Dubai: UAE Team Emirates rider Mikkel Bjerg put in a confident display to finish in third place in the individual time trial opening stage of the Giro d’Italia, late on Saturday.
The former under-23 World Champion clocked a time of 15:46 minutes with a blistering average speed of 57.46kph and just 22 seconds off stage winner Filippo Ganna of the Ineos Grenadiers team and Deceuninck-QuickStep rider Joao Almeida.
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The opening 15.1km test went from Monreale to Palermo with the majority of the course gradually twisting downhill.
Crowned world champion last week in Imola, Ganna came up with a dominant performance that ensured he became the first rider to pull on the maglia rosa in this year’s race. Making his Grand Tour debut, the Italian finished with a time of 15:24 minutes.
Bjerg will take confidence from the result ahead of the two further time trials to come in the race, the next opportunity coming on Stage 14. “I’m really happy with the result. I think I put in a good performance and it’s probably one of the best results of my career so far,” the Dane admitted.
“I rode the first little climb at a controlled pace and tried to save my energy for the last section. It was a really fast course and in the last 6km I pushed hard to really try and make the difference. The wind had an affect, but it went as well as it could have. Ganna was just on a different level today,” the UAE Team Emirates rider added.
There was disappointment for Victor Campenaerts of NTT Pro Cycling after he crashed on the course. The UCI Hour Record holder came into the stage as one of Ganna’s main threats, but the Belgian came down and later criticised the state of the course.
He was able to finish the stage, but there was another high-profile faller, with Astana’s Miguel Angel Lopez crashing into the barriers at the second time check and leaving the race in an ambulance.
Stage 2 will continue in Sicily on Sunday and take the riders from Alcamo to Agrigento over 149 kms with an uphill finish which could favour UAE Team Emirates rider Diego Ulissi and the other punchers.
Stage 1 Results
1. Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) 15’24”
2. Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quickstep) +22s
3. Mikkel Bjerg (UAE Team Emirates) +22s