Vincenzo Nibali pulled on the race leader's pink jersey at the Tour of Italy after leading his Liquigas team to victory in the fourth-stage time trial over 33km on Wednesday.
Liquigas powered over the undulating course from Savigliano to Cuneo in the Piedmont region to finish ahead of Bradley Wiggins' Team Sky, 13sec back, with HTC-Columbia finishing third at 21sec.
"Pulling on the pink jersey is a dream come true," said Nibali, a 25-year-old Sicilian who finished an impressive seventh overall in the 2009 Tour de France.
"I want to dedicate it to the whole team, who really put in a huge effort."
Having been among the late starters who faced adverse wind and rain on the course, overnight leader Alexandre Vinokourov was forced to give up the jersey after his Astana team lost composure in the closing kilometres, the Kazakh losing 38sec to end up sixth in the overall standings, 33sec adrift.
Despite the crucial mountains stages still to come, Vinokourov, who returned to competition last year following a two-year ban for blood doping, is hoping to strike early.
"I had hoped to take some more time off the climbers," said Vinokourov, the winner last month of the hilly one-day classic Liege-Bastogne-Liege. "The weather conditions didn't do us any favours."
AlexandreVinokourov drives Astana home
While failing to distance rivals like 2008 Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre of Spain, who had his Cervelo team to thank for helping limit his losses to only 38sec, Vinokourov did pull away from race contender Cadel Evans.
Evans's BMC team started disastrously, fatally losing two of their team early on and finishing way down the standings at 1min 21sec behind Liquigas to leave the Australian, the reigning world champion and a two-time Tour de France runner-up, a massive 1:59 behind Nibali before any mountains stages.
Liquigas' official team leader is former race champion Ivan Basso, who served a two-year ban between 2007 and 2009 for admitting his intention to dope. And despite seeing Nibali take all the glory, Basso -- now second overall at 13sec adrift -- will be more than happy at a result that leaves his team with several strategic options.
The Italian had said before this stage: "Vincenzo is a loyal teammate and I would be happy for him to take (provisional possession of) the pink jersey.
"For our rivals, it's more difficult to mark two leaders than one, especially in the third week."
Sicilian all-rounder Nibali was only called up for the race at the last minute after Franco Pellizotti was accused of doping. And he was keen to calm any speculation over whether he, or Basso, will now spearhead the team's victory bid: "We each have our specific role in the race, that was defined before the start and we will respect that.
"He (Basso) has prepared specifically for the Giro, he's very ambitious and is in great form. So me having the jersey doesn't change anything."
Thursday's fifth stage is held over 162 kilometres between Novara and Novi Ligure, where the race will pay homage to the Italian legend Fausto Coppi, who died 50 years ago.
© AFP 2010
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