenaerts has dedicated the past six months of his career to his Hour Record attempt. He spent two months at altitude in Namibia in early 2019 and so suffered during the road race stages at Tirreno-Adriatico. He avoided any crashes and sickness and even did specific workouts while riding off the back of the peloton. He is convinced he is now ready to begin the final month of preparation for his longest hour.
“I’ve only done easy work on my road bike, so I really suffered on the first stage at Tirreno-Adriatico because it was hard to push high watts on my road bike. I haven’t done it for half a season. But I just needed to survive to get to the last stage and try to win it,” he explained.
“I think I’m ready to go to Mexico now. I’ll now go home for an easy week to recover from Tirreno; you need recovery to get better from it. Then I go to Mexico on March 27 to prepare specifically on the track for three weeks.”