The opening of this year’s Giro d’Italia was one of the main talking points before the race, with the absences of GC superstars Tadej Pogačar, Primož Roglič, as well as 2020 race winner Tao Geoghegan Hart, which means that the winners of the last eight Grand Tours did not take the Grande Partenza in Hungary.
This same openness extended to the Stage 2 time trial in Budapest. No Filippo Ganna, Rohan Dennis, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenpoel and Stefan Küng at the Giro meant no medalists from the last three world championships lined up on Saturday, while Stefan Küng, Victor Campenaerts and Kasper Asgreen were also absent .
There were only 9.2 kilometers of unpredictable racing left ending with a 1.3 km climb to Szentháromság Square and a fairly open field of contenders for victory.
It was Simon Yates who prevailed on this 12-minute east-west effort on the Danube, beating former world champion Tom Dumoulin, overall leader Mathieu van der Poel, Italian champion Matteo Sobrero to win the second time trial victory of his career. .
He edged Van der Poel by three seconds on the line, while Dumoulin was two seconds further. Surprisingly, no other rider was within 12 seconds of the Briton.
Given Yates’ reputation as a climber and the fact that his previous TT success – at Paris-Nice three years ago – featured a mid-point climb and uphill finish, you’d be forgiven for thinking that his victory was built on the back of a strong climb to the line during the fourth category climb, which averaged 4.9%.
However, he was – somewhat surprisingly – the fastest of them all on the technical, flat 7.9km run through the city streets to the foot of the climb. Those six and seven tenths advantages over Dumoulin and Van der Poel would not be decisive at the finish, with Yates only climbing more as he raced uphill, but they demonstrated just how impressive his run was.
In time trials, Yates has always been a rider looking to cut his losses unless there are hills where he can make gains. Its climber frame means it can’t compete with those traditional time trials with bigger frames and more watts to push on the flat.
However, the Budapest time trial was not an opportunity for the specialists to open the taps and cut the long straights. Aside from the opening straight and a blast either side of the Danube to and from Margaret Bridge, it was more of a test of technique, something Yates will have taken advantage of.
“This Giro TT will be more focused on riding the bike,” said compatriot Alex Dowsett. Cycling news Friday. “Also, city roads with technical corners can make it much harder and much less difficult for pure TT racers.”
Yates certainly didn’t get the wheel wrong during the flat part of the ride, doing his best while keeping his focus on the twisty streets. It was this effort and his superior climbing ability to finish that led him to victory, and our second rider of the day, Giro crown.
Yates showed signs of his pre-Giro form at Vuelta Asturias last week, winning the first and final stages – and also suffering from the heat of Stage 2 – with some attacks on the final hills in the last 10 kilometers. He was the only Giro competitor to race, and indeed the only Giro competitor to race so close to the Corsa Rosa.
He was clearly in good form, but after beating riders such as Vincenzo Albanese, Kévin Vauquelin and Alexis Vuillermoz, it was hard to gauge exactly how well he would fare against Richard Carapaz, Mikel Landa and João Almeida.
He got off to a blistering start, although he lost four seconds in Stage 1 due to a gap near the front of the peloton at the uphill finish in Visegrád. There Carapaz, Bauke Mollema and Wilco Kelderman nibbled away the extra seconds, but Yates has already brought them back – and many more.
Kelderman finished 17 seconds behind Tobias Foss, while Almeida is still a second behind, Mollema lost 21 seconds, Bardet another three, Carapaz 28… There is still a long way to go, but these are precious seconds to snatch in just 9.2 km of racing. .
There should also be little doubt that Yates is already in top form. Four years ago we saw Yates display after display in the first two weeks of the Giro before gradually – then suddenly – collapsing in the last three mountain stages in the Alps. It was a lesson learned quickly and the 29-year-old will only look to improve as the race progresses.
At the same time, we are only two fourth category climbs in the race. It is far too early to – as Bradley Wiggins quickly did after the stage – crown Yates as the “big favourite” to win the Giro. It’s a good start, though.