Ineos Grenadiers' GC contenders at Giro d'Italia strike convincing opening note
On Saturday, Ineos Grenadiers may not have been able to celebrate a third opening time trial victory in four years by Filippo Ganna at the Giro d’Italia, but their GC contenders Tao Geoghegan Hart and Geraint Thomas both delivered performances that were far from disappointing all the same.
2020 Giro winner Geoghegan Hart came home a promising fourth at 40 seconds and even briefly had a spell in the hot seat as provisional stage leader, before Ganna finished second. Meanwhile, Thomas turned in a blistering first two-thirds of the course and despite fading badly on the final climb, still finished ninth, at 55 seconds.
Of the GC contenders, only Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) and João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) were faster than Geoghegan Hart, while Thomas came through the first big GC day with his options almost equally intact.
The recent winner of the Tour of the Alps, Geoghegan Hart had insisted pre-Giro that the results from the week-long mountainous stage race were not necessarily pointers for the Italian Grand Tour. But if his victory two weeks ago in the former Giro di Trentino may or may not be a reference point for the climbs to come in the Giro d'Italia, in anyone's book, his stage 1 time trial result is a good start come what may.
Giro d'Italia: Remco Evenepoel flies across time trial course for victory and first maglia rosa
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'I don't want to rest on my laurels' - Geraint Thomas goes again at the Giro d'Italia
Geoghegan Hart impresses at Tour of the Alps but stays focused on Giro d’Italia
Speaking before the stage was over, Geoghegan Hart said his performance was “not a bad execution, there are still a lot of big names to come. But in terms of my delivery I’m happy with it, I felt really good, so no issues there.”
He was more cautious about describing it as a positive sign for the stages to come.
“It was a bit as I expected, so that’s always a good sign. But in the end it’s only 20 minutes and a really fast course, so I don’t think you can read too much into it.”
Geoghegan Hart dismissed suggestions from one reporter that, judging by the way he was looking, it could be that he was either feeling tired or sad post-stage, replying “neither, I’m just calm, mate, this is stage 1 and there are three weeks to go.”
“You might be excited, but we riders have to recover now, we’ve got eight days more of racing before the rest day. You shouldn’t read too much into [people’s] demeanour, in the end we’re focussing on tomorrow, today is done.”
Thomas offered a clear-sighted analysis of his performance, which saw him briefly clock the best time for the opening eight kilometres of the course before a Belgian ballistic missile disguised as a bike rider swept all before him. Thomas kept himself very much in the mix as far as the foot of the climb, where it all went a shade awry for the Welshman, but he did not collapse by any means.
A winner of the opening time trial in the Tour de France in 2017 and fourth in the Giro’s stage 1 TT in Palermo in 2020, Thomas described his ride in the equivalent event in the Giro six years later as “an average start".
"I think I started too hard, and then tried to back off a bit, save a bit for the climb. I was not going too well there,” Thomas said. “I was a bit on the limit and I couldn’t get comfy, and you always know when you’re not feeling quite on it.
“I was OK, I limited the time I lost, there were a couple of corners where you always think you could have gone a bit quicker. But it is what it is, and it’s always good to get the race started.”
While saying later he was “not particularly satisfied” with his performance, Thomas was pleased, in any case, to see how well Geoghegan Hart had done.
“It’s good to see him up there, we all know how well he’s going,” he said. “It’s a good start. I felt OK, better than I thought I’d be. I’m not particularly satisfied, but there’s a long way to go.”