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A look at the school, the races and the future of this unique 'sport'
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Bradley Wiggins leads the Sky train
Team Sky in charge after the team time trial
The bigger picture of this Giro d’Italia, the final time gaps and the overall classification, are a long way from completion but Bradley Wiggins will have been pleased with the preliminary sketches that emerged from Sunday’s stage two team time trial in the scenic surrounds of Ischia, the striking volcanic island perched in the Gulf of Naples.
Wiggins and his teammates powered to victory on the 17.4km course, putting 14 seconds into chief rival Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), 25 into defending champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) and 37 into the BMC team of Cadel Evans.
In the grand scheme of things, the time won and lost in Ischia ought to count for little come the high mountains of the third week but the very early brushstrokes of this Giro d'Italia are roughly in keeping with a pre-race form guide that pitted Wiggins directly against Nibali, and Team Sky against Astana.
Little wonder then, that Wiggins was happy to stand back and enjoy the scene from the side of the podium area as he watched his young teammate Salvatore Puccio pull on the pink jersey. Wiggins, who lies in second place overall, was able to avoid the bulk of the post-race formalities, including the post-stage press conference and quietly caught the ferry back to the mainland like everyone else.
“I’m so happy for him. He’s a really nice guy and a big talent,” Wiggins said while Puccio pulled on the maglia rosa to the strains of Prince’s “1999.”
Much had been made of Team Sky’s pre-team time trial planning, which included sending an advance party to Ischia to film the course; the innovativeness of Team Sky’s approach is sometimes over-stated. All of the serious contenders had compiled video footage of the Ischia course beforehand, and Wiggins was of the view that his team had come into the test with a similar level of preparation to everyone else.
“It was very good to follow on from Trentino [where Team Sky also won the team time trial] and do a very good performance like that on a different sort of course without seeing the course very much, the same as everyone else,” Wiggins said. “It wasn’t an easy day. It’s a great start.”
The pitfalls ahead
Whether Team Sky try to defend Puccio’s lead in the coming days or look to surrender the jersey at the earliest opportunity remains to be seen, but Wiggins did not feel that holding the maglia rosa at this point was necessarily a drain on his team’s resources. “Maybe that’s a good thing because we can race on the front tomorrow [Monday],” he said.
The next two days bring the Giro deep into the south of Italy, over rolling country roads and the stage profiles are dotted with potential pitfalls. Stage three to Marina di Ascea includes the third category climb of Sella di Catona shortly before the tricky descent to the finish, while the finale of stage four at Serra San Bruno features the second category Croce Ferrata.
“Compared to what is to come [in the high mountains], they’re not hard stages but like every stage of the Giro, there could be a puncture or a crash or a small split in the bunch, so you have to be very careful on those stages,” Wiggins said. “It’s not necessarily the climbs on the next few days that are going to be the problem.”