Svein Tuft has pulled on the first maglia rosa of the 2014 Giro d’Italia after his Orica-GreenEDGE team continued their phenomenal start to the season by winning in Belfast.
The Canadian led home a full complement of nine riders to claim the Australian team’s 15th victory of the season, a tally that includes a Monument Classic victory for Simon Gerrans at Liege-Bastogne-Liege and a breakthrough triumph for British neo-pro, Adam Yates, at the Tour of Turkey.
Tuft, who began the day by celebrating his 37th birthday, revealed that his team had decided in advance to allow him to cross the line first, placing him in a position to claim the pink jersey of race leader if their time was fastest. It proved to be.
“They gave me the gift,” Tuft said in a post-race interview. “It was a birthday present. The team was really selfless. It’s an amazing day. This is a pretty crazy way to spend your birthday. To finish on that note – what a treat. I can’t thank my team enough for giving me that. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. This is a special day.”
Team Colombia had started ahead of Orica-GreenEDGE, but offered little threat, and the time posted by the Australian team so early in the contest proved to be the one that survived all subsequent assaults. Omega Pharma-Quickstep came closest of any, but their five-second deficit consigned them to second on the podium.
Cadel Evans’ BMC Racing team finished third, seven seconds back, and Tinkoff-Saxo, riding for Nicolas Roche, finished fourth, conceding 23 seconds. The leaders of both teams are likely to be pleased with the outcome.
Katusha and Garmin-Sharp, however, both suffered crushing disappointment, if for vastly different reasons. The Russian outfit was simply not fast enough, and team leader, Joaquim Rodriguez, must already overcome a significant set back to his GC ambitions.
More distressingly, however, Ireland’s Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp) crashed heavily as his bike slipped from under him in a chilling echo of the misfortune that befell him at Liege-Bastogne-Liege, 13 days earlier.
On that occasion, he was unhurt, but after falling today from fourth place in a line of nine riders, he was hit from behind and appeared to suffer a broken collar bone. He remained on the ground for several minutes after the collission, and will not take any further part in the race.
His uncle, Stephen Roche, winner of the race in 1987, Tweeted that he was “absolutely gutted” for his nephew. His commiserations were echoed on the social media platform by his son, Nicolas, who is Martin’s cousin.
Crap for @DanMartin86 !!! Get well cousin.. So sorry about that unlucky strike you have been going through
— Nicholas Roche (@nicholasroche) May 9, 2014
The American team continued with just five riders together, but even this compromise was achieved after a fashion, with the leading trio forced to sit up and wait for the chasing pair. They stopped the clock with a time of 28.08, some 3.28 slower than Orica-GreenEDGE.
Movistar survived a few near misses to cross the line in third place, with a time of 25.37, a creditable 55 seconds behind Orica-GreenEDGE. Given the talents of team leader, Nairo Quintana, and his ability to make up a minor deficit in the mountains, the Spanish squad might have been pleased with their day’s work. Subsequent efforts from rival teams, however, relegated them to eighth.
As Europcar swept through the tight left hand corner leading to Stormont Castle in close formation, back at Titanic Quarter, Team Sky readied themselves for the off. Having faced the loss of early leadership candidate, Richie Porte, and later, Peter Kennaugh, both to illness, the British team had much to prove.
Sky’s progress by the time check at 7.9km was slower than they would have hoped for. Dave Brailsford’s men were the ninth fastest of the 12 teams at that stage, and CJ Sutton had been dropped. A crumb of comfort was on offer in the performance of Cannondale Pro Cycling, who were slower still at the same marker.
Both teams, however, were to stage a significant comeback. Team Sky was fastest over the second half of the course and finished fifth, 35 seconds down on Orica-GreenEDGE, while Cannondale Pro Cycling recovered to finish seventh.
Edvald Boasson Hagen led the Sky train into the final straight, and the vastly improved time suggested the Norwegian had done more than his fair share. For Cannondale, two-time champion and team leader, Ivan Basso, briefly raised his hand from the bars as he crossed the line, perhaps celebrating a satisfactory start to his campaign.
BMC Racing rolled out with a full complement of nine riders – the minimum expectation for most, but a minor miracle for Evans’ team, who had seen Brent Bookwalter crash heavily in the recce ride. The American suffered only minor injuries, according to the team – an analysis substantiated by his appearance on the start ramp.
Despite being reduced to six riders as they crossed the line, the American outfit finished second, and perhaps more importantly for Evans, with a 15-second advantage over potential GC rival, Roche.
The Irishman’s team delivered an impressive performance in his service. As the third team to roll off the start ramp, the opening kilometres of their assault were conducted in relatively dry conditions. Heavy rain ensued mid-ride, however, and their performance to finish fourth is one in which they are likely to find satisfaction.
Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) chatted nonchalantly to a team-mate on the start ramp, suggesting the Colombian was certainly not overawed by the duties of leadership. Forty-year-old sprint legend, Alessandro Petacchi, led the team through the first time check at the top of the hill past Stormont Castle, proving that his talents are not limited to the service of Mark Cavendish. A trademark finish from the Italian saw him lead his team-mates home in second place overall, just five seconds slower than Orica-GreenEDGE.
Astana was the last of the teams to roll out. The squad began as defending champions, although without the presence of last year’s winner, Vincenzo Nibali. The Sicilian’s decision to target the Tour de France meant the number one dossard was bequeathed to team leader, Michele Scarponi, for the second time in his career. Scarponi was handed overall victory in 2011, following the disqualification of Alberto Contador, and rolled out at the 2012 Grande Partenza in Herning, Denmark, as numero uno.
Despite keeping all nine riders together, the Kazakh squad was unable to challenge for the podium, and instead finished sixth. Thirty-eight seconds was the margin that separated them from Orica-GreenEDGE – a not insurmountable advantage for Scarponi when the mountains loom.
Tomorrow’s second stage will take the riders on a demanding and picturesque 219km flat stage that starts and finishes in Belfast and takes in the Northern Irish coastline. To the disappointment of many on the island of Ireland, Martin will not be among the riders.
Giro d’Italia 2014: stage one – result
1) Orica-GreenEDGE – 24.42
2) Omega Pharma-Quickstep +5”
3) BMC Racing +7”
4) Tinkoff-Saxo +23”
5) Team Sky +35”
6) Astana +38”
7) Cannondale +53”
8) Movistar +55”
9) Giant-Shimano +56”
10) Ag2r-La Mondiale +58”
1) Svein Tuft (CAN) – Orica-GreenEDGE – 24.42
2) Luke Durbridge (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE – ST
3) Pieter Weening (NED) – Orica-GreenEDGE
4) Cameron Meyer (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE
5) Michael Matthews (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE
6) Ivan Santaromita (ITA) – Orica-GreenEDGE
7) Pieter Serry (BEL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +5″
8) Gianluca Brambilla (ITA) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep – ST
9) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep
10) Serge Pauwels (BEL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep