So, the 104th Giro d’Italia kicks-off with a time-trial in Turin. At 8.6km, the day just escapes the ‘prologue’ tag. Following the stage, the riders can put their TT bikes aside until the stage 21 time-trial into Milan, where we'll have a much clearer picture as to who could win the 2021 Giro d'Italia. Who will be the first stage winner and owner of the maglia rosa, though?
Giro d’Italia 2021 Stage 1 (via La Flamme Rouge)
The time-trial begins in the centre of Turin next to the Palazzo Madama (Madama Palace). From here, the riders will head directly towards the River Po. The stage is almost entirely flat — over the 8.6km of racing, less than 50 metres will be climbed. This tips the time-trial slightly in favour of the powerhouses.
Filippo Ganna went into pink after stage one of the Giro last year with a sumptuous display. His gap to second was over 20 seconds. It was Ganna’s first ride in the rainbow bands that day and would start a magical Giro d’Italia for him, going on to win four stages in total.
Filippo Ganna (Image credit: CorVos/SWpix)
The three time-trials Ganna won were part of an incredible streak of eight wins where he went undefeated on the time-trial bike. That ended at Tirreno-Adriatico this season, though, where he was defeated by Wout Van Aert. The Italian has looked lacklustre since, which brings his form into question. The World Champion appeared to be 'pushing' in both of the Tour de Romandie time-trials last week but could only muster 9th and 10th respectively. Despite these concerns, Filippo Ganna is still the favourite to claim the maglia rosa, but things have become even more riveting.
The man who enters the Giro in red-hot form is Remi Cavagna. The French time-trial champion has excelled in the time-trial discipline consistently in 2021 thus far. Cavagna was second on the 14km TT at Paris-Nice, missing out on victory to Stefan Bissegger despite finishing within the same second. He was second again at the Volta Catalunya over 18km, this time to Rohan Dennis. Both of these riders are notably not present at the Giro. Just last week, though, Cavagna won the 16km time-trial at the Tour de Romandie. He may have enjoyed preferential weather conditions as many of the late starters dealt with heavy rain throughout their run, but a win is a win.
All of the above TT’s featured rolling terrain and were around double the distance of the Giro stage in question, but that shouldn’t hamper Cavagna who is a big, powerful rider, albeit slightly smaller in stature compared to Ganna. On paper, Cavagna should push Ganna all the way.
Image credit: Alex Broadway/ASO
Next, a completely unknown quantity. Well, somewhat. Remco Evenepoel is a phenomenal, generational talent. At the age of just 20, Remco won 4/4 stage-races he started last year. His season was brought to a premature end after a scary crash at Il Lombardia and the young Belgian hasn’t raced since. He has stated from the start of the year that his goal is to be ready for the Giro d’Italia, and it seems he has succeeded.
However, with no race days yet in 2021, it’s hard to imagine Remco winning the opening time-trial. Or is it? Remco started two time-trials in 2021 and won both, defeating the likes of Rohan Dennis, Stefan Kung and you guessed it, Pippo Ganna. We all know what Remco is capable of and he will be keen to quieten the doubters. Can Remco go into pink? We just don’t know, yet.
Deceuninck Quick-Step boast a third rider who could also move into pink. João Almeida was second behind Ganna on last year’s stage one, albeit by 22 seconds. It would be the start of an exceptional Giro for Almeida who held pink into the third week before finishing fourth in the GC. Not bad for a first Grand Tour, eh? He’s back this year with deeper experience challenging for WorldTour level stage races, where he has continued to flourish in the time-trial.
He claimed top-10s in the UAE Tour and Tirreno-Adriatico TT’s before finishing 3rd in the Volta Catalunya time-trial. It will take something spectacular from Almeida to move immediately into pink, but expect him to be there or thereabouts, which means he could be primed to move into the maglia rosa when the race reaches GC-terrain on stage 4.
João Almeida (Image credit: CorVos/SWpix)
The final main contender we'll look at here is Victor Campenaerts, now of Qhubeka-ASSOS. The Belgian rider is still searching for his first Grand Tour stage win although he has come close on many occasions. He was second twice in time-trials at the 2019 Giro, beaten by Chad Haga and Primoz Roglic. Last year, he was second-place on multiple stages again, once from the breakaway and again on the stage 21 time-trial into Milan. Campenaerts will be keen to end the hoodoo, though it will be difficult in this company.
Some of the outsiders for the stage include Alberto Bettiol, Gianni Moscon, Patrick Bevin, Jan Tratnik and Tobias Foss.
Giro Stage 1 Predictions
Filippo Ganna's record in time-trials at the Giro is currently without a blemish. 3/3. His recent form could just be a blip, but it's enough for us to look past Ganna and towards Remi Cavagna. The Frenchman has time-trialled consistently this season and although he won't start in the rainbow bands, we think that Remi Cavagna of Deceuninck Quick-Step will be the first maglia rosa of the 2021 Giro d'Italia.
How to Watch the Race
The race will be shown live on Eurosport and GCN+ for UK viewers from 12:50 BST on Saturday 8th May.