A very technical 17km team time trial on the small island of Ischia. Sometimes this kind of stage can be a test of raw power and aerodynamics but this one is very different, a true test of a team’s ability to hold together.
It’ll be hard for Mark Cavendish (OPQS) to hold onto the jersey. His team are the World Team Time Trial Champions but in name only as not one of the winning squad from Limburg last year rides in the Giro.
Stage 1 Verdict: watching the race was like gazing at Mount Vesuvius across the Bay of Naples, it’s nice to watch but you’re secretly hoping to see things erupt. The stage was dormant for a long time. But remember this is a three week race and the race is in no hurry to reach Brescia. After all it started and finished in the same place.
Cameron Wurf (Cannondale) and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) steamed off the front. Wurf persisted and it wasn’t in vain, he got publicity for the team and also started racking up kilometres for the Giro’s Fuga prize which rewards breakaways whilst Visconti takes the mountains jersey. The eruption came in the end but was as unpredictable as a volcanic event with a crash taking down several sprinters and delaying everyone else. But that’s sprinting, you need to be at the front and Mark Cavendish survived a lead-out mechanical by Geert Steegmans (OPQS) to blast past Matthew Goss (Orica-Greenedge) and Elia Viviani (Cannondale) who collects the best young rider jersey. Perhaps the result was predictable but the method was not.
It’s the perfect result for the race as it tries to reach a global audience as Cavendish is one of the sport’s few stars with a reach and notoriety that extends well beyond cycling. But if that’s certain, mystery remains over how many wins he has had in his pro career. It depends on your sources and which events you count. Some say 103 but others are still waiting to celebrate his 100th win. Either way it’s a lot.
The Route: 17.4km across the island of Ischia. The road twists and turns a lot and has a busy feel, it’s crowded by buildings along the route. Don’t expect wild roads and winds blasting in off the coast. Instead the challenges are man-made with some tight turns and even a tunnel towards the end. It could be harder if the race was taken inland but there’s no point prising apart the overall classification too wide in the first weekend.
The TTT is so short and technical that a few teams may use road bikes. Need to decide tonight, no space on ferry for all trucks/equipment.
— Caley Fretz (@CaleyFretz) May 4, 2013
The Scenario: Last year’s Giro Stage 4 produced a mix of the predictable and the surprise. Garmin won… but Katusha were second. This is instructive because Garmin are known for their attention to detail for this type of event whilst Katusha came with a collection of strong rouleurs.
We’ll get the first round of Team Sky versus Astana, both have strong riders for this event but I’m not sure either will win. You might think Sky are the better team but remember this time last year Astana were well ahead of them. Astana haven’t ridden the course, Nibali told Italian TV he hasn’t visited but is instead relying on team staff to supply information from their visit. According to Velonews several other squads are in the same position, including Sky.
If we widen it beyond these two teams for me Garmin-Sharp and BMC both have a very strong team and are contenders for the win along with Orica-Greenedge and Radioshack-Leopard.
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 2:58:18
2 Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:00:08
3 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ 0:00:12
4 Danilo Hondo (Ger) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:16
5 Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 0:00:18
6 Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:20
7 Matthew Goss (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
8 Francisco Ventoso (Spa) Movistar Team
9 Adam Blythe (GBr) BMC Racing Team
10 Leigh Howard (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
I’m not confident about OPQS’s chances and neither Cannondale nor FDJ are expected to do much either. As a result Radioshack could put Danilo Hondo into the overall lead, a bizarre turn for the second oldest rider in the race whilst Orica-Greenedge have Goss ready whilst BMC’s Blythe could take the lead from his countryman.
Blanco and Katusha should be near the front and the same for Movistar. Watch for accidents, a moment of inattention or a corner taken the wrong way can spell disaster.
Weather: the forecast says overnight rain showers will clear and the roads will dry quickly with a temperature of 26°C and sunny skies. A light breeze of 10-15km/h will swing from the south to the west means which means a mild headwind out on the course for the later starters. Not much but just enough to offer an extra reward to the most cohesive of teams who can form a single aerodynamic unit.
TV: the first team is off at 3.40pm and the last team is expected to arrive at 5.15pm. With luck the producers will be able to show the action up-close but also cut away to reveal the stunning scenery of the bay of Naples.
Local info: Ischia is a big tourist destination, especially for many Germans including Chancellor Angela Merkel. The sea is one attraction but the main draw is the thermal activity from volcanism with hot springs and mud.