A trial-trial is not everyone’s idea of entertainment. Today’s Stage 1 – a prologue – was a shortened version. A sharp eight-kilometre zip through Turin, up and down the River Po, designed to give us a race leader and Maglia Rosa (Pink Jersey) wearer and a functioning opening leader-board.
When it comes to these against-the-clock efforts I’m ambivalent. I can happily while away an afternoon watching, but more in interest than any great excitement. On day one of the first Grand Tour of the season, though, the added value of novelty is at work. I’ve been counting down the days until this race, and at this point would watch Ganna, Cavagna and Evenepoel competitively mow their own lawns should Eurosport choose to televise it.
I’m not entirely sure that European Lawn Mowing hasn’t, at some point, appeared on the fabled Eurosport schedule.
And so we watched a succession of riders set the fastest time and install themselves in the finish-line hotseat, deliver a roll call of shrugs, thumbs up, and raised eyebrows in response to each finisher for the TV cameras, and then dutifully move along when the next fast rider usurped them to seize the virtual lead.
BOSH! Matthias Brandle. WALLOP! Tobias Foss. POW! Edouardo Affini.
But in reality, once potential stage winner Remi Cavagna had fallen short, we were waiting to see Filippo Ganna. One of the last to go, the Italian darling and master of the TT was in the market for a Maglia Rosa to go with the one he collected at this point in last year’s Giro.
While we waited, those of us with a Eurosport subscription listened to aero-boffin Dan Bigham empty out the absurdly technical contents of his performance obsessed mind and tried to keep up.
We learnt about the coefficient of drag, we considered performance gains in fractions of percentages, and marvelled at Mr B’s ability to spot unbranded niche cycling kit and describe its properties in seconds gained over eight kilometres. Some of us spent more time than is strictly healthy considering our ‘frontal area.’
Not a euphemism.Embed from Getty Images
At the point we were damn near buried beneath the crushing weight of analysis our hero arrived: Pippo Ganna. Big, strong, flat-backed, wrapped tightly in the rainbow bands of TT world champ and potentially poised to muller this defenceless urban route.
A touch off-form recently, but now on his home roads, he meant business. The (surprising large, for Corona-times) crowds roared and squealed as Ganna dove into each corner, shaving off tenths and hundredths to Bighams audible approval. Looking faster, and more aggressive, he would win the thing or lose it trying. Injecting excitement and drama into a discipline of controlled efficiency, the movie star Italian stole the stage.
Even Remco Evenepoel, the young Belgian superstar on his return from a nine-month convalescence, impressive though his ultimate seventh placed finish was, was elbowed from the spotlight.
For Stage 2, and who knows how long from there, the 104th Giro d’Italia has an Italian in pink and a focal point on which to hang the commemoration of the 160th anniversary of the unification of la Repubblica Italiana.
The script, by Ganna, delivered to the letter.