A devastating performance Primož Roglič (Team Jumbo-Visma) in the opening time trial of the 2019 Giro d’Italia confirms he is the rider to beat in this year’s Giro d’Italia after just eight kilometres of racing.
Opening time trials are not meant to be like this. They are usually viewed as skirmishes or phoney wars, where the leading contenders flex their muscles, gain some psychological motivation and give everyone something to discuss and debate about during the first week of bunch sprints, limited time losses and unexpected breakaways.
However, the combination of an exceptionally on-form Roglič and a climb that was much more difficult to handle than anybody had expected, has created some significant time differences between the Slovenian and the rest of the field.
These differences are not unbridgeable but they are in double digits. 19 seconds on Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) is not enough for Roglič to simply map about a defensive strategy from here to the next time trial, but it could easily have an impact deep into the ‘real’ GC battle of the 2019 Giro d’Italia. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) lost 23 seconds, Miguel Ángel López (Astana) and Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) 28 apiece, while Mikel Landa (Movistar) lost a massive 1:07.
It’s worth remembering we have been here before in recent Grand Tour history: in 2017 Chris Froome managed to gain over 30 seconds on all his main rivals in the opening time trial at Düsseldorf but did not win the stage.
In comparison, Roglič finished considerably ahead of the entire field, won the stage and pulled on the first maglia rosa. This was a resounding victory. The Slovenian has boosted his already considerable status as favourite in this year’s Giro d’Italia and can perhaps stay in control of his rivals and keep his lead all the way through to the second time trial on stage nine to San Marino.
The sprinters thinking of, and perhaps hoping for, a spell in pink in the first week thanks a collection of time bonuses will have thrown in the towel already, such was the toughness of the route and domination by the GC men.
Those defeated by Roglič can take consolation that the road book confirms there are still three weeks of hard racing to go, and that a lot can and will happen in the Giro d’Italia. They will try not to remember that Roglič has won every race he has taken part in this season, that he is an exceptionally gifted climber, with wins in the Alps and Pyrenees in the Tour de France. Instead, they will wonder how long his rich vein of form can last, and hope that perhaps the Slovenian has peaked too soon.
It’s not fair to say that the whole of the Giro d’Italia hinges on that aspect, but the development of the race now centres on Roglič, more than anybody had expected before these first eight kilometres of racing.