Mark Cavendish and his Omega Pharma-QuickStep teammates watched the BMC Racing team fail to beat their time on stage one of Tirreno-Adriatico and then celebrated with lots of high-fives, hugs and big smiles. On the podium the riders shared the glory and showered each other with prosecco.
The Belgian team for Tirreno-Adriatico includes some powerful riders but it was their nerve in the rain and wind, their strength, excellent technique and their team spirit that made the difference. Omega Pharma-QuickStep set a time of 19:24 for the 16.9km course, beating Movistar by 11 seconds and BMC Racing Team by 16 seconds. Cavendish brought the team home and so pulled on the race leader's blue jersey.
"It was planned I'd cross the line first but in hindsight it would have been better to let Tony cross the line first because he did about half of it on his own. "I hope he gets the jersey later this week," Cavendish revealed in the post-race press conference.
"The nice thing about the team time trial is that the whole team gets to stand on the podium. In a sprint the team works just the same as today but only one guy stands on the podium. Here we all get to celebrate. Tomorrow I'll wear the jersey on behalf of all the eight guys at Omega Pharma-Quick Step."
Having fun again
Cavendish's words were mixed with plenty of smiles and he conceded that he is enjoying his racing much more this year after moving from Team Sky.
"I don’t know if it's things from the past or if because this team is so nice but I've found a new motivation again," he said.
"I don't know if was the pressures of the world champion's jersey, or the pressure of Team Sky or pressure of all my years as a professional. Whatever happened, I've found a new love again and it's refreshing. It's great to be part of a team where there are friends who I grew up with in the past.
"I'm having so much fun. This is the most I've raced at this time of year. I've got a daughter and a fiancé at home but I'm enjoying being away. It's difficult but when you're with a group of people like this, I couldn't ask for more."
Cavendish has been part of several successful team time trial squads and knows the secret of success.
"It's a bit of a misconception that the five who cross the line first are the strongest. It doesn’t work like that. Maybe I was just one of the laziest guys," he explained.
"For instance at the top of the climb (after 11.8km), it was difficult. Tony (Martin) went away and it could have been easy for Gert Steegmans to go with him. Instead he took the rest of the team back up to Tony and that was Gert finished. That was one of the best rides today but he wasn't in the first five. It's not about the five that finished. It depends on where you are and the circumstances of the race."
"Technically it's about the corners. Apart from that it's about trusting each other, knowing the lines on corners, especially at the beginning of the time trial, it can cost you so much energy if you don't do right. The most technical part of this time trial is right at the beginning, the first two kilometres. It's important to save energy and get it right."
A sprint finish on stage two
Cavendish will wear the race leader's blue jersey during stage two from San Vincenzo to Indicatore, near Arezzo. The stage is 232km long and includes some early climbs but he is hoping for a sprint finish.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep will have the responsibility of controlling the race early. Cavendish hopes other teams will help to ensure the day ends in a sprint.
"I expect pretty straight forward sprint tomorrow. I hope with Greipel and the others here, it's not going to be left to us to ride all day," he said.
"I can't imagine so. We'll be riding to keep the jersey. It's about our respect and responsibility to ride for it. The usually suspects will sit back and wait to come up at the end, that's what happens these days. But I hope there will be at least a couple of teams who want to sprint."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.