HTC-Highroad won the kickoff to the 2011 Giro d’Italia, putting Marco Pinotti into the first maglia rosa.
HTC had been fastest at the midcourse checkpoint of the 19.3km team time trial from Venaria Reale to Torino, crossing in 9:48. The team’s frenetic pace began shedding riders, and they hit the line with the bare minimum of five to bump early leader Omega Pharma-Lotto off the top step of the podium.
“It’s a huge honor to be wearing the pink jersey,” said Pinotti, who finished ninth last year.
“But this is a victory that belongs to the whole team. I can’t thank them enough. We made a very strong start, and the best riders took the longest turns on the front. We made sure we kept a steady pace throughout and that’s always important.
“It was flat all the way but it wasn’t an easy course. You had to be careful with the tram lines and on the corners; some of them were very difficult.”
Team RadioShack also shed riders en route to Torino, hitting the line with only seven men. But the effort put them into second on the day, 10 seconds slower than HTC. Liquigas-Cannondale closed out the podium at 22 seconds down.
The 23 teams left at four-minute intervals. Finishing times were calculated based on the time of the fifth rider to cross the line, while team members finishing behind that fifth rider had their actual finishing times applied to stage and overall standings.
With last year’s winner, Ivan Basso, skipping a Giro defense to focus on the Tour de France, former winner Stefano Garzelli wore the Giro’s honorary No. 1 bib. But it would not be an auspicious outing for the Acqua e Sapone captain — his team would finish next to last in 22nd place at 1:07. Another former champion, Denis Menchov, conceded 53 seconds to the other 2011 contenders as his Geox-TMC squad finished 17th on the day.
Omega Pharma was first out of the start house, and the squad’s time of 21 minutes and 22 seconds held up for quite a while. Rabobank and Saxo Bank-Sungard came close to toppling them — crossing four and eight seconds slower, respectively — but Omega Pharma held the hot seat until HTC-Highroad evicted them with a time of 20:59.
Garmin-Cervélo, in turn, bumped Rabobank off the podium altogether, crossing 24 seconds down to take third for the moment — until Liquigas-Cannondale repaid the favor, finishing two seconds quicker and commandeering third.
RadioShack had a strong start, hitting the checkpoint two seconds slower than HTC despite Ivan Rovny getting into trouble early on, skidding into the barriers and requiring a push to get rolling again.
The squad was down to seven riders going into the final kilometer, and as they drove toward the line it was clear that they would not depose HTC. But RadioShack did slot into second at 10 seconds back — finally pushing the early leader Omega Pharma off the podium altogether.
Alberto Contador’s Saxo Bank-Sungard team finished eighth, 30 seconds off the pace.
“It’s a very good result,” said Contador. “I’m very happy with the team’s work. There are already some gaps, but regarding our main rivals — Liquigas, Lampre and Geox —the differences are insignificant.”
Sunday’s stage two will be a 244km leg from Alba to Parma. It’s a mostly flat stage that could give another HTC rider — speedster Mark Cavendish — a chance to shine.
Agence France Presse contributed to this report. Stay tuned for more news and photos from Torino.
- 1. HTC-Highroad, 20:59
- 2. RadioShack, at 0:10
- 3. Liquigas-Cannondale, at 0:22
- 4. Omega Pharma-Lotto, at 0:22
- 5. Garmin-Cervélo, at 0:24
- 1. Marco Pinotti (ITA), HTC-Highroad , 20:59
- 2. Ytting Bak Lars (DEN), HTC-Highroad, same time
- 3. Kanstantsin Sivtsov (BLR), HTC-Highroad, s.t.
- 4. Mark Cavendish (GBR), HTC-Highroad, s.t.
- 5. Craig Lewis (USA), HTC-Highroad, s.t.