Giro d’Italia: Liquigas team effort confounds the favourites in stage 4
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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Giro d’Italia: Liquigas team effort confounds the favourites in stage 4

by Ben Atkins at 11:25 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia, Race Reports and Results
Home team rides into pink

Liquigas-Doimo won the stage 4 team time trial between Savigliano and Cuneo, completing the 33km course in 36 minutes 37 seconds. Team Sky finished in second place, 13 seconds slower and HTC-Columbia was third at 21 seconds. With much of the pre-race talk about the powerful time trialling squads like Team Sky and Garmin-Transitions, it was the acid-green team that managed to pull together the best over the gradually rising parcours.

Losing his race lead at the end of Monday’s stage 3 meant that Cadel Evans’ BMC Racing Team was just the fourth team to start. Despite battling crosswinds for much of the way, the World champion managed to guide his team to a respectable looking 37’38’, eclipsing previous leaders Footon-Servetto by 43 seconds. The time was to stand for a long time until 12th team to start, Team Katusha, eclipsed the Swiss team by 54 seconds.

The Russain team was to be at the top of he leader board for less than 5 minutes though as pre-race favourites Sky crossed the line in 36’37” to take the lead. Team Sky hadn’t got off to the best of starts, losing Chris Sutton to a puncture in the very early kilometres; the British team was also in the middle part of the course just as the heavy rain began to fall.  Many other teams had to contend with rain on that section, but it seemed to be falling heavier for the Sky team.

Nevertheless, when Team Sky crossed the finish line 14 seconds faster than Katusha, it looked like they may have done enough to take the stage win.

Garmin-Transitions began the team time trial with the aim of not only winning the stage, but also to put David Millar into the pink jersey. Millar and the team were to dedicate their success to team leader Christian Vande Velde, who crashed out on stage 3, breaking his collarbone. Sadly though the Argyle team missed the American’s power and, despite a strong start, they ended up eighth on the stage.

Despite losing team leader Franco Pellizotti and sprinter Daniele Bennati in the few days before the race, Liquigas-Doimo managed to put together the kind of team effort that won it the opening team time trial of the 2007 race. Crossing the line in the fastest time so far the Italian team shocked Team Sky by pushing the more fancied squad into second.

HTC-Columbia, winner of the equivalent stage last year, came close but could only finish 21 seconds behind Liquigas-Doimo in third place. With Saxo Bank languishing 50 seconds down, it was left to just the stronger-than-expected Astana team of current race leader Alexandre Vinokourov to deny the Italian team.

Astana might have finished better than its eventual fifth, but inside the closing kilometres it had trouble hanging on to the five riders necessary to stop the clock. As the team arrived at the 5km to go banner Slovenian Gorazd Stangelj dropped off the back of the turquoise and yellow train, leaving just five riders. He obviously received a sharp word in his earpiece though, as a superhuman effort on his part saw him rejoin the back of the line.

As the team entered the final kilometre, with maglia rosa Vinokourov applying the pressure for one final surge, Stangelj once again found himself unable to stay with the team. This time though, the Slovenian was the fifth man and so the rest of the team was forced to sit up and wait for him, costing precious seconds and angering Vinokourov. Despite this it was unlikely that the Kazakh would have been able to hold onto his pink jersey; time will tell though if those few seconds will make a difference by the time the race reaches Verona.

With Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas-Doimo just five seconds behind Vinokourov at the start of the day, the race leader’s maglia rosa changed hands for the fourth time in as many stages. The 25-year-old Scicilian leads teammate Ivan Basso by 13 seconds as the race now heads towards the mountains for the first time.

Result stage 4
1. Liquigas-Doimo 36’37”
2. Team Sky @ 13s
3. HTC-Columbia @ 21s
4. Team Katusha @ 27s
5. Team Astana @ 38s
6. Cervélo TestTeam @ 38s
7. OmegaPharma-Lotto @ 46s
8. Garmin-Transitions @ 49s
9. Team Saxo Bank @ 50s
10. Team Milram @ 57s

Standings after stage 4
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
2. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo @ 13s
3. Valerio Agnoli (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo @ 20s
4. André Greipel (Ger) HTC-Columbia @ 26s
5. Matthew Goss (Aus) HTC-Columbia @ 26s


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