This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Team Sky stormed to victory on the stage two team time trial at the Giro d’Italia on Sunday. The British team completed the 17.4 kilometre course between Ischia and Foria in a time of 22:05 and gained enough time on the other teams to put young Italian Salvatore Puccio into the pink jersey. Bradley Wiggins is second overall, in the same time, and has gained some significant seconds on all his overall rivals.
Team Sky looked in control throughout the undulating and technical terrain, with Wiggins leading through the majority of the early sectors. Despite crossing the line with just five men the British team held on for the win after a controlled but fast ride in the hilly second part of the course.
Team Sky had hoped to put Italian time trial champion Dario Cataldo into the pink jersey and he crossed the line first. But Puccio finished in fifth place, at the same time and so took pink after finishing better placed (33rd) on Saturday's stage in Naples.
Puccio was slightly embarrassed but happy to pull on the maglia rosa.
"It's a surprise to have taken the pink jersey but I'm very happy. The idea was to try and give it Cataldo but I hung on and finished in the same time. I had a better stage results yesterday and so I got the jersey. I have to thank the team for this special moment," he said.
"This is my first Giro d'Italia. It'll be great to wear the pink jersey for a few days. I'll ride up front and we'll see what happens."
A long day on Ischia island
Riders and teams had made their way to Ischia after an early wake up call in Naples. The island, with a population of just 62,000, would play host to the race, with it’s demandingly tight roads offering up an early test of the GC riders in this year’s race.
Starting at three-minute intervals, Colombia was the first team to roll down the start ramp. They gave a respectable account for themselves and set an early marker of 23:01. It was an indication for the teams who were to follow that pacing and control were key with the race debutants finishing with eight riders.
Blanco and a number of teams soon posted faster times but Team Sky was already on the course and finding out that even the best laid plans could be effected by marginal mistakes in equal measures to marginal gains. Starting with one of the strongest teams they were soon down to eight men when Danny Pate struggled with his gears. The American was able to chase back but soon after Christian Knees was dropped.
However by the intermediate time check at 7.9 kilometres Team Sky had still set the fastest time of 10:12. The boys in black lost other riders but were strong and compact in the final part of the course. While some teams faded and lost seconds, Team Sky was fast and together.
Their finish time of 22:08 was still fast enough to take the lead, with Blanco pushed into provisional second at 28 second down.
One of Wiggins’ main challengers, Vincenzo Nibali, was on the start line at this point. Astana have looked a complete team this year and Nibali’s time trialing in particular has improved significantly. However it was Italian stalwarts Lampre-Merida who were running Team Sky closest, crossing the line at the intermediate check just one second down.
Another longstanding flagship team did even better with Movistar - you can trace their routes back to Miguel Indurain - going two seconds faster than Wiggins’ chain gang at the same point.
Astana secured a respectable fifth at the time check but when Garmin, BMC and Orica GreenEdge all failed to trouble the top three the stage win looked to be between Team Sky, Astana and the surprise packages of Lampre-Merida and Movistar.
BMC had come into the race as possible podium contenders but it was Garmin-Sharp's lack of punch that caused the major surprise. With the race’s defending champion Ryder Hesjedal in their ranks and with an impressive pedigree in TTT on Italian shores, they had been expected to challenge Team Sky all the way. They had all nine riders at the intermediate check, suggesting that a fight back might be on the cards but in truth the American outfit had started way too slow and given themselves too much to do. By the finish Hesjedal had lost 25 seconds to Wiggins and 11 to Nibali.
On the second half the course Team Sky’s metronomic five man concerto pulled clear. Lampre-Merida splintered and were briefly reduced to four men, while Euskaltel – never a team built for these occasions - lost the plot completely and finished with four.
Movistar crossed the line in second place with a time of 22:14, a measure of their preparation that has involved a dedicated team time trial camp in Spain, with Nibali and his teammates third in 22:19. However it was Team Sky's day and Puccio's special moment. The team time trial has given the first indication of the overall fight for this year's Giro d'Italia.
The next chapter of the three-week race will be along the stunning Amalfi coast on Monday with the 222km third stage to Marina di Ascea.