The Liquias-Cannondale team didn’t repeat last year’s success that put Vincenzo Nibali in pink after the team time trial, but the third place in stage 1 of the 2011 Giro d’Italia was welcomed as a productive one. In fact, among the main favourites of the race, “the shark” precedes his direct rivals Michele Scarponi by two seconds, Alberto Contador by eight seconds, Roman Kreuziger by 28 seconds, Denis Menchov by 31 seconds, Joaquim Rodriguez by 42 seconds and Igor Anton by 53 seconds.
“It’s important to be ahead”, Nibali said, although he knows from experience that the lead can be quickly lost at the Giro. Last year, he gave the pink jersey to Alexandre Vinokourov after crashing on the strade bianche.
“There aren’t major differences”, he said of the gap he made over Scarponi and Contador. “It was a very fast course today, we all stayed very attentive to what was happening. It wasn’t an easy thing to maintain the group. The team has done great. The result suits me. I’m happy. It was our intention to start strongly and demonstrate that we could be protagonists from stage 1 onwards.”
Team manager Roberto Amadio didn’t blame Alan Marangoni for not having been able to follow the rest of the squad. The 26-year-old recruited from Colnago-CSF was a late inclusion on the roster of Liquigas-Cannondale after Mauro Da Dalto was sidelined because of his implication in the Mantova investigation. “It’s ok like this,” Amadio said. “I’m happy. We’ve started the Giro on the right foot. But this race is so long, the time gained or lost today doesn’t really count.”
Compared to 2010, Liquigas was missing the input of Ivan Basso and Robert Kiserlovski but replaced them by two climbers, Cristian Salerno and Eros Capecchi who weren’t exactly at their ease in the team time trial. However, Capecchi managed to stay in the wheels and positioned himself in second place for the white jersey of best young rider, now on the shoulders of RadioShack’s Bjorn Selander.
“We come third with some riders who aren’t really specialists of the team time trial, so it’s a good result”, said directeur sportif Mario Scirea. “We knew that HTC-Highroad would be above anyone else and RadioShack was stronger than us today, but we are very satisfied.”