T-1 day until the first aero bikes complete with riders sporting a variety of weird and wonderful headwear roll down the (hopefully pink) ramps in Fossacesia to begin the 2023 Giro d'Italia.
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Speedy Preview: Stage 1 – Saturday 6th May – Fossacesia Marina – Ortona – 19.6km (ITT)
Beginning smack bang in the middle of Italy’s eastern coast, this year’s Giro d’Italia opens with a time trial. Completely flat for the first 16.2km, the final features a 1.3km climb at 5.4% with pitches of 8%, almost a kilometre downhill, and then a short, categorised climb to the finish, which will enable the organisers to award the first mountains jersey.
WHAT TO EXPECT: A demonstration of pure power from the likes Ganna, Küng and Evenepoel. Some epically silly headwear.
HOT TIP: With a plethora of strong time trialists among the 176 riders starting the race, it’s tricky to predict who will win on stage 1. Küng, Ganna, and Sobrero are some of the specialists, while Remco and Roglič the all-rounders looking to get their GC campaigns off to a strong start. I'm going to throw my hat in Ganna's corner though.
Now, allow me to introduce you to Lena Koch, who will be bringing you the history, culture, geography and people of the areas within which each stage takes place. They will be full of fascinating information so please check them out every day.
Lena's Giro Antipasti - Stage 1
I’ve often heard people expressing surprise over the cities of this year’s Grande Partenza. Both Fossacesia and Ortona are rather small compared to Budapest or Jerusalem.
I had never heard of the towns before looking at the stage profile. However when I fired up Google maps to see where they’re located on the Italian peninsula their population and history weren’t the first thing on my mind.
Ortona lies directly at the Adria coast and the individual Time Trial starts in the Harbour of Fossacessia. Further inland, more or less behind both cities, the landscape changes due to the Apennine mountain range.
Every Giro tifosi knows that Italy has a simply ridiculous amount of mountains. The Alps and Dolomites are of course first in one's mind but there are several more mountain ranges that made traversing the land in ancient and not so ancient times rather difficult and led to diverse regional cultures.
The first mass transportation system that made travel not only for the rich accessible was the railroad. And when I saw Fossacesia Marina and Ortona I thought this would be the perfect place to build one.
A railroad is all things considered not that different to hour record holder Filippo Ganna. Not the fastest starting time compared to a car or a track sprinter but when in motion a simply ridiculous amount of watts are achieved for a very long time. And the flatter the route the better.
Railroads don’t like gradients. They can traverse them quite well as long as it isn’t to steep. A steady low gradient climb is the railroad’s best bet and also suits Ganna comparatively well as seen in the Vuelta San Juan.
However for the really steep climbs you want special equipment like a cable car or a rack railway and dedicated climbers like Sepp Kuss.
Knowing that, it isn’t really surprising that the Giro organizers prepared a parcours alongside the Ferrovia Adriatica (Adriatic Railroad) which was first built in 1860 and connects the Adriatic coast cities.
Filippo Ganna has strong competition this year with both Remco Evenepoel and Primož Roglič attending. All three are outstanding time trialists but every metre of altitude will suit them more than Ganna. And it wouldn’t be the Giro if the organizers didn’t dream of one of their countrymen in the Maglia Rosa after the first stage.
They managed a completely flat parcours for 17 km. And then shortly before the finish a 1.2 km climb with a gradient of 5.2%. A nearly perfect parcours for Ganna especially knowing his tendency for a negative split.
Will he win? I wouldn’t be surprised. What would surprise me however is if we don’t see the famous Giro train. Please don’t disappoint me Tren Italia. The stage has been set for you just as much as for Filippo Ganna.
Don't forget to join us for all this and more, over the coming three weeks. Enjoy the race!