Live coverage of stage 1 of Tirreno-Adriatico, an 18.5km team time trial from Donoratico to San Vincenzo. Please refresh page to update live report.
Tirreno-Adriatico is, as Dan Martin put it this week, a race with something for everybody - sprinters, climbers, classics men and time triallists alike will all have their opportunities in central Italy this week. Today's opening stage, however, is decidely one for the strongmen. The flat 18.5km team time trial course is similar to the parcours where Orica-GreenEdge and Omega Pharma-QuickStep claimed opening day honours in recent years, and they'll both expect to be in the mix again here.
MTN-Qhubeka are the first team to set out from Donoratico this afternoon. The South African outfit have just rolled down the start ramp on a clear, still and pleasantly warm Tuscan afternoon.
The teams are setting out at three-minute intervals today, with IAM Cycling the next squad to roll down the start ramp.
The full start order for today's stage is as follows:
14:43 IAM Cycling
15:10 Ag2r-La Mondiale
15:19 Trek Factory Racing
15:40 Omega Pharma-QuickStep
Astana are the third team to begin their time trial effort. Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali, of course, is not in their line-up at Tirreno-Adriatico; on the advice of manager Giuseppe Martinelli, Nibali has gone to Paris-Nice this year in order to familiarise himself with French roads ahead of his tilt at the Tour de France this July. Astana remains a strong team in his absence, however, with Tanel Kangert, Janez Brajkovic and 2009 Tirreno-Adriatico winner Michele Scarponi.
Today's course is a relatively uncomplicated one. The road narrows briefly in the third kilometre and there's a short uphill section to Castagneto Carducci, but after the intermediate time check at the 11.3km mark, the roads are flat, straight and wide all the way to the line.
Bardiani-CSF are out on the course, and they almost lose Stefano Pirazzi early on when he over shoots a sharp right hand corner. The Giro d'Italia king of the mountains is quickly back to speed, however, and back in the paceline.
MTN-Qhubeka are through the check point after 11.3km with a brisk time of 13:08. Meanwhile, BMC and Europcar are out on the road, while Lampre-Merida are in the start house.
Lampre's team includes local rider Diego Ulissi, who showed his form by winning in nearby Camaiore last week, Damiano Cunego, who showed signs of life at Strade Bianche, and new arrival Chris Horner.
Astana now have the best time at the intermediate check, their 12:53 is one second quicker than IAM Cycling.
As Peter Sagan's Cannondale team roll out, MTN-Qhubeka reach the finish line with six riders and in a time of 21:31, making for an average speed a little in excess of 51kph.
IAM Cycling are across the line with a time comfortably quicker than MTN-Qhubeka. Their 21:03 (average 52.731kph) puts them in the provisional, although Astana are making their way towards the final kilometre.
Orica-GreenEdge are the next team to start. The Australian squad has a proud record in team time trials, and they settle immediately into an impeccable formation. There are plenty of strong rouleurs in the team today, including Luke Durbridge, Michael Hepburn - so impressive at the Tour of Qatar - Svein Tuft and Cameron Meyer.
Astana cross the line in 21:07, four seconds down on IAM Cycling.
The BMC team of 2011 winner Cadel Evans, meanwhile, have the best time at the 11.3km mark, 3 seconds up on IAM Cycling.
Cadel Evans leads his BMC team into the finishing straight, and they hit the line with the new best time of 21:00, three seconds up on IAM Cycling.
As Europcar cross the line a lacklustre 44 seconds down on BMC, Team Sky set off down the start ramp in determined fashion. Richie Porte, Ian Stannard and Bradley Wiggins all feature in a line-up of strong men for the British squad, whose directeur sportif at Tirreno-Adriatico is one Dario Cioni.
A decent effort from Lampre-Merida, who hit the line in 21:06 for the third best time so far. Filippo Pozzato was the man leading the line in the finishing straight. He'll be looking to hone his form for Milan-San Remo this week.
Orica-GreenEdge and Cannondale have set the quickest times at the 11.3km mark, well clear of BMC. GreenEdge's 12:34 is 4 seconds up on Cannondale and 17 clear of BMC.
Cannondale duly hit the finish line with the new quickest time, all of 21 seconds up on the previous best of BMC. Their time of 20:39 is enough for an average speed in excess of 53kph.
GreenEdge enter the final kilometre, and are in line to run Cannondale very, very close indeed, if not better them.
A very impressive ride from Orica-GreenEdge, who average 54.411kph and clock a new best time of 20:24, 15 seconds clear of Cannondale.
Fabian Cancellara puts in a huge turn on the front for his Trek Factory Racing team, but even with the Swiss rider's form on the rise, they'll have their work cut out to claim the win today.
Alberto Contador and Tinkoff-Saxo are a kilometre into their effort. Contador has a strong team around him here, with Daniele Bennati, Nicolas Roche and Roman Kreuziger all in Italy this week.
Giant-Shimano cross the line with the 7th best time, some 44 seconds behind Orica-GreenEdge.
It's not been a great outing for Sky so far and reports are reaching us that the men in black are 14 seconds down on Orica-GreenEdge at the 11.3km mark.
Belkin are the next team to start, chasing their three-minute men from Katusha.
Dan Martin, Andrew Talansky and Garmin-Shap battled to limit their losses over the course, but they've come home with the 9th best time so far, some 53 seconds down on Orica-GreenEdge.
Sky lost a further two seconds to Orica-GreenEdge over the back end of the course and they reach the finish line in a time of 20:40, third best so far.
Cancellara and Trek Factory have put in a solid ride to take the 4th quickest time to date of 20:49.
The pre-stage favourites Omega Pharma-QuickStep have begun their time trial, the penultimate team to start. Led by world time trial champion Tony Martin, the Belgian squad also includes Rigoerto Uran, the in-form Michal Kwiatkowski and men with a decent team time trialling pedigree in Mark Cavendish, Alessandro Petacchi and Mark Renshaw.
Tinkoff-Saxo, meanwhile, have scorched the 11.3km check point with the second best time to date, just 3 seconds down on GreenEdge. The NetApp-Endura team of Sam Bennett meanwhile, reaches the finish line with the 9th best time thus far.
Andre Greipel's Lotto-Belisol roll down the start ramp, the final team to set out.
A decent day's work for Alberto Contador, who gains three seconds on Richie Porte. His Tinkoff-Saxo team records the second-best time of the afternoon - their 20:37 puts them 13 seconds down on Orica-GreenEdge at the finish, which means they faded slightly over the final seven kilometres or so.
Team Katusha tried to limit their losses, but it's been a disappointing afternoon for Joaquim Rodiguez's men. They reach the finish in 14th place, some 55 seconds down on GreenEdge.
It will be interesting to see how Movistar fare over the closing kilometres. Powered by Alex Dowsett and Adriano Malori, the Spanish squad was only a second down on GreenEdge at the intermediate time check.
The Belkin team of Bauke Mollema and Robert Gesink hit the line with the sixth best time. The Dutchmen will be glad to have limited their losses to Porte and Contador.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep have the best time at the 11.3km mark - their 12:27 is eight seconds quicker than the previous best set by Orica-GreenEdge.
Movistar dropped a little time to GreenEdge over the closing kilometres, but not much - the Spanish squad hit the line with the second best time, 7 seconds down on GreenEdge. Nairo Quintana is set to gain time on almost all of his overall rivals this afternoon.
FDJ.fr cross the line with the 8th best time, 32 seconds down on GreenEdge. There are just two teams still to finish - Omega Pharma-QuickStep and Lotto-Belisol.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep enter the final kilometre, knowing that they must cover it in 1:12 or less to take stage honours and the first blue jersey of Tirreno-Adriatico. Tony Martin leads them into the finishing straight.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep cross the line with a new best time. Their 20:13 is 11 seconds quicker than GreenEdge
Mark Cavendish led Omega Pharma-Quickstep across the finish line, and he is set to become the first overall leader of Tirreno-Adriatico for the second successive year.
Lotto-Belisol conclude the day's action by crossing the line in 20:41, good enough for the day's 7th best time.
1 Omega Pharma-QuickStep 20:13
2 Orica-GreenEdge 20:24
3 Movistar 20:31
4 Tinkoff-Saxo 20:37
5 Cannondale 20:39
6 Sky 20:40
1 Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:20:13
2 Orica Greenedge 0:20:24
3 Movistar 0:20:31
4 Tinkoff-Saxo 0:20:37
5 Cannondale 0:20:39
6 Team Sky 0:20:40
7 Lotto-Belisol 0:20:41
8 Trek Factory Racing 0:20:49
9 Belkin 0:20:50
10 FDJ.fr 0:20:56
11 BMC Racing Team 0:21:00
12 IAM Cycling 0:21:03
13 Lampre-Merida 0:21:06
15 AG2R La Mondiale
16 Astana Pro Team 0:21:07
17 Giant-Shimano 0:21:08
18 Garmin-Sharp 0:21:17
19 Katusha 0:21:19
20 Bardiani-CSF 0:21:30
21 MTN-Qhubeka 0:21:32
22 Team Europcar 0:21:41
Thanks for joining our live coverage of today's opening stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, where Mark Cavendish has taken the overall lead following Omega Pharma-QuickStep's dominant team time trial ride. We'll be back with more from here and from Paris-Nice tomorrow, and in the meantime, a full report, results and pictures will be available here.
General classification after stage 1:
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
2 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
3 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
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