From the fans’ point of view a team time trial can be both a good and bad thing for the opening stage of a Grand Tour. While an individual prologue time trial stretches the race over hours and lets you see every rider individually, there is just no denying how great the spectacle of the teams time trial is.
For riders that are used to riding 200km-plus stages end to end for weeks at a time, a 20km loop like today’s means the warm-up needs to be both intense and prolonged to make sure when they roll down the start ramp, the engine is running hot and there’s not a second to be lost.
Cue shots of nine men on the turbos…
Speed was the theme of the day…lots of it.
The crowds around Armstrong and the Astana bus have to be seen to be believed. Half press and half fans, everyone wants their piece of Lance. Even though there was no one there yet, they were still lined up waiting, just in case he poked his head out.
A bit more relaxed across the road, was the Katusha camp. The squad have brought along a massive truck with fold out sides that makes the other team’s busses look like campers. No huge press of fans here. Pippo Pozzato was cool enough to drop down the steps and sign a few autographs and pose for pics with his fans.
Pozzato’s Katusha team finished right up there in 6th on the day, 35sec in arrears.
With the whispers about Astana’s demise getting louder and louder, Johan Bruyneel will be hoping for some strong results in the Giro, to help sweeten the deal for any potential new sponsors. With the strength of his young team, I’m pretty sure that when Bob Stapleton stopped to chat with him, he wasn’t offering to buy “three 35-year-olds for the price of one” if Astana were selling off their riders.
Bruyneel, Jim Ochowicz and Bob Stapelton take some face time before the off.
The other talk of the stage start this morning was the allegation made in the Belgian media about Tom Boonen being found positive (for a second time) for an illegal drug, but not one on the UCI list for out of competition. The Quickstep riders seemed a bit more subdued than normal with the always joking, Kevin Hulsmans just dead-panning it for the cameras. While they have a Giro to worry about now, the squad will also need to think about what they are going to do for the Tour de France. If the allegations are proven to be true, Boonen will be dis-invited to the Tour de France for the second year in a row, which will throw a big spanner in the works at QuickStep.
QuickStep finished 17th.
Team Garmin Slipstream were one of the big favourites for today, based upon both their win last year and the time trialling credentials of the team that they had brought with them to the Giro.
Back in December when we spoke to him at the Giro launch, team director Jonathan Vaughters said that the difficulty of the opening week meant that they would be bringing a handy climber or two as well as the TT boys so that they could claim the pink in Venice and hopefully defend it through the climbs as far as possible.
To keep their body temps down while they warmed up, Team Garmin’s boys wore ice vests on the turbo’s and faced away from the crowds to the girls of the Daily Distractions wouldn’t get their hearts racing too much.
The team’s sports director, Matt White said before the start that there was no additional pressure as the defending champions in ’09.
“It’s the same as last year. We came to do a job last year and it’s the same here today.”
With regard to the wind which had picked up steadily throughout the day, he said: “It’s a little bit blustery but there’s a lot of housing right on the road front so it’s not windy at all.”
As for who might take the pink if Garmin were quickest on the day: “Our first objective is to win. Who crosses the line first after that is not important.”
Second place had to do this year, but they are still within reach of the lead at just 6 seconds back.
One last corner, a quick style check on the TV screen and race for home for Caisse D’Epargne.
Another squad with an exceptional TT pedigree are Team Saxo Bank. As former two time winners of the now defunct ProTour teams time trial in The Netherlands as well as having the current Olympic TT champion Fabian Cancellara in their ranks, this was always going to be a squad to look out for.
Matt Goss was PEZ’d by Ed back in the middle of what was a very solid classics season for the young Aussie. Now, he’s riding his first Grand Tour and gets to find out first-hand what all the fuss is about.
At the end of the day, the SaxoBank boys had to be content with 13th at 55sec.
The German express, Team Milram, hummed along the waterfront to take out 10th place.
As a past champion of the race, Stefano Garzelli knows how important it is to both climb and time trial if you are going to come out on top at the end of the three weeks. The Acqua & Sappone team leader warmed up a treat before the start…
…but it wasn’t nearly enough to put him into pink at the end of the first day.
Garzelli’s squad came in 19th at 1.21
Speaking of former champions, it seems Super Mario’s problems with the tax man have been resolved and he can go back to concentrating on looking like a fashion god, instead of an ex-cyclist.
Fuji-Servetto racing to … last!
After wearing the Maglia Rosa for a week last year, Giovanni Visconti jumped from the big time at QuickStep to Luca Scinto’s new ISD team. Wild cards are their key to getting into the big events like Grand Tours, but with the pedigree of their team leader, they were never in doubt for this race.
ISD – fifth at 27sec
Having seen the craziness surrounding the Astana bus and pack of people that swarm around Armstrong whenever he moves anywhere, Liquigas made a sensible decision to park their bus with all of the others and then not even go there for the whole day. Their team captain Ivan Basso (the man who would surely have been “Most Popular Rider” if not for that damn Texan) created a bit of a stir on the side streets, but it was nothing like the crowds that would have mobbed him if he had lined up with all of the others.
Another former winner opens his Giro account with an 8th place for his squad.
With Cadel Evans absent, Silence-Lotto haven’t brought a team to blow the GC apart at this Giro. Evans’ right hand man for the coming Tour de France is here, however and after his years spent in the service of Di Luca at Liquigas, Wegelius knows a thing or two about racing the Giro.
The boys from Belgium came home in just 20th place.
There’s only one squad left to talk about and that’s the group of boys who rolled down the ramp first at 3.35pm this afternoon. Team Columbia High Road presented both their team and their bike to us on Friday and with Mick Rogers aboard the new beast they were going out to show some other squads a thing or two about racing time trials.
Renshaw and Rogers taking last instructions from Aldag.
A nice jersey to start the day in.
When the time of 21.50 went up on the board, all that was left was for the boys to sit back and wait … and wait … and wait. Funnily enough, having finished the race and warmed down, the anticipation of each new arrival at the finish probably put the heart rates back up to levels approaching where they were before the start.
With Astana as the last team away, by the time they turned into the finishing straight it was game over to take the win off Bob’s Boys and it was time for the celebrations to begin.
Mark Renshaw spoke to us after coming off stage after the presentations: “It’s fantastic, everyone’s ecstatic. All of the work we have done has paid off. Out there it was fast, really fast. I personally felt it was a winning ride, but some of the other boys thought we could have done better, but it’s nothing to stress about.”
This was maybe not the jersey Cavendish had in mind when he signed on for the Giro, I’m betting he’ll happily swap it for his team one when the hills end his GC ambitions and he sets his eyes on wearing another colour, for as long as he stays in the race.
He two Italian designers, who helped put some centenary-worthy flair into the famous pink garment, were on hand to help dress Cavendish for his first podium appearance.
Stefano Gabbana was kind enough to chat with PEZ after the ceremony and talked about what it meant to him to have the opportunity to help re-design such an iconic piece of Italian clothing.
“Ah, it’s like a dream because it’s so old, this game, and we are young, the label is young. To put my name on something so fabulous and iconic it’s, incredible.”
I bet Cavendish thinks it’s incredible too, to have his name associated with such an iconic piece of clothing.
All that was left was for the man of the moment to smile for the cameras…
…and give us all a spray!
A domani!. See you tomorrow. I’m off to wash the ‘champers’ out of my shirt.