For two hours and five minutes on Saturday, Ramunas Navardauskas led the Giro d'Italia until Saxo Bank's Manuele Boaro clocked a better time than the Lithuanian from Garmin-Barracuda in the opening individual time trial.
"I didn't expect to be in the lead for such a long time", he said as he waited in a car parked nearby the finishing line on HP Hansensvej in Herning. "I'm proud of myself that I did so well."
Navardauskas eventually finished sixth with the same time as Swedish time trial national champion Gustav Larsson. His return to form was noted when he finished 17th at the prologue of the Tour de Romandie, which marked his comeback after he broke a collarbone during stage 3 of Tirreno-Adriatico and had to sit out racing for one and a half months.
"What I enjoy a lot at Garmin-Barracuda is that every rider is given a good program," Navardauskas told Cyclingnews. "My plan is again is to help me progress as an individual as well as contribute to the team's success. I'm still looking at what kind of rider I can become. To be a team player is my priority."
The 24-year-old was identified by Jonathan Vaughters as a perfect asset for team time trials. "Last year, he realized what I can do at Tirreno-Adriatico," said Navardauskas, who was selected for the Tour de France even though he was a first year pro while riding for Garmin-Cervélo.
"Winning the team time trial on my second day of racing at the Tour de France remains my best memory as a cyclist," the Lithuanian said. He was again part of the Garmin-Barracuda squad that won the team time trial at the Tour of Qatar this year, alongside Tyler Farrar, Jack Bauer and Robert Hunter, who are also competing in the Giro d'Italia.
Garmin-Barracuda got some solid results in the opening individual time trial in Herning: Alex Rasmussen was third, Navardauskas was sixth, Hunter 13th, Bauer 14th, Ryder Hesjedal 17th and Farrar 29th.
With an advantage of 11 seconds over Mark Cavendish, Farrar is the highest ranked of the established sprinters, but he won't be able to claim the pink jersey even if he should he win stage 2 to Herning, as the 20-second bonus awarded to the winner won't be enough to compensate for his 36-second deficit to stage 1 winner Taylor Phinney.
Garmin-Barracuda, formerly known as Slipstream, won the inaugural team time trial in its debut at the Giro d'Italia in Palermo in 2008. It put Christian Vande Velde in pink. He was the last American to lead the Giro until Phinney today.
After the strong showing in the prologue, the team will be once again the hot favorite for the 33km team time trial in Verona on Wednesday when the Giro d'Italia returns to Italian soil following its Danish start.