Primož Roglič’s domination of the opening time trial of the Giro d’Italia left his rivals recognising the Jumbo-Visma rider's superiority but still convinced that his stage victory only represents the opening shots in a very long war.
Roglič’s margin was such that whilst he had a 19 second lead on second-placed Simon Yates, no less than 24 more riders finished within a minute of Roglic’s winning time of 12:54.
As Simon Yates put it, Roglič’s run of success, stretching back to the UAE Tour and in particular his recent victories at the Tour de Romandie, rendered it highly likely he would impact strongly on terrain that favours the Slovenian.
“Everyone was around the same mark, except for Roglic who made a really big gap, which we were expecting,” Yates said as he warmed down on the rollers over the top of the San Luca climb. “The pink would have been nice and my aim was to do my best, I came up short by quite a bit, but that’s okay.”
Asked how he felt about Vincenzo Nibali’s pointed comments that everybody should respect their rivals - a reference to Yates’ press conference suggestion that other contenders should be ‘shitting themselves’ - Yates insisted he had not been aiming to disrespect anyone.
“Maybe I should be the one shitting myself then, about Roglič,” he said jokingly “He’s done a great ride today.”
Yates said that his steady ride during the flat part of the time trial had been intentional, because he had wanted to save himself for the uphill - where it was clear that the stage would be won or lost.
Nibali, who took third on the day, also opted for a crescendo ride.
“I think I rode it well, I felt good,” the Italian said soon after the finish of his ride. “I know the climb pretty well because we’ve race it lots of times in the Giro dell’Emilia.
“I tried to go progressively harder and deeper as I went up the climb, all the way to the finish. I thinks it’s was a good ride but we’ve got to stay humble and focused.”
Nibali showed his Grand Tour-winning experience when he both concurred with Yates that Roglič’s performance was anything but unexpected. He quietly pointed out that winning a time trial stage and taking the lead so early in the Giro d’Italia could have a price in the long-term.
“I’m happy with my ride but we’ll have to analyze the final results to make a real judgment. The way Roglič has ridden this season and today confirms he’s one of the contenders but he’s not the only one,” Nibali said.
“He’s had to stay at the finish, but for us who started early but lost time to him, we’ve gained some extra rest. Every little bit can help because this is going to be a very hard Giro.”
If getting beaten by Roglič was not a major shock to Nibali, his outstripping Tom Dumoulin, who finished fifth, was something he said he had not counted on.
“I’m a little surprised to beat Dumoulin by a few seconds but he only raced Liège before the Giro so maybe he needs some race days to get going,” Nibali reflected. “The profile of the first week will help him find his legs and I’ve always got huge respect for him as a rider. We’ll see if he goes on to be the dominant force in the Giro.”
Lopez and Geoghegan Hart impress
If Yates seemed to feel the glass was half-full and half-empty at the same time, Miguel Ángel López confirmed that he could well have a big impact on this year’s Giro d’Italia with a fourth place on the stage. He also pulled on the best young rider’s white jersey. Having said he would be satisfied with losing two minutes on Dumoulin throughout the Giro, López actually finished ahead of the former world time trial champion on the first of the race's three tests.
Tao Geoghegan Hart seemed equally upbeat, if exhausted, having turned in an extremely promising seventh place on the stage given his youth and relative inexperience in the Grand Tour game.
“I was super good until the last 500 metres, paid a little bit there, then I really was going backwards, but I think you’ll hear a lot of people say that,” he said after his ride.
“It was hard to pace yourself but equally you’re always going to try hard on the steeper bits, and I felt so good and then all of a sudden the devil came and whacked me with a big hammer. I don’t know what the gaps were, I felt very good, and that’s the main thing.”
The global mood seemed to be that whilst Roglič had dealt a real blow on stage one, this year’s Giro d’Italia will be a battle of 21 days.