Two fastest team time trial squads in the world battled it out for early honours in the opening stage of Tirreno-Adriatico

The two strongest time trial teams locked horns again. Today on the Tuscan coast in Italy, Omega Pharma-QuickStep topped Orica-GreenEdge to win the first stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico. Mark Cavendish crossed the line first and will wear the leader’s blue jersey into the second stage tomorrow.

“The team time trial is especially special because everything has to go right,” Cavendish said in a press conference afterwards. “Eight people have to do everything right on the day, so it’s so hard to do.”

The team knows what it takes to do it correctly. It delivered the knock-out punch in the world championship up the road in Florence last September. Sky with Chris Froome set the provisional best time, Orica topped its mark by 22 seconds and Omega Pharma came in a hair’s breadth quicker – 81 hundredths of a second.

The world title was revenge for the Tour de France, where Orica won and put the first South African, Daryl Impey, in the yellow jersey. Those two time trials ran longer. Today’s test covered 18.5 kilometres above Donoratico and south along the coast to San Vincenzo. Omega Pharma, with world time trial champion Tony Martin, averaged 54.905 kilometres an hour.

“Tony did probably half the race alone,” Cavendish added. “Michal Kwiatkowski did a lot of pulls. There’s no ego or pride though, everyone just wants to go as fast as possible.”

Omega Pharma won last year as well and put Cavendish in the blue jersey for the next stage. Orica placed sixth. Scoring one in its favour, Orica won in 2012 and Omega Pharma placed 14th.

“Maybe we’ll win again in July, you never know,” Impey told Cycling Weekly. “There’s really a great rivalry between us. They have some really great time trial riders and so do we.”

The Australian team placed 11 seconds behind the Belgian team. Compared to 0.81 seconds at the Worlds or 0.75 seconds at the Tour, the difference appeared huge.

“We couldn’t have gone faster. It’s important to know that you gave it your all,” Impey added. “For them to beat us by that far… That’s a big margin and not close enough where you could say had we done something differently it then it could’ve swung another way.”

Cavendish led Omega over the line. The team planned for him or Martin to do so. Movistar, the third fastest team, placed 18 seconds behind. Sky with Bradley Wiggins and Richie Porte rode to sixth at 27 seconds.

“It’s a great feeling to stand on the podium with your team after the victory,” Cavendish said. “That’s what makes the team time trial unique.”