Team Sky fell just shy of taking its first Grand Tour team time trial on stage four of the Giro d'Italia today, with wet weather on the 33km route from Savigliano to Cuneo contributing to their loss to the Liquigas-Doimo team.
The squad was eager to repeat their winning performance from the Tour of Qatar in February, one of its first victories as a professional road team. Yet they were missing 13 seconds because of the weather and a flat tyre under Chris Sutton that left the team with eight riders early on the stage.
The Sky train was only at the exit of the starting town of Savigliano when the Sydneysider punctured going over the railways. There was some hesitation as to whether they should wait for him or continue with eight riders. "When CJ punctured we faffed around for a few seconds before we decided we either had to go for the stage or not. So we had had to leave him," team captain Bradley Wiggins said.
"We couldn't have gone any faster. We rode as best we could as a unit. Everybody emptied the tanks but it's always disappointing when you lose a race like that."
It's difficult to say how much the change in weather conditions may have modified the final result between Liquigas and Sky. "Apart from the rain we couldnt have gone any faster anywhere on the course," Wiggins said. At least we were lucky at the end and we didn't have any rain at the finish."
Wiggins, the winner of the prologue of this Giro d'Italia had mixed feelings about the fortunes the team has had so far. They might have lost the race because of the rain but it could have been worse. "Actually I've been lucky. I've had three crashes in two days and didn't get injured.
"On the track you get such a long time after an event to enjoy a win. In road racing it can all be different 24 hours later. You just have to remember the good times. We are not under pressure now, we can just enjoy the race and hopefully we will get some luck and things will come good for us."
Wiggins responded to some criticisms about him being at the Giro without being focused on the whole three weeks. "I would never disrespect a great race like the Giro by saying I wasn't here to win, but really I was never going to be here for the GC although we were always going to ride hard at the start and see how it developed," he said. "Events have taken the GC away from the equation now and really it's a blessing in disguise. It takes the pressure off.
"I always enjoy this race and racing in Italy for three weeks you are always going to get plenty out of it. The first phase is out of the way. Now I am looking for trying for stage wins, some good days in the mountains and helping in the sprints. Greg Henderson is flying and we haven't really been able to give him a sling shot at the finish yet."