The Italian Liquigas team filled the top six places in the overall standings of the Giro d?Italia after winning the 25.6km opening team time trial stage on Saturday.
Liquigas set a time of 33 minutes and 38 seconds for the twisting course held on the connected islands of Caprera and La Maddalena at the northern tip of Sardinia. The Astana team finished second, 13 seconds slower, with CSC third at 30 seconds.
Almost by mistake, Italy?s Enrico Gasparotto was the first Liquigas rider to cross the finish line, and so will wear the race leader?s pink jersey during Sunday?s 205km second stage from Tempio Pausania to Bosa in northern Sardinia.
Team leader Danilo Di Luca shouted angrily at his team mate to slow down before the line but Gasparotto still finished first. Britain’s Charly Wegelius finished sixth in the same time as Gasparotto after struggling slightly at the top of the final climb but remaining in contact with his team-mates.
“I led the team out of the last corner and just kept going.” Gasparotto said. “I tried to slow before the line but nobody came past me.”
Di Luca immediately played down the problem, saying “the important thing was we won. It was a great team performance and we rode well together, it was a hard course, but I’m satisfied with how things turned out.”
The team time trial was relatively short at 25.6km but, because of the twisting, hilly course and the difficult side winds, it opened some important time gaps between the overall favourites. Of the contenders, Paolo Savoldelli (Astana) lost the least time to Di Luca, with Damiano Cunego next best after his Lampre team lost just 42 seconds to Liquigas after a solid team performance.
Discovery Channel?s Yaroslav Popovych crashed near the finish and so lost 49 seconds, while Saunier Duval?s Gilberto Simoni is already 1-25 behind Di Luca after a poor ride by his team.
Alessandro Petacchi (Milram), and indeed most of the sprinters, now has little chance of taking the pink jersey in the next few days with time bonuses after losing more than a minute. The sprinters will be in action at the end of Tomorrows (Sunday, May 13) 205km second stage from Tempio Pausania to Bosa.
Giro d’Italia, Stage one: Caprera – La Maddalena 25.6km (team time trial)
1. Liquigas 33.35
2. Astana 33.51
3. CSC 34.08
4. Lampre-Fondital 34.17
5. Discovery Channel 34.27
6. Acqua & Sapone-Caffè 34.38
7. Tinkoff Credit Systems 34.42
8. Crédit Agricole 34.51
9. Caisse d’Epargne 35.01
10. Quickstep-Innergetic 35.01
11. Saunier Duval-Prodir 35.03
12. Predictor-Lotto 35.06
13. Gerolsteiner 35.10
14. Milram 35.11
15. Cofidis 35.16
16. T-Mobile 35.23
17. Rabobank 35.23
18. Ceramica Panaria-Navigare 35.39
19. Bouygues Telecom 35.45
20. Ag2r Prévoyance 35.55
21. Euskaltel-Euskadi 36.28
22. Française Des Jeux 36.28