Filippo Ganna has got the midas touch. He’s young, Italian and handsome. He’s possessed of a lovely, lithe, flat-backed style on his (gold) bike. For the past week he’s worn the rainbow bands of the time trial World Champion and now, in his home Tour, he wears pink. La Maglia Rosa. The leader of the Giro.
The only low point in his life, according to reports, a total ban on Nutella at the Ineos Grenadiers breakfast table. Poor lad. That, right there, is sacrifice. He will surely change teams at the earliest opportunity.
Considering the calm control of young Pippo, this Stage 1 time-trial had unfolded in an atmosphere of scruffy chaos. This Giro, of course, had planned to roll out from Budapest, Hungary, but that damn virus put paid to those plans. Sicily stepped in at the last minute and threw together our opener.
Hence, perhaps, a slightly wacky, scruffy, seat-of-the-pants fifteen-kilometre course. Sicily being a place that does a nice line in shabby chic. The slightly crumbling infrastructure and autumnal leaves swirling across the finish line in the wind adding an atmosphere of edgy charm.
Starting in Monreale, the riders took in a steep kilometre of climbing, before descending down long, straight roads interspersed with lumpy, bumpy, oil-slick hairpins. Into Palermo, a long and wind battered way saw the riders home.
Some fell victim to the bumps and the lack of grip. Victor Campanearts, the world hour record holder, hit the deck hard on a hairpin and finished his effort well back. Post-ride, he unfurled a shopping list of grievances in the direction of the first journalist to stick a microphone in his mush. Rohan Dennis, Ganna’s teammate, fell victim to the wind. The aero curves of his fancy bike gathering great gusts of weather and flicking him left and right across the road.Embed from Getty Images
In between, others suffered to varying degrees. Conditions were pot luck. Ganna, clearly a man with fortune on his side, floated through unruffled.
For those with General Classification ambitions, keen on wearing the Pink Jersey after Stage 21 rather than Stage 1, it was a knife-edge situation. Simon Yates, Jacob Fuglsang, Geraint Thomas and Steven Kruijswijk had a fine line to pedal. Fast enough to avoid any early time losses, but slow enough to give you half a chance should the wind, or the Sicilian Tarmac, jump out and mug you.
Miguel Angel Lopez, riding in support of his leader Fuglsang, offered a visceral reminder of the risk. At the nine-kilometre mark he switched his hands from aero bars to upright position on an innocuous section of flat road only for a pothole to snare his front wheel, throwing Lopez chest first across his bars and flinging him into the barriers.
Brutally, Lopez’s race concluded from the back of an ambulance.Embed from Getty Images
Other losers were Lopez’s leader Fuglsang and the man with coat hangers for shoulders Steven Kruijswijk, each losing a minute and twenty to Geraint Thomas. Thomas himself finishing almost within touching distance of golden-boy Ganna, with Simon Yates less than thirty seconds further back.
Some will now fling up arms declaring that for the likes of Kruijswijk and Fuglsang the race is gone. They’d do well to remember that for the Giro, the knife-edge is home territory. Stuff happens. Nearly always.
As for Ganna, now, he has two tasks at hand:
Firstly, to convince me that his new nickname of Top Ganna (as in Tom Cruise) is a suitably witty moniker for such a talent, and secondly to convince boss Dave Brailsford that he’s been a really good boy lately and that surely just one dollop, just one, that’s all, of that glorious chocolate spread, won’t do any harm.
(Top Image: Palermo Old Town: Cattan 2011 at Flickr CC)