Stage 1: Belfast to Belfast, 21.7km team time trial
Orica-GreenEDGE dominated the opening team time trial stage to put birthday boy Svein Tuft into the maglia rosa. But in front of enthusiastic Belfast crowds, who were undeterred by rain which began to fall shortly after the start, Irish star Dan Martin slid out on the wet roads and was forced to abandon with a collarbone injury.
The (bad) luck of the Irish
Garmin-Sharp’s Dan Martin had shown strong form in the Ardennes classics, where he came so close to defending his Liege-Bastogne-Liege title, and had set himself a target of a top-ten finish. However, his Giro came to an end in abrupt and ignominious fashion after just 17 minutes as he lost control of his bike on a wet but straight stretch of road and crashed hard, bringing down three teammates and ending his race on the spot with what appeared to be a broken collarbone.
It was eerily reminiscent of his crash at the final corner in Liege less than two weeks ago as he battled for the win. So much for the so-called ‘luck of the Irish’.
Garmin were forced to complete the closing kilometres with the minimum five men. The crash cost them perhaps two further minutes as they finished 22nd and last, 3:26 down on winners Orica-GreenEDGE. 2012 Giro winner Ryder Hesjedal now assumes leadership of the team, but with a deficit of over three minutes on both Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Cadel Evans (BMC), his chances of a podium finish already appear to be zero.
It wasn’t all bad news for the Irish, though. Tinkoff-Saxo finished fourth, 23 seconds down, to give Nicolas Roche an excellent start. And Philip Deignan, a late replacement for Peter Kennaugh, helped an injury-hit Sky to fifth, an impressive performance in the circumstances.
Has J-Rod already lost his chance at the maglia rosa?
With this opening TTT a modest 21.7km, big time gaps between the top GC contenders weren’t an expected part of the narrative. However, a tricky parcours – highly technical at each end with long, straight sections in the middle – and, crucially, rain exacerbated the differences between the top units and those whose team technique is rather less sharply honed.
The gaps are not insurmountable, but Lampre-Merida’s Przemyslaw Niemiec and Damiano Cunego would have hoped to have contained their losses to perhaps half the 1:15 by which they already trail last year’s runner-up Uran.
Meanwhile world number one and perennial grand tour bridesmaid Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) is languishing a further 13 seconds back. With a long individual time trial to come on stage 12, J-Rod could find himself trailing by four minutes or more before he has a chance to respond on the major climbs which dominate the final week-and-a-half.
Game over? Not quite. But it doesn’t look good for the Spaniard either.
VeloVoices rider of the day
Despite this opening stage being a team discipline, our first rider of the day is an easy choice. It was no accident that the first man across the line for winners Orica-GreenEDGE was Svein Tuft. Today was the Canadian’s 37th birthday, and what better way to celebrate than with podium bubbly and a pristine pink jersey?
Tuft has always possessed a massive engine – he was runner-up in the individual time trial at the 2008 World Championships – but has rarely received the recognition his talent deserves. He can frequently be found pulling the peloton along in the hard kilometres in the middle of stages, and was a key member of the Orica team that won the TTT at last year’s Tour de France. Chapeau.
In truth, though, the sentimentalist in me has to give a second RotD award to a rider who, sadly, wasn’t present today. It was three years ago today that cycling lost Wouter Weylandt in a fatal crash during stage three of the 2011 race. Lampre-Merida’s riders are competing with the numbers 100-107 and 109. Weylandt’s number 108 remains unused in his memory.
Sempre con noi, Wouter. Never forgotten. #WW108
Stage 1 result
1. Orica-GreenEDGE 24:42
2. Omega Pharma-Quick Step +0:05
3. BMC +0:07
4. Tinkoff-Saxo + 0:23
5. Sky +0:35
1. Svein Tuft (Orica-GreenEDGE) 24:42
2. Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEDGE) same time
3. Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEDGE) s/t
4. Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEDGE) s/t
5. Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) s/t
6. Ivan Santamorita (Orica-GreenEDGE) s/t
7. Pieter Serry (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +0:05
8. Gianluca Brambilla (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) s/t
9. Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) s/t
10. Serge Pauwels (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) s/t