Team time trial puts Hesjedal first among Giro GC contenders
Stage 4 of the 2012 Giro d'Italia was the 20th team time trial in the history of the corsa rosa. The first one, from Viareggio to Marina di Massa in 1937, does not count as such in the official statistics as it was recorded as an individual victory for Raffaele Di Paco. The Bianchi team opened the record book with a win at 47.729km/h on the car racing circuit of Modena - where stage 5 will kick off - in 1953.
American teams have won four of the last five team trials at the Giro: Slipstream brought Christian Vande Velde into pink in Palermo in 2008, Columbia won in 2009 at Lido di Venezia, HTC-Highroad won last year in Torino and this year Garmin-Barracuda took top honors in Verona.
"Wow, one more TTT win for Garmin!" said Ryder Hesjedal who was waiting for the time of the last team on the road, BMC. "It's perfect. We had a good ride. We could feel the strength of the squad. Unfortunately, it was a bit chaotic on the climb, and we lost Alex Rasmussen there."
The Dane was the virtual maglia rosa as he was the highest ranked of the Garmin-Barracuda riders after finishing the inaugural time trial in third place. He admitted at the end of the team time trial that he didn't sleep much the two previous nights as the idea of becoming the race leader excited him.
There was, however, a hint of relief in the camp of the Giro organizers as they had feared that such a wearer of the pink jersey might have to be excluded in the middle of the race. Rasmussen has been cleared of his three violations of the anti-doping whereabouts rules by the Danish cycling federation, but the UCI has appealed the verdict and the hearing by CAS is scheduled for May 16, before the Giro tackles the high mountains.
Another rider from Garmin-Barracuda who missed the opportunity to wear pink is Tyler Farrar. The sprinter from Seattle is second to his teammate Ramunas Navardauskas, who only 10 seconds down. Having finished fourth and third in the two Danish stages, Farrar missed out on some precious seconds bonus.
"I came here with two major goals," Farrar said in Verona. "The first one was to win one of the stages for sprinters. I targeted stage 3 in particular because that was the one dedicated to my friend Wouter Weylandt but it didn't happen. Now we've won the team time trial on May 9, exactly one year after his tragedy, but I didn't need that to remember him. I think of him every day. I'm very happy with this team time trial victory. Now I can go back to my first goal."
Were Farrar to finish first or second in Fano at the end of stage 5 on Thursday, he would take over from Navardauskas. A 20-second time bonus is awarded to the winner and 12 seconds go to the runner up.
The new general classification of the Giro d'Italia also indicates that Ryder Hesjedal now tops the list of GC contenders. The Canadian who finished seventh at the 2010 Tour de France is 19 seconds ahead of Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), 29 ahead of Roman Kreuziger (Astana), 36 ahead of Ivan Basso (Liquigas Cannondale), 1:11 ahead of Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD).
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