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Let’s get the challenge started!


Raise your hand if you expected Simon Yates to beat Tom Dumoulin in the Budapest time trial. And who would have expected the Briton to make it as far as to win the stage? Well, the twin brother of art has painted quite a masterpiece along the 9.2 km between Pest and Buda, because according to insiders today was a stage in which he was supposed to defend himself and not lose seconds from riders more accustomed to time trials. He not only did that but also won the stage, giving his Giro d’Italia a reason to be remembered, whatever his path in the Corsa Rosa may be.

Getting out of the box straight away: the fans like that. The Giro d’Italia has accustomed us to doing exactly that and, right from the second stage, it has decided it was right to turn the odds upside down and ruin all the bookmakers’ predictions. If yesterday’s victory went to the most expected rider, today it’s time for the least expected rider to celebrate. And yesterday’s most expected rider came second today, retaining the Maglia Rosa and showing another display of crystalline class. Mathieu Van der Poel, in fact, by his own admission, had only used the time trial bike once in the last two weeks. But if you have an engine like VDP’s, that’s enough, apparently. So tomorrow he will be able to show off that beautiful pink bike again, which has made fans’ eyes sparkle.

But back to Simon Yates, who is likely to come into the first test of this Giro, the uphill stage finish on Mount Etna, with his sights set on the Maglia Rosa, as he is now the closest to Mathieu. “A very unexpected victory,” Simon said after the finish. The Brit is a rider who is used to keeping a very low profile, but his bright smile on the podium and in interviews suggests that perhaps this might be the year for him to end his five-year chase for the Maglia Rosa. Obviously, to make this kind of statements after two stages would be madness. Etna will be a completely different effort from that faced in today’s time trial: 23 km of climbing versus 1000 metres of today. In short, it’s a totally different story, but as the saying goes, the early bird…

But there will be no shortage of rivals, as many responded to the first small test. Tom Dumoulin (+5″), Tobias Foss (+17″) and Wilco Kelderman (+17″) were expected to do well in the time trial, as were Joao Almeida (+18″) and Pello Bilbao (+26″), while Vincenzo Nibali (+19″), Romain Bardet (+24″) and Mikel Landa (+33″) went further than expected. Richard Carapaz (+28″) lost 17″ to Yates on the final climb, while Miguel Angel Lopez (+42″), Giulio Ciccone (+50″) and Emanuel Buchmann (+57″) struggled more than expected. Given the three weeks of racing that await the athletes, these are all minimal delays, but enough to start fantasizing. It’s already a great Giro.

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