Canadian Svein Tuft earned a pink birthday present Friday when he pulled on the Giro d’Italia’s leader’s jersey in Belfast, Northern Ireland, after his Orica-GreenEdge team set the day’s fastest time in the stage 1 team time trial.
Orica started second and rode to a mark of 24:42, which stood up to the challenges of the 20 ensuing teams to roll off the ramp for the season’s first grand tour.
Despite missing its world time trial champion Tony Martin, Omega Pharma-Quick Step landed a heavy blow on the general classification for last year’s runner-up, Rigoberto Urán, finishing second, five seconds adrift of Orica.
“I’m very happy about the start of this Giro,” said Urán. “Even if we weren’t the favorites, we came here to try to win this team time trial. Despite not having guys like Tony Martin, with the big engines for a time trial, we wanted to show our attitude toward the Giro d’Italia as a team. We prepared very well for the race and I think our effort paid off. We didn’t win, but we took a few seconds on a few of the GC contenders. It’s only the first say of the race, but I’m satisfied with what we did today.”
Former Tour de France champion Cadel Evans rode to third on the 21.7-kilometer stage, at seven seconds, with BMC Racing.
“We’ve started in a good way,” said Evans. “I think we had the legs to do more. But in these conditions, we were a little bit unlucky with Brent Bookwalter’s crash (during pre-ride) and Ben Hermans’s puncture. It took a little bit of power away from us. But I think we rode well to get the results that we got. Compliments to the guys for that.”
Tuft led the Australian Orica team across the line to pull on his first grand tour leader’s jersey.
“To finish on that note, what a treat. I can’t thank my team enough for that opportunity. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance for a guy like me,” said Tuft. “This team is really selfless that way and I feel really fortunate to be given that gift this way.”
Reigning Tour de France best young rider Nairo Quintana (Movistar) dug a 55-second hole in his bid for pink, but his fortunes were not the worst of the pre-race favorites.
Former Giro runner-up Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) lost 1:33 and former Liège–Bastogne–Liège winner Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp) crashed out of the race with a suspected shoulder injury.
Disaster struck the Garmin squad midway through the stage when Martin, crashed with three teammates. It appeared Martin clipped wheels with another rider, sending the Irishman sprawling to the ground at full speed. Three riders were unable to avoid him, and also fell. Martin, who also crashed in the final corner at Liège, landed heavily on his shoulder, and it appeared he might have injured a collarbone.
Martin abandoned the race, leaving in an ambulance, and the team went on to stop the clock more than three minutes down on Orica.
So sad. Nothing to be done. Professional bike racing is cruel.
— Jonathan Vaughters (@Vaughters) May 9, 2014
Nicolas Roche and Tinkoff-Saxo finished fourth, at 23 seconds.
The 97th Giro d’Italia continues Saturday with the 218km second stage, which starts and finishes in Belfast.
Andrew Hood in Belfast contributed reporting.