Lennard Kämna squeezed out of his German championship jersey and gasped for air as he rolled out. At the start of his Giro d'Italia project, the German hopeful clearly missed the targeted top ten places.
The 26-year-old had to settle for 22nd place in the opening time trial. On the 19.6 kilometers from Fossacesia Marina to Ortona, Kämna already lost 1:23 minutes to the outstanding road world champion Remco Evenepoel, who won the first pink jersey.
Kämna: "It's still okay"
"It wasn't an absolute highlight, but it wasn't bad either. Solid, I would say. It was tough, straight ahead for a long time. You couldn't catch your breath," said Kämna of the German Press Agency and added: "The confidence is definitely there there. It was just the first stage and it was far from catastrophic. It's still okay."
The former junior world champion had hoped for a bit more. Sports director Jens Zemke hinted that Kämna had "been a bit stricken in the last few days". "He didn't go through the full training program. He stayed at the hotel yesterday," explained Zemke.
Meanwhile, Evenepoel was in a different league, even beating two-time time trial world champion Filippo Ganna from Italy by 22 seconds. "I'm super happy. This is the ideal return to the Giro," said Evenepoel, who two years ago had broken off his first attempt on the second largest tour in the world after 17 stages.
Fight for the pink jersey
In the duel between the two stars, the Belgian also dealt a heavy blow to his Slovenian rival Primoz Roglic. The 23-year-old exceptional driver already took 43 seconds off Roglic. So the Slovenian has to attack in the mountains, after all, two more time trials are waiting for the professional cyclists.
Kämna had set the goal of the top ten both for the first time trial and for the overall ranking. The highly gifted rider from Fischerhude, who as a stage hunter had already celebrated daily victories in the Tour de France (2020) and the Giro (2022) in the high mountains, is tackling the overall ranking for the first time this year.
He had prepared four months for this, brought his weight to the lower limit and "reached a level that I had never had before," as Kämna emphasized before the Grande Partenza. He couldn't underline this at the start. "I don't know whether I can keep up with Remco or Primoz. They are exceptional drivers," said Kämna, looking at the overall standings. There will probably be a final answer on the difficult mountain stages before the capital Rome is reached after 3489.2 kilometers on May 28th.
Five new helpers for Roglic
For fellow favorite Roglic, who now wants to conquer the pink jersey after his third place in 2019, the Giro started extremely badly. A total of five helpers had to be replaced in advance. After three drivers had to pass due to a corona infection in the past few days, Roglic's compatriot Jan Tratnik was also caught after a training accident on Friday. The 33-year-old injured his knee and had to be replaced by new professional Thomas Gloag. For the Brit it is the first participation in a Grand Tour.
On Sunday, the sprinters can hope for a mass finish on the flat second stage over 202 kilometers from Teramo to San Salvo.