Pavel Sivakov and Tao Geoghegan Hart finished just two seconds apart – in 24th and 25th place, respectively – on the stage 9 time trial at the Giro d’Italia – but the Team Ineos joint leaders were left with differing levels of optimism as the race pauses for its first rest day.
Sivakov said he believed it was the best time trial he has ever done, and noted that he’s getting “better and better every day”, while Geoghegan Hart explained he was still suffering with the effects of a heavy crash on stage 3.
The British rider had both knees bandaged as he took on the 34.8km course in San Marino, and his time of 54:41 – 2:49 down on stage winner Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) – was a slight disappointment given he had placed seventh in the opening-day time trial, 35 seconds faster than Sivakov on an eight-kilometre course.
"Unfortunately I still don’t feel at all myself after the crash, but I’ll keep fighting,” Geoghegan Hart wrote on Twitter. "Next up is a well deserved rest day tomorrow."
Sivakov finished two seconds ahead but had different expectations. Although he was a strong all-rounder in the U23 ranks, he felt he had never performed stronger against the clock since turning pro last year.
"I'm quite happy with my TT. I think I paced it really well and if I look at the numbers it's my best TT so far. When you do that after eight days of racing it's a good sign. I'm getting better and better every day," Sivakov said.
"I'm happy but of course there are some points where I can improve, for example at the beginning of the stage it was raining heavily and I went really slowly. I took no risks and for sure I lost 15 or 20 seconds. In the end, it's not a big difference. I couldn't do much more in terms of performance."
Sivakov remains in 26th place overall, 6:01 down on race leader Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates) but 4:11 down on Roglic, who is the ‘virtual’ maglia rosa in second place. Geoghegan Hart moved up one place into 31st, 57 seconds further back.
While Roglic is well clear, and the likes of Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) are within two minutes of the Slovenian, the Team Ineos duo still in the GC picture, situated in a ballpark that contains the likes of Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Mikel Landa (Movistar), and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana).
"I don't feel extremely tired heading into the rest day,” Sivakov added. “The week was certainly hard - more stressful I think and more hard in terms of fighting for position every day. The real race will start next week. I just want to keep the focus and doing the same things."