Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team’s campaign for the overall victory at the Giro Rosa started successfully on Friday night with a win in the opening stage time trial. Newly crowned Canadian time trial champion Karol-Ann Canuel led her teammates across the finish line in Aquileia to stop the clock at 14:47. The Dutch-registered squad, the last team to power out of the start house, was the final team to race and the only team to break the 15-minute barrier, edging out Team Sunweb, in second place, by 16-seconds.
Canuel will wear the maglia rosa on Saturday’s stage two. World champion Amalie Dideriksen will swap her rainbow jersey for best young rider’s white.
“We talked about it beforehand, and everyone said they were okay with me crossing the line first,” said Canuel. “It was really special to pull on the pink jersey.”
“We were hoping to win, but we weren’t expecting to win by such a big margin,” said Boels-Dolmans’ sport director Danny Stam. “I didn’t think we could get more than 10 seconds.”
The commanding victory confirms Boels-Dolmans status as the team to beat in the collective race against the clock. Canuel and her teammates won a gold medal in the team the team time trial at the Road World Championships last October to close out a season that included victories in every team time trial they raced. The squad also won the Healthy Ageing Tour team time trial in April, the only TTT they’ve raced this season.
“Everything went right today,” said Stam. “We went a little bit earlier than normal to the start area to recon the course. Then we came back and did the normal warm-up the girls prefer. I think it was perfect."
The afternoon may have been perfect but the morning was not without stress. Canuel flew to Italy via Air Canada on Tuesday evening, four hours after winning her second Canadian time trial title. When she landed on Wednesday morning, she discovered her bike had not made it to Italy. For two days, no one could tell her where her Specialized Shiv was and when she might be reunited with it.
“That was really stressful,” she said. “It wasn’t until 12 o’clock today that it showed up.”
It arrived in time for Canuel to preview the course with her teammates. The non-technical route included only a few corners and finished in a market square with restaurants on either end. While clouds moved in during the second half of the race, the rain held off until the race had finished.
“It started raining when we were on the podium,” said Canuel. “I think the wind and rain will pick up in the night.”
Behind Sunweb at 16 seconds, ORICA-SCOTT slotted into third place at 22 seconds. Wiggle High5 and CANYON//SRAM followed, rounding out the top five. Kasia Niewiadoma’s WM3 Energie team managed sixth place at 37 seconds. The margins may not be large, but they offer the first gaps among the overall contenders.
The Giro Rosa continues on Saturday with a 122-kilometre stage between Zoppola and Montreal Valcellina. Former winners Megan Guarnier (2016) and Anna van der Breggen (2015) began stage two with a small but discernable advantage – both tangibly and mentally.
“It will be a hard stage. The last 40-kilometres include a pretty hard climb,” said Stam. “I think it will be a hectic final. I think everyone’s head is in a good way after today. We’re actually really looking forward to tomorrow’s stage.”