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Giro d'Italia

Giro Notebook, Stage 4: Garmin’s TTT prowess; Haedo hopeful

Garmin shows again that its team time trial prep is second-to-none; J.J. Haedo says he has a Giro stage win in his legs

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Garmin-Barracuda confirmed its prowess in the team time trial with a narrow but dramatic victory in Wednesday’s fourth stage at the Giro d’Italia.

Not only did the team win by five seconds over surprise Katusha, it pushed Ramunas Navardauskas into the pink jersey.

The American squad excels in the discipline and proved yet again that when there’s a team effort, Garmin can always be counted among the favorites for victory.

“It’s fantastic. We love the TTT at Garmin,” said Tyler Farrar, who slotted into second overall at 10 seconds back. “It’s our thing. It’s a race we wanted to win and to take the pink jersey is even better. It’s partly a question of motivation; we take it very seriously. We think about every detail and that makes a difference.”

The win is Garmin’s second in the discipline at the Giro and its fifth TTT victory since 2008.

Garmin has put a special focus on the TTT since its inception, bringing its A-team to each event and spending more time than most squads on training and preparing for the discipline.

On Wednesday, Garmin coach and head of sport science Robby Ketchell said the initial goal was to win the stage without thinking about the pink jersey.

“The plan was to ride for the stage win, so to take the jersey, too, is a bonus. Everything was focused toward the team win,” Ketchell said. “We put a lot of effort in the TTT. It’s nice to get the win.”

Garmin’s win at all costs approach became evident when Garmin’s best-placed rider, Alex Rasmussen, who started third overall at just 13 seconds back, faltered under the withering pace, opening the door for Navardauskas.

The Lithuanian, who held the “hot seat” in Saturday’s opening time trial until the final wave of riders, started the stage fifth, at 18 seconds back.

Garmin’s dominance in the TTT dates back to its first elite season in 2008, when it delivered an emotional opening-stage Giro victory in Palermo.

That put Christian Vande Velde into the pink jersey, just the second American to wear the maglia rosa. Things were so chaotic in the aftermath of that stage, Vande Velde was left stranded at the finish line and had to take a taxi back to the team hotel while wearing the pink jersey.

That same year, Garmin won the TTT at the now-defunct Tour de Georgia and finished second in the TTT at both the Giro and Tour de France in 2009.

Its focus on the TTT reached its peak last year when the team won at the Tour de France. Without a doubt, Garmin will be looking to continue its run at the first-ever professional team time trial race held the weekend before the world road cycling championships in Valkenburg, Holland, in September.

For the immediate present, Garmin is in the driver’s seat in Italy. With Farrar poised in second place, he can inherit the pink jersey if he’s first or second in Thursday’s fifth stage, thanks to 20- and 12-second bonuses waiting at the finish line.

Haedo hopeful for sprints

J.J. Haedo (Saxo Bank) is optimistic about his chances for a stage victory during this year’s Giro d’Italia following his promising second place in Monday’s third stage.

Only Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) could fend off the Argentine fast man, who has been making steady progress since joining CSC in 2007 to race full-time in Europe.

“The goal this year is win a stage at the Giro,” Haedo told VeloNews. “I will have more riders supporting for the sprints this year, so I hope to have a few shots at winning a sprint.”

Haedo, 31, became the first Argentine to win a grand tour stage last year at the Vuelta a España. Since 2007, he’s picked up consistent results despite having to largely freelance in the sprints, with wins at the Critérium du Dauphiné, Tirreno-Adriatico and the Rund um Koln (2007, 2010).

The absence of stage-race captain Alberto Contador is opening up some space for Haedo this season. With Contador sidelined until August following his clenbuterol case, the Argentine is seeing more support than ever in the sprints.

“I have usually been on my own for the sprints, so to have two or three riders helping me out in the final kilometers will make a big difference,” Haedo said. “I would love to win a stage in the Giro. I have raced it before, but I still was not up to the level. I am much stronger now and I believe I have at least one stage win in my legs.”

Haedo should get another chance in Thursday’s fifth stage, which should be another shot for the sprinters.

Race Notes

Stage winner: Garmin-Barracuda held off surprising Katusha by five seconds to win its second Giro TTT in five years
Pink leader: Ramunas Navardauskas ends Taylor Phinney’s three-day run in pink. Navardauskas is now 10 seconds faster than teammate Tyler Farrar, with Phinney now fifth, at 13 seconds back
Blue mountains: With no rated climbs, Alfredo Balloni (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) keeps the KOM jersey for a third day
Red points: Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) kept the points jersey, 45 points to Farrar’s 30
White young: Navardauskas slips 13 seconds ahead of Phinney for the best young rider competition

Weather: More sun
Warm, spring-like weather continues Thursday, with temperatures in the mid-70s F, clear skies and cross-tailwinds from the north of about 10-15mph.

Tomorrow’s stage: Sprinters paradise
The sprinters should be in for another shot at victory in Thursday’s 209km fifth stage from Modena to Fano. The route is mostly flat as it rolls southwest toward the Adriatic coast at Rimini.

There are a few minor ripples, including a fourth-category climb at 174km. That should not slow down the sprinters, who will be looking to maximize their chances in the first half of the Giro.

The final 10km are pancake flat along the coast before entering Fano. There are two dogleg right-handers in the final two kilometers, but it’s an otherwise clean run to the line.

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