The 2015 Giro d’Italia began on Saturday with a team time trial along the Italian Riveria coastline from San Lorenzo Al Mare to the San Remo, and after all 22 participating teams had finished the 17.6 kilometre route, Orica-GreenEDGE claimed victory by seven seconds from Tinko-Saxoff, the team of pre-race favourite Alberto Contador. Having succeeded in a similar stage in last year’s Giro and won the team time trial around Nice during the 2013 Tour de France, the Australian Orica outfit had targeted Saturday’s stage as their prime objective for the Giro, while those teams aiming to claim the overall title appeared content to lose as little time as possible with three weeks of racing awaiting the riders.
Simon Gerrans became the first wearer of the coveted pink jersey as he is the nominated captain of the Orica-GreenEDGE team. However, Contador fared best of the race favourites as his Tinko-Saxoff team secured a six second lead from the Astana team led by Fabian Aru with the Etixx-Quick Step of Rigoberto Uran a further six seconds adrift. Contador also gained time on Richie Porte after his Team Sky riders could only finish the stage in ninth position and 20 seconds behind Tinko-Saxoff. Gerrans’ team-mate Michael Matthews later claimed the race leadership during the second stage to Genoa, with the majority of riders finishing in the same time.
Yet the eventual winner of the Giro d’Italia will not be determined by the opening team trial or by the initial few stages along the scenic coastline. Although there are several hilly stages during the first two weeks of racing which will provide an early test for many of the riders, the weekend of 23rd/24th May is expected to feature the first real showdown of the three week contest.
An individual time trial from Trieste to Valdobbiadene in the foothills of the Alps should produce several significant time gaps on the Saturday, whereas the finish at Madonna di Campiglio during the following day will determine which of the pre-favourites are displaying the required form capable of winning the general classification title on the final Sunday in Milan.
Two days after climbing Madonna di Campiglio, the feared Passo del Mortirolo appears on the agenda with difficult summit finishes at Cervina and Sestriere tackled later in the week as the Giro reaches its climax. The arduous route should suit Alberto Contador who is planning to win both this race and the Tour de France in the same season. Having won his first Giro in 2008 and then again in 2011, only to be disqualified from the latter on drug related issues, the Spaniard will be aiming to maintain his unbeaten record in the Italian race.
There were suggestions during the opening day team trial that Contador appeared tense and far from his usual fluency but as the gradients steepen in later stages, his displays are likely to improve but Fabio Aru from the Astana team is likely to prove a difficult opponent especially after his experience in securing third position in the 2014 Giro.