Slovenian Primoz Roglic won the first stage of the Giro d’Italia on Saturday ahead of Britain’s Simon Yates, pulling on the leader’s pink jersey after an eight kilometer individual time-trial. The three-week race got underway in Bologna and finished with an uphill ride to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca, overlooking the city in northeast Italy.
Roglic clocked 12 minutes and 54 seconds to finish 19 seconds ahead of Yates, who declared on Friday he is “the number one favorite,” with last year’s winner and fellow Briton Chris Froome not competing.
“The important thing is to be in pink on the final day (June 2) in Verona,” said Roglic, riding for the Jumbo-Visma team, who becomes the first Slovenian to wear the leader’s jersey.
“It’s true that I’ve had to wait a lot on the hot seat before I was declared the winner but I’m very happy with this victory.
“I didn’t have any particular tactic except for going as fast as possible. I’m surprised by the gaps.”
Italy’s former two-time winner Vincenzo Nibali of Bahrain-Merida was third fastest at 23 seconds with Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin, the 2017 champion, just behind at 28 seconds along with Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez.
Roglic opted to start among the early riders with the threat of bad weather looming with only Vuelta a Espana champion Yates, of Mitchelton-Scott, sticking with tradition and going off among the favorites later.
The weather remained dry even if the wind got stronger as the hours went by which could have hampered Yates who came close to winning last year before collapsing two days from the finish.
But the 26-year-old Briton had no regrets about his decision to start late.
“There was a moment of doubt when I saw everyone was going off early today,” said Yates, “but we looked at the weather and it looked like it was going to be ok, and it was in the end.
“I did all I could. I’m happy the race has started now, I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time and we’re finally here.
“Maybe I went a little bit too easy at the start but that was also the tactic, you can’t go full gas start to finish.
“We’ve seen how (Roglic) has been going this year.. he’s in great form so we were expecting him to be either first or second.”
– ‘At the limit’ –
Roglic gained time on the flat around Bologna, to build up an 11sec advantage on Dumoulin at the intermediate stage.
He widened the gap on the climb up to San Luca, over 2.1km with a 9.7 percent gradient, and had time savor his performance, having to wait nearly three hours for the conclusion of the stage.
For the 29-year-old Slovenian, a former ski jumper, it was the 30th victory of his career, and eighth in a time trial.
This season, Roglic won three stage races, the UAE Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico and Tour de Romandie, as he warmed up for his second appearance in the Giro.
He came close in 2016 to pulling on the pink jersey in the opening time-trial only for Dumoulin to snatch victory at Apeldoorn, the Netherlands.
This time the Dutch rider could not match Roglic.
“I gave it everything, I was at the limit,” said Dumoulin.
Sunday’s second stage covers 205km between Bologna and Fucecchio, finishing in the Tuscany hills, which should benefit the punchers, who specialize in rolling terrain with short but steep climbs.