Tadej Pogačar had hoped to limit his losses to Remco Evenepoel to between 10 and 20 seconds in the opening time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico, and so he saw saw his glass as half full after losing just seven seconds to the young Belgian and 18 seconds to stage winner Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers).
In Sunday’s pre-race press conference, Pogačar had appeared fatigued after his 50km solo attack and dominant victory at Strade Bianche, but a further 24 hours of rest of recovery appeared to have helped massively.
He often pushed a big gear while covering the 13.9km out-and-back course along the Lido di Camaiore seafront at over 53.5km/h, stopping the clock in time of 15:35 and bringing down the curtain on the stage as last rider in.
Evenepoel finished a few minutes earlier, setting a time of 15:28, which was 11 seconds slower than stage winner Ganna.
“It was a really intense TT. It was a super-fast course with bumpy roads. But I did a good run. I’m happy with my time and my power. I’m looking forward to the days to come,” Pogačar said after being called to anti-doping behind the podium, where Ganna celebrated his win and Evenepoel pulled on the best young rider’s white jersey.
This year’s Tirreno-Adriatico already seems like a battle between Pogačar and Evenepoel. Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) lost 14 seconds to Pogačar, Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) 19, Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) 25 seconds and Julian Alaphilippe (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) 30 seconds.
The two have often dominated stage races for the last two years but incredibly have never gone head to head. The next six stages of Tirreno-Adriatico offers a first showdown between two of the biggest young talents in the sport.
Even Pogačar admitted he faces a real battle if he is to win a second consecutive Tirreno-Adriatico and claim the winner’s spectacular trident trophy.
The daily tussle for time bonuses will play a part, with the uphill finish to Bellante and Fermo no doubt sparking a battle of power, nerve and bike skills. Stage six climbs the Carpegna twice before a fast descent to the stage finish and so will likely decide the overall winner.
“There are some big days to come. I think all six days days will be hard,” Pogačar warned, well aware of what he faces. “Maybe the last one is easier but we have an extra hard week in front of us.”
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.