Giro d’Italia Rest Day Wrap: Who will be in the pink after the team time trial
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Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Giro d’Italia Rest Day Wrap: Who will be in the pink after the team time trial

by Ben Atkins at 4:19 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia
 
As the race arrives in Italy we look ahead to the overall contenders first big battle

taylor phinneyThe Giro has hit Italian soil after its three-day sabbatical in Denmark, and will re-start on Wednesday with a 33.2km team time trial in Shakespeare’s city of lovers, Verona. For most riders, this will be where the race really starts.

Thankfully, despite the spectacular crashes at the end of both Danish road stages, none of the overall contenders has been affected, and all of them will roll down the ramp in Verona on a more or less even footing. Only the time that they gained on, or lost to, each other in Saturday’s opening 8.7km time trial in Herning.

The most immediate question to be answered is the destination of the maglia rosa after Wednesday’s team time trial; which team will win the stage, and will anybody be able to unseat BMC Racing’s incumbent Taylor Phinney?

Certainly Phinney himself would ordinarily provide much of the red and black team’s horsepower but - after being one of those worst affected by Monday’s big crash - after which the 21-year-old American had to undergo several x-rays to rule out a fractured ankle - his own contribution will likely be a little less than usual.

BMC Racing will, instead, have to rely on the considerable powers of former national time trial champions Marco Pinotti and Thor Hushovd, and former World champion Alessandro Ballan; both for the immediate defence of Phinney’s position, and for Pinotti’s long term ambitions in the race.

At the head of the queue of those waiting to take pink from Phinney is Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas. The Welshman was in the virtual maglia rosa for less than two minutes on Saturday, before Phinney beat his time by nine seconds, and almost took it by default on Monday when it looked as though the American might have to withdraw from the race.

Thomas would have hated to take the jersey in such a fashion - and may well have followed the tradition of refusing to wear it out of respect for a fallen comrade - but would dearly love to take it on the road on Wednesday. The British team has form in the discipline, and took second in a similar distance stage in 2010 - albeit with a very different line up - but, like BMC Racing, it has a crash-damaged rider to nurse around in the form of World champion Mark Cavendish.

It’s possible that, if Sky is going well but Cavendish isn’t, that the team will abandon the World champion - with a rider or two to make sure he makes it inside the time limit - and press on to try to put Thomas in pink.

Garmin-Barracuda is the big favourite for the stage however, and looks set to put Dane Alex Rasmussen in pink two days after the race left his home country. The American team placed five riders in the top ten on Saturday and, while individual strength does not necessarily equal team speed, the Argyle Armada is a specialist in the event, winning the equivalent stage in last year’s Tour de France.

Rasmussen sits 13 seconds behind Phinney, and just four behind Thomas, which could disappear in a flash over 33.2km.

Keen to spoil the party in its first ever Grand Tour will be Orica-GreenEdge. The Aussie team is already declaring its race a success after Matt Goss took victory in Monday’s bunch sprint and, if the strength of its lead out train - which featured the likes of Brett Lancaster, Tomas Vaitkus and Svein Tuft - is anything to go by, it could come close to putting Lancaster back into the maglia rosa that he last wore after winning the 1.1km prologue of the 2005 race.

How could the overall contenders fare?

The story that the individual time trial didn’t tell though, is that, while individual strength does not always equate to team speed, a well drilled team can overcome individual weaknesses.

Liquigas-Cannondale’s best rider on Saturday was Maciej Bodnar in 15th place, some 29 seconds behind Phinney, but the team has a history of success in the team discipline. The green and blue squadra won a similar stage in 2010 with a very similar line up, putting eventual winner Ivan Basso into pole position against his rivals. Vincenzo Nibali, who took pink that day, is missing from the team this time - and it will miss his horsepower - but the team’s collective spirit - which could be seen in the latter kilometres of the first two road stages where it rode near the front to keep Basso out of trouble - could see it somewhere near the top of the stage standings.

Astana and Katusha will both be hoping that they can limit their losses on teams like Liquigas-Cannondale to preserve the chances of Roman Kreuziger and Joaquim Rodríguez respectively. Both teams have mixed histories in the discipline, with some good performances followed by bad ones; Kreuziger and Rodriguez both did well in Saturday’s opener though, and neither will be keen for that to go to waste.

Another historic performer that may not be as strong as usual is RadioShack-Nissan, which lacks many of its big hitters. The nine-man line up is not the sum of the two teams that lost just four (Leopard-Trek) and ten (RadioShack) seconds to Garmin-Cervélo in last year’s Tour de France, and Fränk Schleck - who was only drafted into the squad at the eleventh hour - might see his chances of glory evaporate.

Looking to seriously limit their losses will be the Lampre-ISD team of defending champion Michele Scarponi and Damiano Cunego, the Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela of Jose Rujano, and the Colnago-CSF Inox team of Domenico Pozzovivo. Cunego will be riding on his home roads around Verona, but the Piccolo Principe’s individual weakness against the clock could combine with Scarponi’s, which would leave the blue-fuchsia men will be left with it all to do in their favoured territory of the mountains.

Both men will be looking to specialists like national champion Adriano Malori to compensate and keep them in overall contention.

The poor team time trial of Scarponi’s then Androni Giocattoli team in 2010 effectively cost the Eagle of Filottrano a place on the final podium; the same could happen again this time, to him, as well as Rujano and Pozzovivio if the two climbers' teams lose big time.

The start times of the team time trial are as follows (CET):

15:25 - AG2R La Mondiale
15:28 - Euskaltel-Euskadi
15:31 - Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela
15:34 - Lampre-ISD
15:37 - Lotto-Belisol
15:40 - Colnago-CSF Inox
15:43 - FDJ-BigMat
15:46 - Farnese Vini-Selle Italia
15:49 - Katusha Team
15:52 - Movistar Team
15:55 - Team NetApp
15:58 - Rabobank
16:01 - Team Saxo Bank
16:04 - Liquigas-Cannondale
16:07 - Team Astana
16:10 - Omega Pharma-Quick Step
16:13 - Vacansoleil-DCM
16:16 - Team Sky
16:19 - RadioShack-Nissan
16:22 - Orica-GreenEdge
16:25 - Garmin-Barracuda
16:28 - BMC Racing Team

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