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Tour de France stage 1 preview - Copenhagen time trial to establish hierarchy

AJMAN, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - FEBRUARY 22: Filippo Ganna of Italy and Team INEOS Grenadiers sprints during the 4th UAE Tour 2022 - Stage 3 a 9km Individual Time Trial stage from Ajman to Ajman / ITT / #UAETour / #WorldTour / on February 22, 2022 in Ajman, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)
Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The opening 13.2km time trial around the central streets of Copenhagen will kick off the 2022 Tour de France on Friday, every second won or lost highlighting the different rivalries of this year’s race and establishing the early hierarchy in the peloton.  

The time trial specialists – like Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers), Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-EasyPost) and Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) – plus Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) will surely fight for the stage victory, and so the first yellow jersey of this year’s race.

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) will be trying to gain every possible second of advantage on their overall rivals, while Classics riders like Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco) all want to stay in contact for a later shot at the yellow jersey.  

Jeremy Lecroq (B&B Hotels p/b KTM) is the first rider off at 4:00 p.m local time, with Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) last off at 6:55 p.m.

Click here for the full list of start times.

The last slot is traditionally reserved for the previous year’s winner but Pogačar, like many of the big-name riders listed above, has opted to start early, hoping to avoid the rain and increasing winds forecast for Friday evening.

Bissegger starts at 16:07, Van der Poel at 4:11, Roglič at 4:20, Küng at 4:34, Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) at 4:41 and Vingegaard at 4:42. Ganna starts at 5:03, with Van Aert a minute later and then Pogačar one minute after him.

The riders will take less than 15 minutes to complete the 13.2km course and so the big-name battles will all be in the opening 75 minutes of the time trial.

Don’t wait for the final hour of live television coverage or you’ll miss the biggest names and the biggest battles.

Details of the Copenhagen course

The 13.2km course starts in Nørre Farimagsgade, apparently the busiest cycling street in cycling-mad Copenhagen. Half a million visitors are expected to line the roads with just as many locals, creating a huge party atmosphere. For three hours bike racing and bike riding will come together to create the true centre of world cycling.  

From the city centre start ramp, the course heads to the north of the city, cutting through the Fælledparken and then turning south to pass the Kastellet fortress overlooking the sea and the famous Little Mermaid statue from the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale.

The final kilometres cross the courtyard of the royal palace of Amalienborg, flash past the coloured Nyhavn canal buildings, the seat of the Danish parliament and new architectural highlights such as The Black Diamond which houses the Royal Library. Three fast corners lead into the final 900 metres and the finish in Rådhuspladsen next to the Copenhagen City Hall.

Riders have counted around 18 corners in the 13.2km circuit, which creates a technical but fast course. Speeds will be close to 54km/h. Many of the corners will be taken without touching the brakes and with the best riders staying tucked low over their aerobars. Every split second gained or lost on the corners will inevitably add-up and decide the winners and losers of the opening stage.

It will be a race of power, speed, bike handling skills and nerve.

“The time trial is all about the corners,” two-time world title trial championships silver medalist Adriano Malori explained to BiciPro.

“You win or lose the time trial, gain or lose seconds with the accelerations out of the many corners. Riders will dive into corners at 60km/h, slow to 40km/h and then have to accelerate to 60km/h again. Who can do the best, again and again will win the time trial and gain time on their rivals.” 

Can anyone beat Ganna?

Fellow Italian and two-time world champion Ganna is the natural favourite for victory, while everyone will be watching to see how many seconds Pogačar can gain on his GC rivals.  

Ganna trained at altitude until winning last weekend’s Italian time trial title. He went high, to 2796 metres not far from his home in Piemonte, but each day he descended via sky lift to train on an eight-kilometres circuit in a quiet industrial area that allowed him to replicate the effort needed for the Tour de France time trial. He has a new Pinarello time trial bike and cutting edge, super-fast skinsuit.

He hopes to repeat the feat of Francesco Moser, who beat Eddy Merckx to win the opening time trial at the 1965 Tour and pull on the yellow jersey on his Grand Boucle debut.

“I’m happy to have made it to Copenhagen healthy and on form, that’s already a kind of victory. We’re happy, on form, motivated and ready to race,” Ganna told La Gazzetta dello Sport after keeping a low profile as he counted down the days to the time trial and his big day.  

The 25-year-old Italian has dominated the Giro d’Italia time trials in recent years and is the rider to beat on Friday.

Bissegger and Küng have just recovered from COVID-19 and so their form remains unknown but the EF Education-EasyPost rider beat Ganna in the early-season UAE Tour time trial, the Italian’s only time trial defeat so far this year.  

Van Aert has always challenged Ganna but will he risk all for yellow as he also targets the green points jersey and works for Roglič and Vingegaard?

Everyone else will be trying to limit their losses to the powerful Italian and gain time on their direct rivals.

Malori predicted that Thomas, Adam Yates (Indeos Grenadiers), Enric Mas (Movistar) and other climbers will lose at least 30 seconds to Pogačar and Roglič, who will finish with very similar times or perhaps with the Jumbo-Visma rider even performing better than his Slovenian rival on the fast course.

The time gaps and what they mean for the rest of the race will be fascinating to analyse immediately after the stage.  

Pedersen is the local favourite and will surely give his all in Copenhagen to stay close to the yellow jersey. Stage 2 finishes in Nyborg, after passing close to his home and his dream is to win the stage across the Great Belt Bridge.

Van Aert and Van der Poel can see a similar scenario, while others hope to stay close and then take the yellow from a breakaway or thanks to time bonuses in the stages to follow.

Pogačar is playing a longer game and faces a longer race but knows that every second gained on Friday is a bonus and an early advantage. Pogačar won the 27.2km time trial around Laval in last year’s Tour to first impose his dominance.

“I don't think I can win the time trial but I’ll give my maximum,” he said. “It’s a tricky course, it’s not so long, I can do really well but to win it is asking a lot.”

The opening week is so complex, so full of risks, crosswinds, cobbles and perhaps crashes that anyone has a chance to find themselves in yellow next week.

The Copenhagen time trial will create the first shake out, the first time difference and the first opportunities of the 2022 Tour de France.

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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.

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