The opening days of the 2013 Giro are going according to plan for Team Sky.
Bradley Wiggins didn’t take pink in Sunday’s second stage, but he might was well have. Team Sky entered the team time trial as favorites and delivered smartly in Forio, taking nine seconds over Movistar and a crucial fourteen over Astana and Vicenzo Nibali.
It’s early days at the Giro, and there’s no way to tell what 14″ means for the GC with the bulk of three weeks on the horizon. However, taking a lead pushes the pressure more toward the other contenders and Brad Wiggins now has a small buffer that the like of Nibali, Cadel Evans and defending champion Ryder Hesjedal must now chip away off. Wiggins looks comfortable, pushing the team himself and getting the most out of his eight riders. At the end, Wiggins looked fine while his teammates looked completely busted, with the exception of 23 year old Salvatore Puccio, who crossed the line first and took pink.
Nibali kept the losses limited Sunday, but should be satisfied with his day. Other GC men have bigger concerns, including Hesjedal, who gave up 25 seconds, and Cadel Evans, who lost 37. Evans may not be considered the top tier rider he was just two years ago, but he still has the form to challenge. With a slightly larger buffer, he’ll need to try to steal a few here and there, and the coming stages offer plenty of opportunities.
Stage 3 is full of undulations and rolling hills, but slopes to the line. The sprinters should be able to stay near the front and get a sprint from a slightly reduced bunch, especially Mark Cavendish’s OPQS team. With a number of sprinter’s teams trying to salvage a sprint out of every remotely flat stage, and the race being just three days young, don’t expect the breakaway to survive, even over the lumps.
The final climb of the day comes just 20km from the line, so even with help, the likes of Cavendish and Elia Viviani will be hard pressed to stay in the lead group. While he hasn’t looked his normal sharp self, watch for Matthew Goss to be there in the end, even if some of the other big names are dropped. There shouldn’t be much shuffling of the GC riders, and with almost three full weeks left to race, no one is going to want to show their hand.