PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM
Victory in last week's prologue of the Tour of Romandy suggested that Paolo Savoldelli was well set for the defence of his Giro d'Italia title, but the Discovery Channel rider's subsequent withdrawal from the race with stomach problems provided an element of doubt about his form going into today's prologue time trial of the corsa rosa.
But the Italian swept that doubt away with a simply astounding performance that saw him not only romp off with victory on the 6.2km course in Seraing, but also take some extremely useful time on all of his rivals for the 89th Giro title. Going off last as the defending champion, Savoldelli's target was a time of 8-01 set by Brad McGee, a past winner of the Giro prologue.
At the halfway point Savoldelli was already six seconds up on the Australian, and that advantage was only likely to rise on the fast and very tricky run down into the final 400-metre straight. One of the best descenders in the sport, Savoldelli swooped into the straight using every inch of the road the barriers allowed him and cruised through a huge 11 seconds inside McGee's time.
Among Savoldelli's main rivals, the best time came from 2004 runner-up Serhiy Honchar, although the Ukrainian would no doubt prefer a course with more time trialling and fewer mountains. Honchar finished fifth, 15 seconds down on Savoldelli, but 75 places better off than T-Mobile team-mate Jan Ullrich, whose support he will receive during the next three weeks.
Next best was 10th-placed Danilo Di Luca, who lost 19 seconds to the stage winner. He was one of several riders who looked pretty pleased with themselves at the finish, or at least until Savoldelli came in to wipe the smile off most people's faces. One of the few whose smile probably remained was Savoldelli's team-mate Tom Danielson, who was 12th and looks in great nick. That put him a place and two seconds ahead of the pre-stage favourite Ivan Basso, who was quick to point out there is still plenty of racing to be done.
Despite their divorce at the end of last season, Damiano Cunego and Gilberto Simoni could not be split on the leaderboard, the Lampre climber finishing 25 seconds down in 15th place, while the Saunier Duval leader was another second back in 16th. Both should be pretty pleased with their efforts.
One other consequence of Savoldelli's victory is that the sprinters are out of range of the maglia rosa tomorrow even allowing for the 20-second bonus available to the winner of the stage into Charleroi. Alessandro Petacchi is the best placed of them, 35 seconds back, a huge gap given today's course was only a shade over 6k. As we said, astounding stuff from Savoldelli.
Stage 1, May 6: Seraing time trial
1 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel 6.2km in 7.50 (47.49kph)
2 Brad McGee (Aus) Franaise des Jeux 0.11
3 Jos Enrique Gutierrez (Spa) Phonak 0.13
4 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner
5 Serhiy Honchar (Ukr) T-Mobile 0.15
6 Francisco Perez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 0.16
7 Jos Ivan Gutierrez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
8 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile 0.17
9 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner 0.18
10 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas 0.19
11 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre 0.20
12 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel 0.21
13 Ivan Basso (Ita) CSC 0.23
14 Jens Voigt (Ger) CSC 0.25
15 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre
16 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saunier Duval 0.26
17 Marc Wauters (Bel) Rabobank 0.27
18 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC
19 Remmert Wielinga (Hol) Quick Step
20 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) Cofidis 0.28
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM