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Gasparotto Surprises

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Danilo Di Luca leads

Danilo Di Luca leads (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Enrico Gasparotto (Liquigas)

Enrico Gasparotto (Liquigas) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Francaise des Jeux

Francaise des Jeux (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Team CSC

Team CSC (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Astana rode brilliantly

Astana rode brilliantly (Image credit: Sirotti)
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George Hincapie

George Hincapie (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Gerolsteiner awaits their start, while UCI president Pat McQuaid stands by

Gerolsteiner awaits their start, while UCI president Pat McQuaid stands by (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Acqua & Sapone-Caffe Mokambo got their Giro off to a solid start, finishing sixth, 1'02 behind Liquigas.

Acqua & Sapone-Caffe Mokambo got their Giro off to a solid start, finishing sixth, 1'02 behind Liquigas. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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AG2r Prévoyance climb one of the many hills on today's route.

AG2r Prévoyance climb one of the many hills on today's route. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Team CSC led by US time trial champ David Zabriske.

Team CSC led by US time trial champ David Zabriske. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Gerolsteiner fly across the causeway between the islands of Caprera and La Maddalena.

Gerolsteiner fly across the causeway between the islands of Caprera and La Maddalena. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Team Milram in fine formation passing one of Sardinia's beaches

Team Milram in fine formation passing one of Sardinia's beaches (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Ceramica Panaria-Navigare found the going tough, finishing 18th out of 22 teams.

Ceramica Panaria-Navigare found the going tough, finishing 18th out of 22 teams. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Predictor-Lotto under the watchful eye of the Carabinieri.

Predictor-Lotto under the watchful eye of the Carabinieri. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paolo Savoldelli leads from the front as Astana ride to second place.

Paolo Savoldelli leads from the front as Astana ride to second place. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Danilo Di Luca leads the Liquigas team to the top of a climb with a stunning backdrop

Danilo Di Luca leads the Liquigas team to the top of a climb with a stunning backdrop (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Gasparotto climbs one of the hills on the team time trial course

Gasparotto climbs one of the hills on the team time trial course (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Di Luca shouts at Gasparotto as Liquigas crosses the finish

Di Luca shouts at Gasparotto as Liquigas crosses the finish (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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'Where are you going?' Di Luca asked Gasparotto as Liquigas finished with the fastest time.

'Where are you going?' Di Luca asked Gasparotto as Liquigas finished with the fastest time. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Liquigas took something of a surprise victory in today's TTT.

Liquigas took something of a surprise victory in today's TTT. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Watch from a safe distance - the first of many Champagne bottles is emptied over Giro spectators.

Watch from a safe distance - the first of many Champagne bottles is emptied over Giro spectators. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Enrico Gasparotto receives congratulations from UCI President Pat McQuaid.

Enrico Gasparotto receives congratulations from UCI President Pat McQuaid. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Enrico Gasparotto gets the first pink jersey of the 2007 Giro d'Italia

Enrico Gasparotto gets the first pink jersey of the 2007 Giro d'Italia (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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A happy maglia rosa despite the polemics between himself and Di Luca.

A happy maglia rosa despite the polemics between himself and Di Luca. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Run!!! it's raining champers

Run!!! it's raining champers (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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Gasparotto sprays champagne

Gasparotto sprays champagne (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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Gasparotto in pink

Gasparotto in pink (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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The effort shows on Danilo Di Luca's face

The effort shows on Danilo Di Luca's face (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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Di Luca leads the team to a TTT win

Di Luca leads the team to a TTT win (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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The Liquigas team salutes the crowd

The Liquigas team salutes the crowd (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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Liquigas on the podium for their team time trial win

Liquigas on the podium for their team time trial win (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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Acqua & Sapone rode a very good race to take sixth

Acqua & Sapone rode a very good race to take sixth (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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Ceramica Panaria on standard bikes, took a respectable 18th

Ceramica Panaria on standard bikes, took a respectable 18th (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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Credit Agricole took eight in the TTT

Credit Agricole took eight in the TTT (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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Astana rode brilliantly but just missed the win

Astana rode brilliantly but just missed the win (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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Cofidis sticks together

Cofidis sticks together (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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Caisse d'Epargne loses two as did many teams, on the final climbs.

Caisse d'Epargne loses two as did many teams, on the final climbs. (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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Thomas Voeckler leads Bouygues Telecom

Thomas Voeckler leads Bouygues Telecom (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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Quickstep is led by Paolo Bettini

Quickstep is led by Paolo Bettini (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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George Hincapie leads the Discovery team, who stood to win until Popovych crashed.

George Hincapie leads the Discovery team, who stood to win until Popovych crashed. (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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Francaise des Jeux started the day without Carlos Da Cruz, and are down to eight.

Francaise des Jeux started the day without Carlos Da Cruz, and are down to eight. (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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ProTour leader Davide Rebellin leads the Gerolsteiner team past some boats

ProTour leader Davide Rebellin leads the Gerolsteiner team past some boats (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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One of the many scenic spots on the island of Sardinia

One of the many scenic spots on the island of Sardinia (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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Predictor-Lotto in tight formation at the finish

Predictor-Lotto in tight formation at the finish (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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Euskaltel-Euskadi aren't famous for time trials, and tied for last

Euskaltel-Euskadi aren't famous for time trials, and tied for last (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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Team CSC thought they had the race in the bag, but ended third, 33" back

Team CSC thought they had the race in the bag, but ended third, 33" back (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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Milram put in a good ride but won't be putting Petacchi in pink at 1'36 back

Milram put in a good ride but won't be putting Petacchi in pink at 1'36 back (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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Rabobank rode standard bikes to the same time as T-mobile on their aero machines

Rabobank rode standard bikes to the same time as T-mobile on their aero machines (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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Gilberto Simoni and Saunier Duval had a good showing in the TTT

Gilberto Simoni and Saunier Duval had a good showing in the TTT (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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T-mobile had a respectable ride for a young team

T-mobile had a respectable ride for a young team (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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Lampre had a strong ride thanks to Marzio Bruseghin, the Italian TT champ.

Lampre had a strong ride thanks to Marzio Bruseghin, the Italian TT champ. (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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Tinkoff Credit Systems rode to a solid seventh place

Tinkoff Credit Systems rode to a solid seventh place (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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Liquigas descends one of the twisty roads

Liquigas descends one of the twisty roads (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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AG2r rode standard bikes instead of time trial machines because of the technical, hilly course

AG2r rode standard bikes instead of time trial machines because of the technical, hilly course (Image credit: Carabinieri)
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Astana speeds past the beautiful seaside view

Astana speeds past the beautiful seaside view (Image credit: Carabinieri)

Liquigas takes opening team time trial

Enrico Gasparotto led Liquigas over the line in La Maddalena, ensuring he took the race leader's Maglia Rosa and that his Italian team took the win. The 25 year-old from Friuli-Venezia Giulia rolled in with team leader Danilo Di Luca in a time of 33'35", 16 seconds better than Paolo Savoldelli's Astana team and 33 seconds better than Team CSC.

"It was great for the team. I am in great condition and it [going over the line first] was planned by the team," said Gasparotto after winning the day.

Two-time Giro Champion Savoldelli had looked like the day's winner when he led his Swiss team over the line with a time of 33'51". That time was enough to knock Team CSC, a strong time trial squad, out of the top spot but was not enough to contain the day's eventual winner.

Six teams after Astana crossed before Liquigas came home the day's winner but the finish was slightly confusing. Gasparotto led out of the final right-hander and continued to do so to the line. The blond-haired riders, known as Giallo, took the same time as his companions but was able to gain the overall lead by finishing first. This did not seem to please his team caption.

Di Luca seemed to be shouting 'Dove vai?' ('Where are you going?') to Gasparotto as he kept on the front over the line. After the finish he was questioned.

"I was not upset, it is important that we as a team win," said Di Luca, who wore the Maglia Rosa in 2005. "It was great test for the team. ... I am not upset."

"It's a big satisfaction for me. I'm a foreigner in an Italian team," said Liquigas' Charles Wegelius of the team win. "There are a lot of expectations at the start of the Giro. If I don't perform I feel responsibilities towards my teammates. The course played in my advantage today because there were climbs and corners, which are my strong points. ... As for the man who crossed the line first, it was hard to plan in a downhill with curves. Everybody is happy at the end. Are we going to defend the pink jersey now? I doubt it."

Savoldelli almost controlled the first day. The winner of Tour de Romandie's prologue time trial was briefly in the virtual lead. "We organized ourselves well during the course," he said at the finish. Regarding the near win, he added, "but we are happy because the Giro is long."

World Champion Fabian Cancellara saw that his team held the early lead over the twisty parcours. He crossed the line with David Zabriskie and another three of his teammates for a time of 34'08".

"It was a very difficult course and we will have to see," the Swiss said before Astana or Liquigas finished. "We have a young team and we will seek to defend our lead over the coming days." The lead slipped out of the Danish team's hands.

The surprise of the day went to Damiano Cunego's Lampre-Fondital team. The 2004 Giro winner has been working on his time trial form. He rode amazingly well in last year's Tour de France and solidified this talent over the winter with wind tunnel testing. The Italian team crossed the line 1'42" back on Liquigas.

"It is hard to ride a perfect time trial. There were no tactics but we just went out to do our work," he summarized.

How it unfolded

On a windy, warm and sunny Saturday afternoon on the northern tip of Sardinia, Stage 1 of the Giro d'Italia got underway with a spectacular team time trial of 25.6 kilometres from Caprera to La Maddalena.

Française des Jeux rider Carlos Da Cruz didn't start after he hurt his foot during the team presentation Friday on the aircraft carrier Garibaldi so only 197 riders started the 90th edition of the Giro d'Italia.

The first off at 15:30 on the twisting, complicated course across the rocky, open terrain was the Gerolsteiner team composed of ProTour leader Davide Rebellin and young riders. They set the fastest time of 35'10" until the second squad, Predictor-Lotto powered through the finish line with 35'06".

Euskaltel-Euskadi was on a good ride until a crash on one of the tight turns with 750 metres to go slowed the Basque boys. They ended losing about a minute waiting for their fifth man and finished in next to last place overall.

After setting the fastest intermediate time of 21'53", proudly led by World TT Champ Fabien Cancellara and followed by the stars and stripes of USA TT Champ Dave Zabriskie, CSC blasted across the line in La Maddalena to set the new fast time of 34'08", almost a minute ahead of Predictor-Lotto's 35'06", at the superb average speed of 45 km/h that would eventually bring them third on the day.

Then it was the turn of Team Milram, who was led in by their leader, sprinter Ale-Jet Petacchi with a good time that eventually got them 14th place, just behind Predictor-Lotto, and still over the 35 minute mark. Then the orange crush of Rabobank finished with a decent time for an eventual 17th place.

After a strong ride on the windy climb, Saunier Duval-Prodir powered across the line with led by Riccardo Riccò with a surprisingly fast 35'03", moving it into second overall and eventually 11th place. Out on the course, the word was that Acqua e Sapone was on a good ride as T-Mobile crossed the finish line with a respectable time of 35'23". The soap and water boys of Acqua e Sapone were next across the line in La Maddalena and powered into second place, under the 35 minute mark, with a speedy 34'38". The time was good for an eventual fifth overall.

Riding standard road bikes, French squad Ag2r Prévoyance came across the line with the slowest time so far, while Ceramiche Panaria, also on standard road bikes came in just a few seconds ahead of the French squad. Next, the Lampre-Fondital squad of Damiano Cunego was going all out with good times at the intermediate time checks and great riding by Marzio Bruseghin. The fuchsia and blue team rode home with 34'20", and an eventual fourth overall.

Tinkoff Credit Systems, who also came home under 35 minutes, in 34'42", had an excellent time for a young Russian squad.

Astana's aqua-coloured boys cruised the final curves into La Maddalena with five riders. The Swiss-Kazakh squad was close to CSC as the finish approached. Super descender Paolo Savoldelli took things in hand over the final twisting kilometres and the team surprisingly unseated CSC with the brilliant time of 33'51" to move into the lead of Stage 1.

Next to finish was the Red guard of French squad Cofidis led by Colombian Ivan Parra. It rode through a slow time, with Caisse d'Epargne quickly following. Another French team, Bouygues Telecom, soft pedalled in for a slow finish. It was followed by the Quickstep-Innergetic squad of Paolo Bettini, cruising through the finish line with a decent time of 35'03".

Out on the course, Discovery Channel with Vandborg, Hincapie and Popovych pumping hard were off to a fast start, because starting just behind them were the motivated acid green and blue train of Liquigas, who had the fastest time yet at the first time check. Discovery Channel was still riding fast at the second time check after 16 kilometres, one second ahead of CSC's time and just a few seconds off Astana's pace. But it was the Liquigas boys, still with seven riders who were in charge of the situation. They blasted through the second time check after 16 kilometres with 21'36, seconds faster than Astana and they looked like winners the closer they got to La Maddalena.

Disaster struck Discovery Channel in the final kilometre when team leader Yaroslav Popovych crashed on a tight right-hand bend with 800 metres to go. As the Disco boys had only five riders, they had to wait for 'Popo' and ended up losing perhaps 30". Discovery Channel finished fifth in 34'27" but might have gotten past CSC's 34'08" for third if Popovych had not crashed.

As Discovery Channel had their drama, it was Liquigas that were headed for victory in La Maddalena. Liquigas was led across the finish line in 33'35" by former Italian Champion Enrico Gasparotto, who became the first Maglia Rosa in the 90th Giro d'Italia, while the eight men of Française des Jeux wrapped up the race last with a super-slow, non-competitive time of 36'28".

It was Liquigas first, a surprisingly plucky Astana second and CSC third, with a solid ride for fourth by Cunego's Lampre squad. Stage one's big winner among the contenders at this years Giro must be Liquigas leader Di Luca, who gained 13" on his rival Paolo Savoldelli (Astana), 42" on Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and 52" on Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel), while Saunier Duval's Gilberto Simoni and Riccardo Riccò lost 1'25".

Tomorrow's stage 2, starting in the small northern Sardinian town of Tempio Pausania, heads east along the Gulf of Asinara, then through Sassari, south over the Villanova Monteleone climb and then descends to the finish in Bosa. Milram's Ale-Jet Petacchi will be looking for the sprint win, but he'll have to get past CSC's emerging fast man JJ Haedo and fend off Predictor's Rockin' Robbie McEwen and new Maglia Rosa Gasparotto.

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