As expected, double World Individual Time-Trial champion Filippo Ganna won in dominant fashion in the Tour de la Provence prologue, on a parcours perfect for the powerful Italian.
Second best in the seven kilometre flat prologue with few turns was his INEOS Grenadiers teammate, and British ITT champion, Ethan Hayter, who lost 12 seconds the best of all the GC contenders (yes we are calling Hayter a GC contender for this race). This was the 16th prologue or ITT win in Ganna’s pro career. Italian already showed his incredible form last week in Etoile de Besseges time-trial, which included a 2.5km climb. He has not lost on an ITT bike since World Championships in Flanders.
Ethan Hayter finished second, beating Swedish short ITT specialist Tobias Ludvigsson by one second. It was not a surprise that Ludvigsson came so close to Hayter, given his solid performances in 2020 and 2021 at the Tirreno-Adriatico 10 kilometre San Benedetto del Tronto flat ITT, which is very similar to this Provence prologue. For INEOS, this puts Hayter in a decent position heading into the road stages and, given Carapaz not looking like he is in top shape either today or at Besseges, means that Hayter should be their protected GC leader.
How much time GC favorites lost to Filippo Ganna in the prologue:
- +0:12 Ethan Hayter
- +0:15 Pierre Latour
- +0:17 Julian Alaphilippe
- +0:20 Ilan Van Wilder
- +0:24 Mattias Skjelmose Jensen
- +0:24 Matteo Jorgenson
- +0:28 Florian Stork
- +0:30 Gorka Izagirre
- +0:31 Nairo Quintana
- +0:35 Michael Storer
- +0:38 Richard Carapaz
- +1:04 Ivan Sosa
Evidently, the biggest loser of today was last year’s Provence overall winner Ivan Sosa. The new Movistar recruit lost an incredible amount of time in such a short time trial, going over 12.5% slower than Ganna and ruling out a possibility for him to win GC this year. Sosa lost seconds to riders on continental teams who were just trying to get through the day’s stage and were riding on a road bike with no aero extensions.
Conversely, His countryman Nairo Quintana, the winner of this race in 2020, performed above expectations, only losing 19 seconds to Ethan Hayter. Considering Quintana’s recent ITT results and historical weakness in the discipline, either he is in top shape or Arkea have improved his set up (or both). Quintana before this race told the media that he wants to podium the Tour de France this year and to do that he will need both his February 2020 thermonuclear climbing legs plus a much improved time trial. We will definitely be watching to see if Nairoman shows such form on the Queen stage that will end on Montagne de Lure, where he will need to gain back all the time lost to Hayter.
As mentioned in our preview of Tour de la Provence 2022, Julian Alaphilippe was sick with a cold and missed Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl’s pre-season camp in Portugal, his prologue performance 5 seconds behind Hayter shows that his form is better than he suggested before the race.
Quick-Step did not bring a sprinter to Provence because Davide Ballerini tested positive with Covid-19, so in tomorrow’s first road stage Alaphilippe probably will likely go up against Arnaud Demare, Elia Viviani and other sprinters in the flat stage. INEOS will be the team to watch to see how they manage Hayter’s GC expectations and Viviani’s role as their sprinter. Will Hayter provide a leadout like Evenepoel did in Valenciana or will he also be allowed to sprint himself? They are near the coast line in parts of this stage, where the wind can sometimes blow, so if there are any crosswinds expect INEOS to try and take advantage.