And They’re Off
After all the buildup for the ‘Big Start’ in Ireland, the actual start was finally given and it was Team Colombia who kicked things off in this Team Time Trial of 21.7km. The riders faced a flat and relatively simple ride through Belfast on mostly wide roads but with big crowds on hand, first stage nerves and the possibility of rain this was a stage where you won’t win the Giro but through a silly crash or incident you could easily lose it.
Almost completely flat this was a power rider’s course made for a well disciplined, cohesive team.
The Colombians were never expected to set the world on fire and when the rain started to tumble down halfway through their ride the team started to look more and more scraggly as they started losing men. By the time they got to the finish they were down to the minimum 5 and they recorded a time of 26m05s.
The Favorites Lay Down Their Mark
Orica-GreenEdge were just the second team to start today after the random draws were given out but they were listed by many as favorites with such great TTT riders as Luke Durbridge, Michael Hepburn and birthday boy & TT strong man Svein Tuft in the squad. Out on the course the Aussie team had the advantage of the first half of their race being in dry conditions and the squad looked smooth and well drilled. Despite losing some riders along the way they easily beat the Colombian’s time to record 24m42s with Tuft leading them across the line at a very impressive average of 52.7kph.
Tinkoff-Saxo with the ‘home’ rider Nico Roche were next into the line and despite having lots of men still together their final kilometers were a bit ragged and they came home 23 seconds down. It was early days with just three teams having finished but with the now wet roads and the on and off rain seemingly being more on than off, things were already looking good for the GreenEdge gang taking pink.
Six Down, Sixteen To Go
With the rain now a big factor most teams with GC favorites played it safe rather than risk it all to match GreenEdge’s time – and no one was coming close. Movistar’s GC man Nairo Quintana lost almost a minute as his mates tried hard to set him up with a good time.
After six teams had finished Orica were well clear of the field, Movistar and Tinkoff had put in reasonable times weather permitting but it was Katusha with Joaquim Rodriguez who were the big losers sitting in last spot, 1m33s down on Orica.
1 Orica Greenedge 0:24:42
2 Tinkoff-Saxo 0:25:05
3 Movistar Team 0:25:37
4 FDJ.fr 0:26:00
5 Colombia 0:26:04
6 Katusha 0:26:15
SKY Put In A Storming Ride…
After a very poor start to the race for team SKY where they came through at the intermediate checkpoint already 38s down, the British squad were the only team to make up time on the second half of the circuit to finish just 35s down at the finish. With 14 teams now finished SKY were slotted into third spot with Orica and Tinkoff-Saxo at the top of the leaderboard.
1 Orica Greenedge 0:24:42
2 Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:23
3 Team Sky 0:00:35
4 Cannondale 0:00:53
5 Movistar Team 0:00:55
6 Giant-Shimano 0:00:56
7 Ag2r-La Mondiale 0:00:58
8 Trek Factory Racing 0:01:00
9 Belkin 0:01:01
10 FDJ.fr 0:01:18
11 Lampre-Merida 0:01:20
12 Colombia 0:01:22
13 Katusha 0:01:33
14 Lotto Belisol 0:01:34
There were some big teams out on the road though and still in the race including BMC and Garmin-Sharp with their respective GC favorites Cadel Evans and Dan Martin hoping to put in a good time. With the roads drying out and SKY showing that a strong performance on the back half of the course was possible they were going to give it their all.
Disaster for Garmin-Sharp and the home fans as Ireland’s Dan Martin went crashing down along with 3 of his teammates on a seemingly innocuous straight stretch of road. He hit a steel grid and went down with the others behind in the line left with no possibility but to ride straight over the top and crash down hard at speed. Instantly Dan Martin grabbed at his collarbone and it was obvious that his Giro was over but the Garmin team still had half their team on the ground and the time was still ticking. Eventually the Portugese rider Cardoso and the Australian Nathan Haas got new bikes and were able to continue the time trial but numerous minutes were lost at the crash site.
So the unluckiest man at Liege Bastogne Liege just weeks ago is now the unluckiest man at the Giro as he lay on the side of the road with a suspected broken collarbone and his Giro finished. Not only was Martin’s Giro finished their other outsider for a strong GC ride, former winner Ryder Hesjedal would go on to lose all hopes of a high GC finish also, eventually losing 3m26s on this 21.7km stage.
In stark contrast to Garmin’s fortunes were the efforts of Cadel Evans and his BMC squad who rode superbly in the still damp conditions to fly around the circuit and finish just 7 seconds down on Orica-GreenEdge. Clearly Cadel and his crew are here and meaning business at the Giro and this time gave them a significant margin over other GC favorites like Quintana and Rodriguez.
World Champs Show Their Stripes
The OmegaPharma-Quickstep squad were written off before the stage as having no chance – despite the fact that they are World Champions in the discipline and they came out of the blocks with a point to prove, smoking around the course. With not one member of the Giro squad a member of the World Championship winning team it was easy to write off their chances but they instead rode very strongly, pushing OricaGreenEdge all the way to eventually finish second just 5 seconds down.
Rigoberto Uran is now the best placed GC man in the race with no GC contenders on GreenEdge and is in the perfect position at the start of this race. GreenEdge can handle all the work and media responsibilities needed of the pink jersey while Uran and his OPQS squad can sit back and enjoy their buffer over the other favorites with Nairo Quintana 50 seconds behind Uran and Joaquim Rodriguez 1m28 behind. Uran along with Cadel Evans have started this Giro perfectly wheras Quintana and Rodriquez already have some catching up to do.
There was still one last team to finish, the Yello Fluo team, Neri Sottoli squad but they were never going to challenge Orica so the celebrations could finally start in the Aussie camp. It may be an Australian team but it was a Canadian who led them across the line, Svein Tuft who was celebrating his 37th birthday today and was about to have a celebration that he will never forget with a pink jersey.
“What a crazy way to spend my birthday man”
It’s only going to get crazier tomorrow Svein – you’ll be in pink and leading the Giro d’Italia around Ireland. Keep it tuned to PEZ for lots of pics to come and Gordan’s roadside report from Belfast coming soon.
Stage 1 Results:
1 Orica Greenedge 0:24:42
2 Omega Pharma-QuickStep 0:00:05
3 BMC 0:00:07
4 Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:23
5 Team Sky 0:00:35
6 Astana 0:00:38
7 Cannondale 0:00:53
8 Movistar Team 0:00:55
9 Giant-Shimano 0:00:56
10 Ag2r-La Mondiale 0:00:58
11 Trek Factory Racing 0:01:00
12 Belkin 0:01:01
13 Neri Sottoli
14 Bardiani-CSF 0:01:07
15 Androni Giocattoli 0:01:14
16 FDJ.fr 0:01:18
17 Lampre-Merida 0:01:20
18 Colombia 0:01:22
19 Katusha 0:01:33
20 Lotto Belisol 0:01:34
21 Europcar 0:01:48
22 Garmin-Sharp 0:03:26
GC After Stage 1:
1 Svein Tuft (Can) Orica Greenedge 0:25:42
2 Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica Greenedge
3 Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica Greenedge
4 Cameron Meyer (Aus) Orica Greenedge
5 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge
6 Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Orica Greenedge
7 Pieter Serry (Bel) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:05
8 Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team
9 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team
10 Serge Pauwels (Bel) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team