Orica-GreenEdge wins Giro stage 1 TTT, Gerrans takes maglia rosa

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Orica-GreenEdge has won the stage 1 team time trial at the 2015 Giro d’Italia, successfully defending its victory in the corresponding stage of last year’s race.

The Australian-registered team covered the 17.6km course in 19 minutes and 26 seconds (54.3km/h average), seven seconds ahead of Tinkoff-Saxo and another six seconds faster than Astana.

Simon Gerrans led Orica-GreenEdge across the finish line in San Remo and will wear the pink leader’s jersey into the Giro’s second stage tomorrow.

“I think technically we can be very happy. We set a really fast time, and left it all out there,” Gerrans said after the stage. “It was planned that I would be the first over the line. It’s an enormous honour to wear the maglia rosa.

“This team has built a reputation for team time trials and we have some real specialists here, so this result is a credit to them.”

Giro d'Italia 2015 stage - 1- TTT

How it unfolded

The 2015 Giro d’Italia began in the town of San Lorenzo al Mare on the Mediterranean coast with the riders facing an almost entirely flat time trial course. Almost all of the stage was raced on a bike track, built on land previously occupied by a local railway. Apart from a handful of tight corners in the second half of the course, the route was largely straight, forward setting the stage for some fast times.

Lampre-Merida got proceedings underway with a time of 20:25 but was soon eclipsed by Ag2r-La Mondiale, the French squad covering the course 11 seconds quicker than Lampre-Merida. When Astana crossed the finish line a short time later — lead by general classification hopeful Fabio Aru — their time would be enough to hold the lead for roughly the next hour.

Despite being without multiple-time Canadian time trial champion and last year’s first wearer of the maglia rosa, Svein Tuft, the Orica-GreenEdge riders quickly put time into their rivals.

At the intermediate time check, 9.9km into the stage, the Australian squad lead Astana by eight seconds. Much of the damage had been done by three of the team’s time trial specialists Luke Durbridge, Brett Lancaster and Michael Hepburn.

Orica-GreenEdge would extend its lead through the second half of the course, losing three of the nine riders from its paceline along the way. Simon Gerrans lead the six remaining riders across the line in San Remo — the site of Gerrans’ first Monument victory back in 2012 — ensuring he would be the first rider to wear the maglia rosa in the 2015 Giro d’Italia.

The result is a nice change of fortune for Gerrans who has had a forgettable start to 2015. A crash while mountain biking in the off-season saw Gerrans break his collarbone and miss the Australian summer of racing. And in his return race, Strade Bianche, Gerrans crashed again, breaking his elbow. At Liege-Bastogne-Liege a fortnight ago — a race he won last year — Gerrans crashed twice in the space of 10 minutes, bringing his day to an unfortunate end.

Tinkoff-Saxo would go on to post the second fastest time on today’s stage 1 TTT with a spirited ride as the third-to-last team to leave the start ramp. Despite team leader and overall race favourite Alberto Contador falling slightly off the pace in the second half of his team’s effort, Tinkoff-Saxo rallied to finish just seven seconds down on Orica-GreenEdge. In the staging area Orica-GreenEdge celebrated as Tinkoff-Saxo crossed the line, despite the fact Cannondale-Garmin and FDJ.fr were still yet to complete their efforts.

The 2015 Giro d’Italia continues tomorrow with a 177km stage from Albenga to Genoa which features one small classified climb and which will almost certainly end in a bunch sprint. Simon Gerrans will be confident of defending his leader’s jersey on the stage and will be looking to spend as long in pink in possible, ideally with an individual stage win beside his name.

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