Liquigas scorched the Giro d’Italia’s stage four team time trial on Wednesday to propel Vincenzo Nibali up the overall classification and into the pink leader’s jersey.
The Italian squad put in a well-drilled performance, denying pre-race favourites Team Sky the stage win. Sky came home in second spot, 13 seconds adrift of Liquigas with HTC-Columbia in third at 21 seconds.
Liquigas now has riders occupying the top three slots in the overall classification, Nibali leads with Ivan Basso in second and Valerio Agnoli in third.
“I have to say that this pink jersey is truly a dream, I dedicate to all the team because we really went strong,” said a jubilant post-stage Nibali. “I didn’t believe it at first, and I have to say that I still have goose bumps to wear it.”
Sky’s Giro woes continued as Chris Sutton punctured shortly after the squad left the start house and had to change bikes. Bradley Wiggins, in white British national champion strip, and team-mates motored on in front, but it meant they were a man short.
That didn’t stop the British-based team putting in a massive effort to set the fastest time at the intermediate checkpoint and then be the first squad to dip under the 37-minute marker. But Liquigas, benefitting from drier conditions, managed to turn on the pace in the latter half of the course to snatch the win.
“We finished with five, everyone emptied the tank as much as possible,” Wiggins said after the stage.
“It is hard to review at this stage where we lost it or where we might of gained time. As it stands, it is disappointing and it is always disappointing when you lose a bike race.”
Topping the table at the begining of the stage, Alexandre Vinokourov’s Astana squad went off last. Vinokourov’s young and relatively inexperienced team-mates looked as though they were struggling to keep up with the pace of Vinokourov, who openly berated the squad as they strung out behind him in the final kilometre run-in to Cuneo.
Briton David Millar’s hopes of moving into the race lead after the stage evaporated as his Garmin-Transitions team came in eighth fastest, 49 seconds behind Liquigas. Millar slipped from third to ninth overall, 45 seconds behind Nibali.
Thursday’s relatively flat 168km stage five runs between Novara and Novi Ligure and may give HTC-Columbia sprinter Andre Greipel a chance to move up the overall table if he can grab some bonus seconds.
Giro d’Italia 2010, stage four TTT: Savigliano-Cuneo, 32.5km
1. Liquigas-Doimo in 36-37
2. Team Sky at 13secs
3. HTC-Columbia at 21secs
4. Katusha at 27secs
5. Astana at 38secs
6. Cervelo at 38secs
7. Omega Pharma-Lotto at 46secs
8. Garmin-Transitions at 49secs
9. Saxo Bank at 50secs
10. Milram at 57secs
11. Rabobank at 1-04
12. BMC Racing Team at 1-21
13. Lampre-Farnese Vini at 1-43
14. Footon-Servetto at 2-03
15. Colnago-CSF Inox at 2-08
16. Quick Step at 2-15
17. Bbox Bouygues Telecom at 2-19
18. Caisse d’Epargne at 2-21
19. Androni Giocattoli at 2-24
20. Cofidis at 2-29
21. Acqua & Sapone at 2-39
22. Ag2r-La Mondiale at 2-50
Overall classification after stage four
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas in 10-44-00
2. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas at 13secs
3. Valerio Agnoli (Ita) Liquigas at 20secs
4. Andre Greipel (Ger) HTC-Columbia at 26secs
5. Matt Goss (Aus) HTC-Columbia at 26secs
6. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana at 33secs
7. Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Katusha at 39secs
8. Richie Porte (Aus) Saxo Bank at 45secs
9. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Transitions at 45secs
10. Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana at 59secs
27. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 1-59
32. Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo at 2-13
41. Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone at 2-49
50. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky at 4-36
Bradley Wiggins heads up the Sky train
HTC-Columbia placed third
Garmin-Transitions came home in eighth
Ivan Basso takes the helm of stage winners Liquigas
Vincenzo Nibali celebrates taking the race lead
Giro d’Italia 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index
2010 Giro d’Italia coverage in association with Zipvit