A duel between American teams HTC-Highroad and Garmin-Cervélo is expected for Saturday's inaugural team time trial at the Giro d'Italia starting from Turin to celebrate the 150 years of the unity of Italy. "This duel is nothing new," HTC-Highroad's directeur sportif Valerio Piva told Cyclingnews in Piedmont.
The 2008 Giro started in Palermo with a team time trial and the win of Slipstream (now renamed Garmin-Cervélo) led on the line by Christian Vande Velde while a year later, stage 1 in Lido di Venezia was dominated by Columbia-Highroad (now known as HTC-Highroad) and Mark Cavendish took the honour of crossing the line first to put on his first leader's jersey at a Grand Tour.
"Two years ago, Cavendish was an up and coming rider and it was a team's decision to promote him," Piva remembered. "Now the situation is different. Should we win the team time trial on Saturday, Mark will have other possibilities to get the pink jersey again, but he's now at a point of his career where it wouldn't change anything if he was the race leader after the team time trial or not."
HTC-Highroad yet has to have a meeting to determine which one of the riders will cross the line first but Piva didn't hide that Italian time trial champion Marco Pinotti will be the one. "In theory, yes, it'll be Pinotti," the DS said. "It was already the decision taken at Tirreno-Adriatico. It would be a homage to his great contribution to the team and to the Giro that honours the tri-colours this year."
HTC-Highroad will have two distinctive jerseys in the race on Saturday with Frantisek Rabon wearing the one of the Czech Republic. But there are more time trial specialists in their ranks with Lars Bak being a former Danish champion and Alex Rasmussen a probable future Danish champion.
"Mark Renshaw and Cavendish have proven in the past that they are the engines of the team for a short team time trial. Patrick Gretsch is a young German talent for time trial. Craig Lewis isn't a specialist but he always contributed greatly in team time trials. Maybe the less adapted to this kind of effort is Kosta Sivtsou but he still does well. On paper, we have a team for winning on Saturday even though we don't have a Cancellara who can make the difference by himself but we have a homogenous group.
"It's a pity that we cannot experiment the course before Saturday morning," Piva continued. "The race used some one-way streets, so it makes it difficult if not impossible to see it. Two years ago some teams did it in the early morning and some incidents occurred. There's no way we'll risk a crash by doing that, so we'll wait for Saturday morning and the course to be closed to traffic. We've studied it on Google Maps but it's a different thing to do it on the bike. Some tactical choices are impossible to be made at the last moment."
It's evident that HTC-Highroad went for technical choices favouring the team time trial and the lead out for Cavendish in the first twelve days of the Giro, rather than having riders to go for GC.
"Being an American team, we also had to put together a competitive line up for the Tour of California," Piva admitted.