Bologna, Italy (AP) — Primoz Roglic of Slovenia won the opening stage of the Giro d’Italia on Saturday, finishing the individual time trial just ahead of two of the other pre-race favorites.
Roglic, who rides for Jumbo-Visma, was the only cyclist to finish in under 13 minutes on the 8.2-kilometer (5.1-mile) route, which was mainly flat before ending in a steep climb up to the Sanctuary of San Luca.
The 29-year-old Roglic was 19 seconds faster than British cyclist Simon Yates and 23 seconds ahead of home favorite Vincenzo Nibali.
Roglic was 12th down the ramp and had a long wait to see whether his time of 12 minutes, 54 seconds would be enough to beat Yates, who was one of the last to start.
“It’s true that I’ve had to wait a lot on the hot seat before I was declared the winner but I’m very happy with this victory,” Roglic said. “I didn’t have any particular tactic except for going as fast as possible. I’m surprised by the gaps.”
Yates led the race for 13 days last year before it was won by British compatriot Chris Froome, who has decided to focus on winning a fifth Tour de France title rather than defend his Giro crown.
“I did all I could,” Yates said. “Maybe I went a little bit too easy at the start but that was also the tactic, you can’t go full gas start to finish, I knew I could gain or lose a lot of time on the climb. It was only a little bit, but it was calculated.”
Nibali won the Giro in 2013 and 2016 and a third victory would see him become the oldest winner of his home Grand Tour.
“I’m happy with how I performed,” the 34-year-old said. “Roglic will be one of the rivals to beat, he did really well, we shouldn’t let our guard down: surprises can arrive from other cyclists too.”
Dutch cyclist Tom Dumoulin, the 2017 winner who finished runner-up last year, was 28 seconds slower than Roglic.
“Dumoulin didn’t do very well but that doesn’t mean much,” Nibali said. “Today he had an off day, tomorrow it can happen to someone else.”
Sunday’s second stage is a rolling 205 kilometer route from Bologna to Fucecchio, which should be won by a sprinter.
The Giro finishes in Verona on June 2.