Mark Cavendish became the first British rider to pull on the Giro d?Italia?s pink jersey after he led the Columbia-Highroad squad to victory in the team time trial.
Columbia proved a point in emphatic style, beating their American rivals, Garmin-Slipstream, by six seconds.
Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins had traded spiky comments in the run-up to the Giro?s first stage, but it was Columbia who had the final word as they watched all the other 21 teams finish outside their time.
Although Rabobank, ISD and Katusha all did reasonable times, Columbia and Garmin were the only teams to break the 22-minute barrier.
Astana were good enough to finish third, putting their recent money troubles and rumours that this will be their last race before a change of backer and name, behind them. On the line they Astana were just 13 seconds slower than Columbia. Riding his first Giro d?Italia, Lance Armstrong led the team over the line to ensure he?d be the best-placed rider on general classification.
?This is a really amazing victory for us,? Cavendish said.
?This is the centenary edition of the Giro. I won Milan-San Remo in March and now we?ve won this. Pulling on the pink jersey tops it off brilliantly. I?m wearing it, but I?m wearing it on behalf of the team. If we can keep it tomorrow that?d be great as well.”
?Today was a difficult team time trial, but the whole team worked perfectly. I have to thank every single rider in the team. They gave it 100 per cent and it paid off.”
?I hope to keep it for the next couple of days if they finish in bunch sprints. It?d be beautiful to cross the line first in pink. Tomorrow?s [Sunday] stage suits us, so we?ll definitely try.?
COLUMBIA FIRST OFF AND FASTEST
Columbia were the first team to start the 20.5-kilometre test at Lido di Venezia, and they stormed out of the blocks and covered the course in a time of 21 minutes and 50 seconds.
The American squad finished with all nine riders still together, and Cavendish came to the fore in the final straight to cross the line first, meaning he would get the pink jersey if they won the stage.
Garmin-Slipstream were the fourth team to start the stage, but as they entered the final couple of kilometres they were down to the bare minimum of five riders.
Wiggins put in a huge turn to drive the team forward in the last kilometre, but it was not quite enough. As they saw the time on the board above their heads as they crossed the line, their shoulders slumped collectively as they realised there?d be no repeat of last year?s Giro team time trial win.
Garmin had specifically targeted this stage, as well as the team time trial at the Tour de France in July, packing their team with specialists.They were perhaps unwise to express the view that their season started with today?s stage.
Certainly Cavendish was not shy in criticising Garmin. ?We?ve been racing and winning since January and Jonathan Vaughters said their season starts tomorrow,? he said on Friday. ?It?s May. I think their season starts tomorrow and fundamentally their season is going to end tomorrow.?
Wiggins denied Garmin had put all their eggs in one basket, saying they had only three days of specific team time trial training. But the race proved Cavendish right and it meant he pulled on the leader?s jersey in a grand tour for the first time in his career.
It also added to the rivalry between Cavendish and Wiggins. The pair fell out in the aftermath of a disastrous Madison race at the Beijing Olympics last summer, and did not speak to each other for several months. Now back on good terms, their rivalry is friendly but fierce, and both have taken the opportunity to make a few barbed comments in the run-up to the Giro.
Tomorrow (Sunday) Cavendish will wear pink and will fancy his chances of victory in the flat second stage, which is a 156-kilometre run from Jesolo to Trieste.
As for the team time trial rivalry, Garmin-Slipstream will be desperate to gain revenge over Columbia at Montpellier in the Tour de France in July.
Stage one team time trial: Lido di Venezia, 20.5km
1. Columbia-Highroad 21-50
2. Garmin-Slipstream 21-56
3. Astana 22-03
4. LPR Brakes 22-12
5. ISD 22-17
6. Katusha 22-25
7. Rabobank 22-28
8. Liquigas 22-30
9. Lampre 22-32
10. Milram 22-39
11. Cervélo 22-39
12. Barloworld 22-44
13. Saxo Bank 22-45
14. Caisse d?Epargne 22-48
15. BBOX Bouygues Telecom 22-51
16. Diquigiovanni 22-56
17. Quick Step 23-04
18. Xacobeo-Galicia 23-09
19. Acqua & Sapone 23-11
20. Silence-Lotto 23-12
21. AG2R 23-25
22. Fuji-Servetto 23-27
General classification after stage one
1. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia-Highroad in 21-50
2. Marco Pinotti (Ita) Columbia-Highroad
3. Edvald Boassen-Hagen (Nor) Columbia-Highroad
4. Michael Rogers (Aus) Columbia-Highroad
5. Thomas Lovkvist (Swe) Columbia-Highroad
6. Mark Renshaw (Aus) Columbia-Highroad
7. Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Columbia-Highroad
8. Morris Possoni (Ita) Columbia-Highroad
9. Michael Barry (Can) Columbia-Highroad all at same time
10. David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin-Slipstream at 6secs
14. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Garmin-Slipstream at 6secs
15. Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana at 13secs
44. Ian Stannard (GB) ISD at 37secs
55. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas at 40secs
69. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Cervelo at 49secs
132. Daniel Lloyd (GB) Cervelo at 1-18
155. Charly Wegelius (GB) Silence-Lotto at 1-22
159. Ben Swift (GB) Katusha at 1-34
183. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Slipstream at 2-16
Lance Armstrong and the Astana team came in third
The well-drilled Columbia-Highroad team took top honours
David Millar leads the Garmin team home, and their effort secured them second
Race leader Mark Cavendish celebrates Columbia’s win in the team time trial
|Find the pink jersey competition|
Find the jerseys throughout the Giro and you would win a £400 Parker International voucher.
18 pink jerseys will be hidden around the Cycling Weekly and Parker International websites over the course of the three week race – all you have to do is decipher the clues at the end of the stage reports to find them.
Saturday, May 9. Clue number one:
The best place to find every sportive in the UK
|Giro d’Italia 2009 links|
2009 Giro d’Italia guide and features
2008 Giro d’Italia archive