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Giro d'Italia Stage 1 preview: Short and sharp time-trial in Bologna

Joe Robinson
9 May 2019

A final 2km at 10% could prove a big problem for riders on the opening day of the 2019 Giro d'Italia

The 2019 Giro d'Italia will begin with a short but sharp time-trial of 8.2km from the Emilia-Romagna city of Bologna to the hilltop church of the Sanctuary of San Luca

While only 8.2km in length the finish at the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca, a basilica church that sits almost 300m above the rest of the city, will provide a stern 2.1km uphill test, at an average of 10% for all those competing for the first pink jersey of the race. 

The first 6km take place on the wide boulevards of Bologna. Nothing too technical, each rider will only face five corners before hitting the base of the climb.

Once they do, it will be a matter of turning nearly 180 degrees as the climbing starts almost immediately. The road largely sits at 9% but for a few sharp kickers that rises up to 16%.

It will be a 2km drag to hell as each rider empties themselves to the church at the top of the climb. Only 8km, this stage is still going to hurt.

History lessons

The Giro d'Italia has visited the Sanctuary of San Luca on three occasions before. The first being arguably its most notable visit.

In 1956, the hill hosted a short 3km time-trial. The stage was won by mythical Luxembourgish climber Charly Gaul although that's not why the day has been etched into the history books.

It's because of Fiorenzo Magni. A brutish Tuscan who had already claimed three Tour of Flanders and three Giro d'Italia titles before this date.

Magni had crashed a few days earlier breaking his collarbone. In order to continue, the Italian tied a rope to his handlebars to bite down on and help absorb the pain while also acting as a steering aid. Magni eventually placed second on GC behind Gaul.

The second occasion the race visited here was in 1984 and saw Moreno Argentin romp to victory on his way to third overall. That year, the drama came from Laurent Fignon controversially losing pink to Francesco Moser on the race's final day rather than San Luca's sanctuary.

The final occasion happened 10 years ago on Stage 14 of the 2009 edition. A transitional day before a tough final week in the mountains, Simon Gerrans managed to drop a young Chris Froome to win the stage a minute ahead of the main peloton.

Weather warning 

BOLOGNA WEATHER

The weather could play a big part in the opening day's time-trial. Local reports suggest rain could fall later in the evening, affecting those riders going off the start ramp later. 

This risk has seen some of the race's biggest favourites opt for early start times to avoid the chance of wet conditions. Primoz Roglic and Vincenzo Nibali both depart within the first 15 riders while 2017 champion Tom Dumoulin starts first.

The biggest exception to this being Simon Yates with the Brit rolling off the start at 19:43 (CEST), third from last.

Stage favourites

The inclusion of such a sharp sting in the tail means that the winner of the day's stage may not necessarily be an out-and-out time-trial specialist.

Riders like recent Hour Record breaker Victor Campanearts and Jos van Emden should go well but may struggle on the climb.

The General Classification men will also set good times. Expect Dumoulin, Roglic and Nibali all to be all within touching distance of the podium's top step. However, being so early in the race, these riders will probably want to avoid taking the leader's jersey and the burden that it brings.

In that case, look towards a punchy rider who will fight on GC albeit not as a favourite, can time-trial and goes very well on steep hills.

Fitting that brief, two riders on the start list stand out, AG2R La Mondiale's Tony Gallopin and Deceuninck-QuickStep's Bob Jungels.