Giro stage 2 preview

Stage 2: Ischia to Forio, 17.4km, team time trial

Anyone who says a team time trial doesn’t matter in the bigger picture of a three-week race is kidding themselves. Last year, when seconds truly did count on the final day, Ryder Hesjedal must have been thankful that Garmin-Sharp had won stage 4’s TTT and taken those five seconds off Joaquim Rodriguez’s Katusha team. This year could hold the same late dramas so the big GC teams will want to do well here. The twisty, undulating parcours on the north side of the tiny volcanic island of Ischia isn’t long so, barring any disastrous team fails, the top teams should be pretty tight in the standings.

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Giro stage 1: Cavendish in the pink

Stage 1: Naples to Naples, 130km

With the first maglia rosa on offer, the flat opening stage was always going to be about the sprinters rather than the breakaway, from which Cannondale’s Cameron Wurf emerged to lead solo for most of the stage. He was swept up with 19km to go, leaving the race gruppo compatto.

At one stage it was left to Sky to set the tempo but once the final 8km circuit started the expected suspects came to the fore: Omega Pharma-Quick Step (for Mark Cavendish), Argos-Shimano (John Degenkolb), Orica-GreenEDGE (Matthew Goss) and Cannondale (Elia Viviani). Inside the final 3km three Cannondale jerseys led a trio of Orica riders and OPQS’ Gert Steegmans and Cavendish, with RadioShack-Leopard in close attendance. Then, as predicted in our stage preview, in the middle of a sequence of three tight right-handers a crash occurred as others strived to improve their position. (As the crash occurred in the final 3km, time differences arising from the resultant split were nullified.)

F*** that!
An over-exuberant Cavendish post-stage, not realising he was on live TV

Degenkolb’s Argonauts were caught on the wrong side of the split, leaving Orica-GreenEDGE to launch the sprint on the long, straight sea-front finish. Cavendish put in a big effort to bridge a gap after Steegmans appeared to suffer a mechanical, then got boxed in by RadioShack’s Giacomo Nizzolo before finally swinging wide and applying the turbos at around 200 metres into the headwind to pass a fading Goss and overhaul Viviani by half a bike length to claim the first maglia rosa. French champion Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) picked up Cav’s slipstream to take third.

I was in the red for most of that. It was really, really hard. I wanted it so bad. My good friend [fashion designer] Paul Smith is here, he did the jersey and I promised him I’d take it.

Cavendish again, after calming down a bit

VeloVoices rider of the day

Wurf enjoyed his day in the sun (Image: Cannondale)

Wurf enjoyed his day in the sun (Image: Cannondale)

An easy one to begin with. Cameron Wurf got himself into the day’s breakaway and then spent much of the stage out on his own after dropping his companions. The 29-year-old only joined Cannondale this season from Pro Continental squad Champion System, having impressed with his second overall at last year’s two-week Tour of Qinghai Lake, the longest race on the Asian calendar.

Wurf’s clearly a talented athlete with a big engine – he represented Australia as a lightweight rower at the 2004 Olympics – and he certainly demonstrated his power here, serving a dual role as the rabbit for the peloton’s greyhounds to pursue, as well as freeing up his Cannondale colleagues from the burden of having to chase as they sought to set up Viviani for the win.

Opinion & analysis

The opening stage panned out well for several teams in terms of fitting their agendas for the opening week. OPQS’ key objective is to help Cavendish win stages, with the added benefit now of the maglia rosa which, given time bonuses, they will have a good chance of defending tomorrow – particularly given that the two teams whose riders finishes second and third (Cannondale and FDJ) are not great exponents of the art of team time-trialing.

Cavendish’s victory also suits the Sky, Astana and Garmin-Sharp teams of Bradley Wiggins, Vincenzo Nibali and Ryder Hesjedal, who may well be quietly hoping that OPQS can finish strongly enough to retain the overall lead and carry the burden of defending the jersey into stage three.

Viviani was visibly disappointed as he crossed the finish line but, with Wurf in the day’s break to relieve the pressure on his team, he can have no complaint about Cannondale’s tactics, which were spot on. Cavendish was simply too fast for him. Even with the benefit of the Manxman’s slipstream, it was noticeable that Nacer Bouhanni was unable to do more than hold his wheel. Cav’s in good form, no question.

Pressure now passes on to the shoulders of Argos-Shimano and John Degenkolb, who was denied the opportunity to take on Cavendish mano a mano after being caught out by the late crash. With late climbs or uphill finishes likely to spoil the sprinters’ party on stages three, four and five, we might have to wait as long as Thursday’s stage six before the next bunch sprint.

Stage 1 result

1. Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) 2:58:38

2. Elia Viviani (Cannondale) same time

3. Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) s/t

4. Giacomo Nizzolo (RadioShack-Leopard) s/t

5. Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) s/t

General classification

1. Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) 2:58:18

2. Elia Viviani (Cannondale) +0:08

3. Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) +0:12

4. Danilo Hondo (RadioShack-Leopard) +0:16

5. Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM) +0:18

6. Giacomo Nizzolo (RadioShack-Leopard) +0:20

7. Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) same time

8. Francisco Ventoso (Movistar) s/t

9. Adam Blythe (BMC) s/t

10. Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEDGE) +0:23

Link: Official website

The Musette: Italian tomato sauce

The Giro kicks off today in the home of pizza: Naples. However, I’m not about to give you a recipe for pizza. In my humble opinion, you need a wood-fired oven to cook the perfect pizza. I would love to have one but my neighbours might not be too keen given I live on the fifth floor of an apartment block surrounded by combustible trees and shrubs and I’ve already had cause to summon the fire brigade! Also, I’m somewhat catholic in my tastes, preferring the humble, but oh so delicious pizza margarita. Continue reading