If Mathieu van der Poel had won today, he’d have become the first rider to take back-to-back opening Grand Tour stages since Mario Cipollini at the 1997 Giro d’Italia.
Instead, Simon Yates denied him by only three seconds, but the Dutchman kept the maglia rosa by 11 seconds, and now should carry it through tomorrow’s stage three to the arrival of the Italian Grand Tour in Italy.
There is one small problem, however. When Van der Poel touches down in Sicily, there may be hordes of angry tifosi waiting to tear the pink jersey from him as he steps off the plane.
That’s because a video emerged on social media during the time trial, thanks to the always impish ‘Cycling out of context’ account, which posted a video of Van der Poel joyously dousing a plate of spaghetti in tomato ketchup.
After the finish line in the shadow of the Buda Castle, we managed to stop the man with the most Italian name on the start sheet, Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè’s Filippo Fiorelli, to ask him his opinion.
We load up the video, he watches the entire thing before shaking his head. “No ketchup on the pasta!” he exclaims.
After all of the proper journalists had stepped up to ask their very important questions about Van der Poel’s time trial, whether it was a perfect performance, if he had expected to go that well (long story short: if he’s still in the maglia rosa then yes, he had a stormer of a day), CyclingTips duly stepped in to ask the question that really mattered.
“Mathieu, we’ve seen the video of the spaghetti and the ketchup, are you worried you’ve irreparably insulted all Italians forever?”
“That was in Belgium before a cyclocross race,” Van der Poel said with a giggle after the stage, usually stony-faced when tasked with explaining his racing in excruciating detail to the media.
The Dutchman then mounted a defence of his actions, that if he’d had the choice, he would of course have used a proper tomato sauce instead, but that desperate times call for desperate measures.
“When I have the chance to have tomato sauce I choose it above ketchup,” Van der Poel pleaded. “But I was in need.”