Giro D'Italia 2018: Stage 1 - Jerusalem Prologue (9.7 kms)

The 101st Edition of Giro D'Italia kicked off today, with a 9.7k prologue in Jerusalem, Israel.

One of 3 Grand Tours, alongside Le Tour De France & Vuelta A Espana, the Giro is often a dramatic race with some epic racing done over some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. The drama kicked off last year itself, when the race organisers(after consulting with the Italian External Affairs Ministry), published the map, while mentioning the start as "West Jerusalem".
The Israelis were up in arms immediately and demanded that it should be renamed as "Jerusalem".

While that was a political scenario of a different kind, while the launch of the 101st edition of the Giro was being prepared, another *dramatic scenario* came to the fore. Having won a Tour De France + Vuelta A Espana double, a certain Chris Froome was offered upwards of 2 million euros as appearance fee for the Giro D'Italia. And 2 weeks after he announced his commitment, the salbutamol-gate broke out. *cue dramatic music*.

See, I'm going to refrain from all political references here. I'm just a "neutral" blogger who believes, cycling is an amazing sport. I love to watch riders go head to head on the bike. I could care less about the controversies.

Given how last year's champion, Tom Dumoulin (Team SunWeb), had absolutely crushed his opponents on Time Trial stages (poor Quintana, i don't like him particularly, but it was like an amateur racing a pro on the TT stages), this year's Giro offers some of the most challenging mountain stages and very few TTs(2 of them, including 1 today and 1 at the end of the race).

Fun Fact: The Grand Tour leaders wear coloured jerseys. The leader of the Tour De France wears Malliot Jaune (Yellow Jersey), leader of the Vuelta A Espana wears Maillot Rojo (Red Jersey) and the leader of Giro D'Italia wears Maglia Rosa (Pink Jersey).

And no, it is not breast cancer awareness. The main sponsor of the Giro: "La Gazetta dello Sport", is a newspaper, which prints on pink paper! Hence, the pink colour.

Today's Stage:

9.7k seems to be a short chunk of a 3-week, 2546 km long race, but this is the day which decides the seedings, kind of a way to flex some muscle and a big opportunity for some big TT specialists to wear Maglia Rosa for a day.

And the 9.7k stage wasn't exactly easy.

It was quite hilly with trick road surfaces and descents. The mud on the road made it quite slippery, causing some recon crashes including Chris Froome!!

Credits: Rennat Schotte
Other crashes included Miguel Angel Lopez(Astana) and Kanstantsin Siutsov(Bahrain-Merida). Siutsov broke a vertebrae and had to abandon, even before the race started.

I try to cover all bases, so i'll explain how today's stage works. An individual Time Trial, is a race against the clock. All the riders start in descending order, with last year's champion starting at the end.

They go at a minute's gap to each other and the person who covers the distance in the fastest time, wins the stage. Generally, the top-end is quite boring, they're mainly domestiques, the bigger boys come into play a little later.

After a string of people going over 13 minutes, the 1st real impressive performance was by 22 year old Frenchman, RĂ©mi Cavagne, in his 1st ever Grand Tour as he rode a 12:37(46.1 kmph) for the 9.7k course.

And then popped a pre-stage favourite, the Aussie TT specialist, Rohan Dennis (BMC).

Dennis is menace(*hehe*) on the bike and he showed it, by running down Cavagne's time by 33 seconds and finishing in an incredible time of 12:04(48.2 kmph). If his time held out throughout the day, he would have the leader's jersey for all 3 Grand Tours, having led Tour De France and Vuelta A Espana at various times previously.
Incredible stats 
The Israeli crowd cheered on its 2 riders, Guy Sagiv and Guy Niv (both Israel Training Academy) as the favourites continued to ride on. Former TT World Champion, Vasil Kiriyenka(Team Sky) was 20" down at 5.1k mark, but he pulled back in the 2nd half, finishing in 12:47.

Valerio Conti(UAE Team Emirates) and Jose Goncalves(Katusha-Alpecin) also put up some impressive performances as they rode 12:31 and 12:14, respectively.

One of the overall favourites, Thibaut Pinot(4th last year, FDJ), came to the fore and rode a "not-so-impressive" 12:35.

Simon Yates(Mitchelton-Scott), another pre-race overall favourite, put up an impressive 12:22, while time trial specialist Alex Dowsett(Katusha-Alpecin) rode a very fast 12:18, moving into the 3rd place.

Victor Campenaerts(Lotto-Soudal) rode a very impressive TT, finishing miliseconds outside Dennis' time to move into 2nd place.

At the starting plank, the game was now afoot. TT legend, Tony Martin started, closely following Chris Froome, who was seen with a small wound on his knee. But hey, this isn't Football. You don't dive around to get penalties. You fall down, get up and kick ass.

Froome and Martin, were 19" down on Dennis at 5.1k mark and seemed to be less of a threat than the man who had just started behind them.

The defending Giro D'Italia champ and current World Time Trial Champ, Tom Duomoulin rolled off, setting some butterflies in Rohan Dennis' stomach.

And immediately, Dumoulin was impressive. He caught my eye last year, especially after when he stopped to poop during the race, while leading the race. And while his trousers were down, Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali attacked, taking time away from him. But in the very next stage, Duomoulin was shoulder to shoulder with the Shark of Messina, even prompting him to attack, almost taunting him.
Nibali is a fantastic descender, and the very fact that Dumoulin kept up with him on the penultimate stage last year showed what a determined man this 26 year old Dutch is.
And then he made Quintana poop his pants, by riding the 2nd fastest time of the day on the last stage of the Giro in Milan and winning the race!

And as a matter of fact, he beat Chris Froome in an impressive showdown at the UCI World TT Championships. So, Rohan Dennis' expression, when Dumolin was level with Dennis' 5.1k split was quite valid(and frankly, hilarious).

Fabio Aru(UAE Team Emirates), another pre-race overall favourite, finished in a disappointing time of 12:52, while Tony Martin finished in 12:29. Froome seemed a little off as he rode in with the clock at 12:39.

But behind him, Dumoulin was on fire as he crossed the line in a very impressive 12:02(48.4 kmph), winning the stage and the Maglia Rosa!!

The camera shifted to Rohan Dennis' face, and he looked just like the guy who had lost out on winning the Oscars.

More importantly, Dumoulin put in a lot of time on his main rivals on the very 1st day, 37" on Froome, 50" on Aru, 33" on Pinot and 20" on Yates, asserting his dominance.

So, at the end of Day 1, the stage(and overall standings) were as follows:

Let's see what Day 2 brings!!


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