Donegal’s Philip Deignan has got off to a great start in the Giro d’Italia as he helped his Radioshack team come in second in the opening team time trial in Turin.
He is now in 11th place, 10 seconds behind the leader, Italy’s Marco Pinotti.
The local rider ensured a perfect start to the Giro d’Italia on Saturday when he led HTC-Highroad to victory in the opening team time trial.
Clad in his specially designed green, white and red team kit, the 35-year-old reigning Italian time trial champion was the first HTC-Highroad rider to speed across the finish line.
In a year when Italy is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its unification, and with Italian tricolore flags lining large sections of the 19 kms route, Pinotti’s victory was enthusiastically received.
The only Italian in HTC-Highroad’s 2011 Giro line-up, Pinotti admitted afterwards he had been a bundle of nerves in the final kilometres as victory beckoned.
‘I was really worried, I knew we were going to set a great time and that the team had done a lot of work for me,’ Pinotti told reporters.
‘We’re used to doing well in these team time trials, we won the same event in the Giro 2009. But that added to the pressure and I just didn’t want to blow it at the last minute.’
Pinotti said leading Italy’s premier bike race again as his country celebrated was ‘something very special.’
‘Winning today was really important for me as an Italian as well as for the team,’ he said.
A leader of the Giro in 2007 for four days, and ninth overall last year, Pinotti joked when asked how long he expected to hold the jersey this time.
‘If possible, all the way to Milan,’ he said. ‘Seriously, I’ll take it day by day, but tomorrow in any case we’ll be working for (team sprinter) Mark Cavendish. We can do that and defend my lead at the same time.’
Second on the flat, fast course from Venaria Reale to Turin was Deignan’s RadioShack team, 10 seconds behind, with Italians Liquigas third at 22 seconds.
Leading favourite Alberto Contador’s SaxoBank team put in a solid ride to finish eighth, 30 seconds off the pace.
‘It’s a great result,’ Contador said. ‘We couldn’t take risks because this is even more dangerous than a prologue. In a team time trial the whole squad can crash at the same time.’
‘My top rivals in the Lampre, Liquigas and Geox teams have also done well, but the differences between us all have been minimal.’
Sunday’s 244km stage, the longest in the race, could see HTC-Highroad take a second victory in as many days with British sprinter Cavendish one of the favourites for a widely-expected bunch sprint in the flat run from Alba to Parma.
The Giro d’Italia finishes in Milan on 29 May.