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Tirreno-Adriatico TTT creates first time gaps amongst the overall contenders

The Tirreno-Adriatico team time trial gave the first verdict on the chances of the many big-name overall contenders in this year's race.

Tony Martin has gained precious seconds on his rivals thanks to Omega Pharma-Quick Step's victory in the team time trial, while his rivals will start the roads stages across the Apennines with a significant handicap of precious seconds.

Time bonuses of ten, six and four seconds will spice up the racing in the days to come, especially on the mountain finish at Prati di Tivo on stage four and on the steep climb to Chieti on stage five, while the final 9.2km time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto will give the final verdict and decide this year's overall winner.

In a virtual general classification of the overall contenders after the team time trial, the German leads Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) by 16 seconds, with Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) at 20 seconds.

Chris Froome is a little further behind, at 25 seconds, after Team Sky's disappointing ride, while Alberto Contador (Team Saxo-Tinkoff) is 29 seconds down on Martin. Tom Slagter (Blanco Pro Cycling), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) are even further back, at 37, 44 and 57 seconds respectively.

Andy Schleck (Radioshack-Leopard) is also in action at 'La corsa dei due mari' but is not an overall contender this year as he struggles to find his form. Schleck lost contact with his teammates with two kilometres to go in the team time trial, finishing 1:27 down.

2012 winner Nibali counted himself lucky to have avoided a high-speed crash.

"It was a scary moment when the guys crashed. Gruzdev and Agnoli touched wheels. I was just behind them and I was lucky," he explained to Cyclingnews.

"We went well after that and I think we rode well in the wind considering it was our first TTT together. Tirreno has just started. We've lost a few seconds but not that much to make a difference."

Garmin-Sharp struggled to hold their team together at speed and was forced to ease off several times to ensure they finished with five riders.

However Dan Martin is still confident of challenging overall.

"I don’t know what happened. We had some problems on the corners and had to wait a few times," the Irishman said.

"This is the first race of the season for me and I feel good. There's still a lot of racing to do and a lot of climbing too. We'll see what happens."

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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.