Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) made a major statement at the Giro d’Italia on Saturday, winning the stage 2 time trial in Budapest.
The British rider, who has made huge strides against the clock in recent years, stormed the 9.2km course in Budapest to take stage honours and deal an early blow to his general classification rivals.
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), wearing pink after his victory on the opening day, came close to a second straight win but settled for second as he successfully defended the overall lead.
Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma) claimed the final spot on the podium.
Yates flew up the 1.3km climb at the end of the Budapest course but his was a complete performance; he also posted the fastest time at the intermediate checkpoint at the end of the flat opening 7.9km section.
He stopped the clock on 11:50, storming into the lead just seconds after Dumoulin had been the first rider to break the 12-minute barrier with 11:55.
“I’m really happy. It’s a little bit unexpected, but I’ll take them as they come,” said Yates.
As the remaining general classification riders were left to limit their losses, attention turned to Van der Poel, the last starter who was defending pink but also in with a shout of the stage.
Van der Poel was less than a second slower than Yates on the flat but couldn’t quite match him on the gentler upper reaches of the climb, crossing the line three seconds down - still a remarkable second place for a rider inexperienced against the clock.
Van der Poel leads overall but Yates takes the ‘virtual’ lead among the pre-race contenders for the overall title. He trails Van der Poel by 11 seconds, with Dumoulin at 16 seconds.
Despite covering less than 10km, the damage was sizeable for many of Yates’ rivals. Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) rode a strong flat section but faded dramatically on the climb, losing 28 seconds. Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) and João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) fared best, but still conceded 17 and 18 seconds respectively.
Romain Barder (Team DSM) produced one of his strongest time trials to date to finish 24 seconds down as his young teammate Thymen Arensman finished inside the top 10. Mikel Landa was beaten by his Bahrain Victorious teammate Pello Bilbao but still produced one of his better efforts to limit the damage to Yates to 33 seconds. Among those disappointed will be Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost), who lost 38 seconds to Yates, while it was Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Qazaqstan) who suffered perhaps the worst damage despite his time trialling improvements last year, shipping 42 seconds.
Today was a 12-minute effort. We still have some much more demanding stages in front of us,” Yates warned. “We’ll enjoy today but need to look at the bigger picture.”
How it unfolded
The stage 2 time trial took the riders on a tricky urban course in Budapest. The opening 7.9km were pan flat, save for one longer section along the Danube, momentum was interrupted by a series of twists and turns. Those twists continued as the road rose from the river and up to the finish line - a 1.3km climb that hit 14 per cent for a section early on before easing to a more sapping 3.4 per cent in the final kilometre.
Harm Vanhoucke (Lotto Soudal) was the first rider down the ramp at 14:00 local time but it was Alex Dowsett who set the early running with a time of 12:23, as Israel-Premier Tech swept the early leaderboard with Alessandro De Marchi and Matthias Brandle.
However, the Israeli team would soon be usurped by Jumbo-Visma, who first put Jos van Emden into the hot seat with 12:19. Minutes later, Van Emden’s teammate Eduardo Affini raised the bar to 12:10 as Koen Bouwman also went into the top 10.
There was a change in the hot seat when Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe) swept through in a time of 12:08. However, he wasn’t there for long as Yates’ teammate Matteo Sobrero nudged the benchmark down just three seconds above the 12-minute barrier.
Dumoulin then set off but before he did so his teammate and co-leader Tobias Foss went through with what would prove to be the sixth fastest time. Dumoulin reached the checkpoint in the fastest time and the cameras were glued to him up the climb. It looked to be a dramatic bid for victory as he went under 12 minutes by five seconds. However, what was being missed was Yates absolutely flying up the climb. He’d gone a shade quicker at the split but then found an extra five seconds on the uphill section to oust Dumoulin before he’d even got off his bike.
Almeida lost 11 seconds to Yates on the flat and a further seven seconds uphill. Meanwhile, Carapaz looked to be on a storming ride, among the top places at the checkpoint and less than 10 seconds down on Yates, but lost significant ground on the climb. It was the other way around for Kelderman, who turned out to be saving his resources for the latter section of the course and finished among the best of the rest of the GC field behind Yates.
That left Van der Poel, who had a decent buffer of 10 seconds at the start of the day but was also among the favourites for the stage win. Sure enough, he was inside one second of Yates at the checkpoint, before bursting up the climb that bore a resemblance to the Via Caterina at the end of Strade Bianche. However, he couldn’t quite finish it off on the final drag to claim what would have been an extraordinary double stage win, but lives to ride another day in pink.
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.
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