Cavendish slips on his first leaders jersey as Columbia wins Giro opener
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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Cavendish slips on his first leaders jersey as Columbia wins Giro opener

by Steve Jones at 12:42 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia, Race Reports and Results

Team Columbia - High Road scorched the roads in the opening stage of the centennial Giro d'Italia in Venice Italy with a time of 21 minutes and 50 seconds, beating their fellow American team Garmin - Slipstream by 6 seconds.  Lance Armstrong's Astana team rounded out the podium in third place 13 seconds back.

With their win today, Team Columbia's sprinter Mark Cavendish will don the coveted Maglia Rosa in stage two, making this the first leaders jersey in a grand tour for the 23-year-old sensation, and the first pink jersey ever for a British rider.

Just two months ago the Columbia rider took his first Classics victory in Milan-Sanremo, the biggest one-day race in Italy.

As far as the general classification is concerned, Columbia doesn't have a proven rider in this year's Giro, but to do what they did today means that the two Michaels, Barry and Rogers, might have the form to finish well.

The biggest disappointment of the day must be for the Garmin - Slipstream team, who on paper should have taken home the Giro's first stage offering. Millar, Wiggins, Vande Velde, Zabriske, all time trial specialists took the start line. But they just didn't have the power to match Columbia squad. This will be a tough pill to swallow as the jabs from Team Columbia's Mark Cavendish in a press conference yesterday will leave the team steaming.

“The Giro lasts 21 days and I think it's disrespectful if your race starts on the first day and ends on the first day. That's what Garmin are fundamentally doing,” said Cavendish.

“We've got a versatile team that can compete for every day and we've got guys who can go for GC. We've got 21 races and the overall, Garmin have got the team time trial and what else?"

Cav's words will likely spur on the said friendly rivalry between the two squads after today's very public beat down.  Whether Garmin's GC man Christian Vande Velde is on form is unknown.

“It would be nice to wear a jersey one day," said Cavendish. "I haven't worn a jersey in a major Tour yet. The pink jersey or the ciclamino (sprint leader) jersey. The maglia rosa is the most important and it's within my capabilities to win that on the first stages, so I'll try for that. If not I'd like the ciclamino jersey.”

Mission one has now been accomplished for team Columbia, and the question that everyone is asking is whether or not Alessandro Petacchi (LPR Brakes), Tyler Farrar (Garmin - Slipstream), or anyone else for that matter, can challenge the young sprinter from the Isle of Man in the field sprints. Perhaps the Columbia/Garmin rivalry will give Farrar and his team an emotional edge.

The general classification is still wide open with former Giro winner Stefano Garzelli losing the most time, 1:21 seconds. Next was another former winner Gilbero Simoni losing 1:06. Both Italians are a long shot for the win, but you can't count out their experience in the race and one of the two will likely come out with a stage win.

Cervélo Test Team lost 49 seconds on the day, but it will take the mountain stages to see if their leader Carlos Sastre has the form to make an appearance on the podium.

Ivan Basso's Liquigas squad put in a decent performance today losing a manageable 40 seconds to Columbia, but only 27 seconds to Astana who will be riding for an on form Leipheimer. The American is a serious contender for the general classification.

Another former winner, Lampre rider Damiano Cunego, came in with his team with a solid performance just two seconds behind Liquigas.

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) is another rider with a big question mark as to his form. The Russian and former Vuelta winner won the Tour of Murcia earlier this year. With the solid performance put in by his team, loosing only 38 seconds to the winner, means he could be a serious factor in the run up for GC.

The most surprising perfomance of the day would have to go to the LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini team of 2007 Giro winner Danilo Di Luca. Fresh off a solid performance at the Giro del Trentio, the Italian's squad looks as it may be strong enough to carry a leader. The interesting part will be to see how much energy they will put towards their big sprinter Alessandro Petacchi. Trying to do both could end up squandering both opportunities.

With their performance today, Astana has given Leipheimer 27 seconds on race favorite Ivan Basso. With his strong and cohesive team coupled with the tactical savvy of manager Johan Bruyneel, it's not a reach to see an American on the top step of the podium for the second time in the history of the race. It's doubtful that Astana's financial concerns over sponsorship will effect the team in a negative way. In fact, it just might play to their advantage giving an already motivated team the extra gear they need.

Tomorrow's 156km stage two will run from Jesolo to Trieste ending with three laps of an 11km circuit. It will likely end in a showdow between Columbia's Mark Cavendish and Garmin's Tyler Farrar, but don't be surprised if LPR Brakes' Alessandro Petacchi manages to add to his Giro stage win tally.

1. Team Columbia - Highroad 21.50 (56.33 km/h)
2. Garmin-Slipstream 0.06
3. Astana 0.13
4. LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini 0.22
5. ISD 0.27
6. Team Katusha 0.35
7. Rabobank 0.38
8. Liquigas 0.40
9. Lampre-NGC 0.42
10. Team Milram 0.49
11. Cervélo Test Team 0.49
12. Barloworld 0.54
13. Team Saxo Bank 0.55
14. Caisse d'Epargne 0.58
15. Bbox Bouygues Telecom 1.01
16. Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni 1.06
17. Quick Step 1.14
18. Xacobeo Galicia 1.19
19. Acqua & Sapone 1.21
20. Silence-Lotto 1.22
21. AG2R La Mondiale 1.35
22. Fuji-Servetto 1.37



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