Orica-GreenEdge Takes Giro's TTT; Tuft in Maglia Rosa
Orica-GreenEdge has drawn first blood at the Giro d’Italia 2014. The Australian squad stormed over the flat, technical, 21.7-km course in Belfast, Northern Ireland to win Stage 1 in 24:42. Omega Pharma-Quick Step finished second at 0:05, and BMC took third at 0:07. Svein Tuft (Orica-GreenEdge) took the race’s first maglia rosa on his 37th birthday.
Rain was a factor in the race. Colombia was the first team to start, but little was expected of the team and its 26:04 raised no eyebrows. Orica-GreenEdge, however, was the day’s second starter, and its performance could not have been more different from Colombia’s. Many observers expected Orica-GreenEdge to win, and the Aussies did not disappoint. They got into line quickly, stayed that way, and led Colombia by 0:22 at the first checkpoint (7.9 km). The Australian squad never looked back and crossed the finish line with seven riders. The team let Tuft cross the finish line first.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step was one of the few teams that got close to Orica-GreenEdge. The Belgian team rode hard to support Rigoberto Uran, last year’s runner-up. The squad supported him well and sent him to bed as the highest-placed GC contender.
BMC did nearly as well for Cadel Evans, who finished third in 2013. The Swiss squad was only two seconds slower than Omega Pharma-Quick Step and positioned its team captain well. Evans will begin Stage 2 just two seconds behind Uran.
Tinkoff-Saxo Bank has two co-captains, Nicolas Roche and Rafal Majka, and the Danish team looked after them reasonably well. The team finished 0:16 behind BMC and 0:18 behind Omega Pharma-Quick Step. Road captain Michael Rogers said, "We're happy with our performance. Compared to the other GC riders, we made sure that Nico and Majka are now in a great GC position from the start of the race."
Astana rode to support 2011 Giro champion Michele Scarponi. The Kazakh squad lost about half a minute to the first three teams. Its team captain, 2011 Giro champion Michele Scarponi, is 0:33 behind Uran, close enough for now, particularly with a squad that is not especially strong racing against the clock.
Cannondale, which two-time Giro winner Ivan Basso leads, is not a strong time trial squad, and it showed today. The Italian team lost nearly a minute to the leaders, which does not put Basso in a strong position.
Much was expected of Movistar, but weather victimized the Spanish team. Movistar held back on wet corners and lost precious seconds. The team finished eighth at 0:55. It did not suffer a fatal blow, but team captain Nairo Quintana did not plan on being more than three quarters of a minute behind the top GC contenders after just one stage.
The teams with GC aspirations that turned in the worst performances were Katusha and Garmin-Sharp. Weather slowed the Russian squad, which finished 19th at 1:33. According to Katusha directeur sportif Jose Azevedo, “This wasn’t what we expected. We lost a lot of time to Cadel Evans and Rigoberto Uran, “Just one minute before our start time it started to rain. If you look at both Movistar and Lotto-Belisol that started near us, they also didn’t do a good time. I think many teams raced with wet roads but a few raced with the roads completely dry. In the technical parts, this made all the difference.”
Garmin-Sharp’s ride could only be described as team co-captain Ryder Hesjedal described it, “a nightmare.” Midway through the stage, with the team only 0:40 behind Orica-GreenEdge, co-captain Daniel Martin’s rear wheel slid out from under him on a wet manhole cover. Nathan Haas, Koldo Fernandez, and Andre Cardoso went down with him. Martin abandoned with a broken collarbone, and because the team had only four riders in its lead group, it had to wait for Fabian Wegmann, who had been dropped earlier. The American squad finished 22nd and last at 3:26. Hesjedal will be sole captain, but the team’s GC hopes are ruined.
If Garmin-Sharp’s ride was a nightmare, then Orica-GreenEdge’s was a dream come true, both for the squad and for Svein Tuft. The team had targeted this stage in its prerace planning, and it had planned for Tuft to lead the team across. According to directeur sportif Matt White, “A lot of work certainly went into our participation. The selection of the team and the race programs of these riders here – it was all very intentional. We’ve used a core group of guys many times in the team time trial in the past, so it’s about adapting the guys who aren’t as familiar with our regime into the team time trial programme. That all went very smoothly.”
White added, “I didn’t want to say anything about it before the race, but Svein was always our guy. The ethos of this team is you get what you give. Svein has been part of all our great time trial results, and I think it’s only fitting that the guy who’s been the linchpin of so many big moments gets the limelight for at least one day.”
In the overall, Tuft leads teammates Luke Durbridge and Pieter Weening. Stage 2 will be a flat, 218-km ride in and around Belfast. A sprinter should take this stage. Who will it be? Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano)? Elia Viviani (Cannondale)? Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!