By Julien Pretot
BOLOGNA, Italy (Reuters) - Vincenzo Nibali got a little scare on Saturday, but his form was not in question as the local darling rode through hordes of tifosi in the Giro d'Italia opening time trial before reminding Simon Yates that he should show his rivals some respect.
The Sicilian admitted his only concern in the 8km effort against the clock ending up the San Luca climb came when the fans came too close to the Bahrain-Merida leader, who finished third, 23 seconds off the pace set by Primoz Roglic of Slovenia.
Speaking to reporters on a sun-kissed Piazza dell'8 Agosto, the 34-year-old, who is hoping to win a third Giro title after prevailing in 2013 and 2016, said: "I liked having people cheering me on, but it was also a but scary when the road became narrower. I tried to stay in the middle.
"It was a very difficult time trial but we knew the course very well, especially the (2km) climb because we did it many times during the Giro d'Emilia.
"The time is good but Roglic really killed it."
Yates finished between Nibali and Roglic after the Briton conceded 19 seconds to the Slovenian.
Yates, who this week said his rivals should be scared of him, was reminded by Nibali that he should show more respect.
"It's been a long time since a rider has been so over the top. But of course if he wins the race, I'll do him the honours he deserves," Nibali said before Yates had crossed the line.
"That being said I think he could show more respect to his rivals."
Yates defended his comments.
"I respect all my rivals, I really didn't mean to disrespect anybody," he said.
Nibali beat 2017 champion and former time trial world champion Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands by five seconds.
"He did not do great but I'm expecting him to get better as the race goes on," Nibali said.
"I was good today, but on the Giro you have to be cautious because if you're not it can backfire.
"Let's keep our feet on the ground. What Roglic did today makes me think he will be one of my main rivals but you can't let your guard down and must respect everybody."
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ed Osmond)