The HTC-Highroad riders proved yet again that they are the fastest and most disciplined team time trial squad in the peloton by dominating the Giro d'Italia's opening 19.3km time trial around Turin.
Italian national time trial champion Marco Pinotti crossed the line first for HTC-Highroad and so pulled on the first maglia rosa of the Giro d'Italia and enjoyed the best moment of his career so far.
With thousands of Italian Alpini military veterans in Turin for their annual get together, and with Pinotti the current Italian national time trial champion, the first stage of the Giro was a very Italian celebration of the 150th anniversary of the unification of the country. Pinotti is also one of the most admired riders in the sport and also so gave Italian cycling something celebrate after weeks of doping scandals and investigations.
HTC-Highroad set the fastest intermediate time of 9:48 at the mid-point of the 19.3km urban course and then kept their speed high, recording a final time of 20:59. They finished with just five riders, but with the time taken on the fifth rider to cross the line, it meant they had got their race strategy exactly right.
RadioShack was also well-drilled and snatched second place with a time of 21: 09. Liquigas-Cannondale was third with a time of 21:21 and Omega Pharma-Lotto fourth, also in 21:21. Garmin-Cervelo finished fifth in 21:23, with Lampre-ISD taking sixth in the same time. Alberto Contador’s Saxo Bank-SunGard team set a time of 21:29 for eighth place.
Pinotti wore the pink jersey for four days during the 2007 Giro d’Italia but was far emotional this time. Modest as ever, he wanted to share the success with his HTC-Highroad teammates and said he would be happy for Mark Cavendish or another rider to pull on the pink jersey after Sunday’s first road race stage to Parma.
“It’s amazing feeling to be in pink. I’m very proud,” he said with a broad smile filling his lean face.
“I have to say thanks to the team (for the pink jersey) because this belongs to the whole team. I didn’t feel under pressure because we’re used of riding team time trials but then when I was told I’d be leading the team home, I started to get nervous. However we knew what we had to do and did it right, with the changes in the right place and with the best riders taking the longest turns on the front. We made sure we kept a steady pace throughout and that's always important."
Pinotti gained a handful of seconds on all the main Giro contenders and joked that all he had to do was stay with them in the mountains and then win the final time trial to Milan. However he knows that he will be fighting for a top ten place overall and said he would be happy for a teammate to take the jersey in the next few days.
“I’m just happy we’ve won the team time trial and to have the pink jersey for a day. Winning the stage was the goal for today. It’ll be difficult to keep it in the sprints but we’ll try and set up Mark (Cavendish) for the sprint and see what happens.”
Precious overall seconds
As HTC-Highroad celebrated on the podium, all the other teams headed back to their hotels to lick their wounds and calculate how much time they had gained or lost on their key overall rivals.
The intense effort over the 19.3km has created some small but still significant time gaps.
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) gained eight seconds on Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard), with Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) also gaining six seconds despite SaxoBank-SunGard riding strongly. Those time gaps are likely to mean little in Milan in three weeks time but the pressure on Contador and Saxo Bank-SunGard is intensifying, with nobody in Italy seemingly wanting him to win for a multitude of reasons.
The time other overall contenders lost was more significant and could prove to be precious in the final overall standings.
No team made a real mess of the team time trial but Denis Menchov and Carlos Sastre (Geox-TMC) lost 31 seconds to Nibali as they set a time of 21:52. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha – 22:03) lost 42 seconds and Igor Anton (Euskatel-Euskadi – 22:12) lost 51 seconds. Roman Kreuziger’s Giro d’Italia also started with a slight handicap after his Astana team finished seventeenth of the 23 teams, losing 28 seconds to Nibali.
“We knew that on such a short and fast course there wouldn’t be a huge difference but we took care when we were crossing over the tram lines and taking the corners and so we’re happy with out ride,” Nibali said.
Lampre had travelled to Turin a day early to work on their time trialing and it paid off. Scarponi was pleased to have gained time in the TTT, instead of losing as had happened in previous editions of the Giro.
“I don’t know our position, but we went as well as we could have done,” Scarponi said immediately after his ride. “It was a great route, and my teammates were very strong, so we’re pleased with that.”
Now the Giro heads east with the longest stage of the race from Alba to Parma on Sunday. After the fight for the first maglia rosa, it is time for the first sprint.
|4||Omega Pharma-Lotto||Row 3 - Cell 2|
|6||Lampre-ISD||Row 5 - Cell 2|
|7||Rabobank Cycling Team||0:00:26|
|8||Saxo Bank Sungard||0:00:30|
|10||Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||Row 9 - Cell 2|
|13||BMC Racing Team||0:00:41|
|15||Quickstep Cycling Team||Row 14 - Cell 2|
|16||AG2R La Mondiale||0:00:49|
|17||Pro Team Astana||0:00:50|
|21||Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli||0:01:07|
|22||Acqua & Sapone||Row 21 - Cell 2|
|1||Jussi Veikkanen (Fin) Omega Pharma-Lotto||4||pts|
|2||Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto||2||Row 1 - Cell 3|
|3||Sebastian Lang (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto||1||Row 2 - Cell 3|
|2||Team RadioShack||84||Row 1 - Cell 3|
|3||Liquigas-Cannondale||35||Row 2 - Cell 3|
|4||Omega Pharma-Lotto||1||Row 3 - Cell 3|
|5||Team Garmin-Cervelo||Row 4 - Cell 2||Row 4 - Cell 3|
|6||Lampre-ISD||Row 5 - Cell 2||Row 5 - Cell 3|
|7||Rabobank Cycling Team||Row 6 - Cell 2||Row 6 - Cell 3|
|8||Saxo Bank Sungard||Row 7 - Cell 2||Row 7 - Cell 3|
|9||Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||Row 8 - Cell 2||Row 8 - Cell 3|
|10||Sky Procycling||Row 9 - Cell 2||Row 9 - Cell 3|
|11||Movistar Team||Row 10 - Cell 2||Row 10 - Cell 3|
|12||Androni Giocattoli||Row 11 - Cell 2||Row 11 - Cell 3|
|13||BMC Racing Team||Row 12 - Cell 2||Row 12 - Cell 3|
|14||Leopard Trek||Row 13 - Cell 2||Row 13 - Cell 3|
|15||Quickstep Cycling Team||Row 14 - Cell 2||Row 14 - Cell 3|
|16||AG2R La Mondiale||Row 15 - Cell 2||Row 15 - Cell 3|
|17||Pro Team Astana||Row 16 - Cell 2||Row 16 - Cell 3|
|18||Geox-TMC||Row 17 - Cell 2||Row 17 - Cell 3|
|19||Colnago-CSF Inox||Row 18 - Cell 2||Row 18 - Cell 3|
|20||Katusha Team||Row 19 - Cell 2||Row 19 - Cell 3|
|21||Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli||Row 20 - Cell 2||Row 20 - Cell 3|
|22||Acqua & Sapone||Row 21 - Cell 2||Row 21 - Cell 3|
|23||Euskaltel-Euskadi||Row 22 - Cell 2||Row 22 - Cell 3|
|1||Marco Pinotti (Ita) HTC-Highroad||0:20:59|
|2||Lars Ytting Bak (Den) HTC-Highroad||Row 1 - Cell 2|
|3||Kanstantsin Sivtsov (Blr) HTC-Highroad||Row 2 - Cell 2|
|4||Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Highroad||Row 3 - Cell 2|
|5||Craig Lewis (USA) HTC-Highroad||Row 4 - Cell 2|
|6||Robbie McEwen (Aus) Team RadioShack||0:00:10|