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SANREMO, Italy (VN) — The Giro d’Italia’s opening stage in Liguria on Saturday will be like no other, with the entire team time trial running on a bike path. Because of its narrowness, running along the Italian Riviera between the mountains and Mediterranean Sea, there is little room for error.
The 17.6-kilometer stage runs west from San Lorenzo al Mare to Sanremo on a converted former train line. The path twists smoothly along the coast instead of turning rapidly, but only expands to about 10 feet wide.
“Nine riders on a bike going 55K an hour — that’s tight,” Orica-GreenEdge sport director, Matt White told VeloNews.
“If there’s any error, it’s going to cause pandemonium.”
The 22 teams start at five-minute intervals with Lampre-Merida first at 15:10 local time. Orica is the 16th team at 16:25 after CCC Sprandi-Polkowice and before LottoNL-Jumbo.
In 2014, White’s nine-man team won the opening stage in Belfast and put Canadian Svein Tuft into the leader’s pink jersey.
Four of team Garmin’s cyclists crashed during the stage. FDJ, which began four minutes behind, quickly arrived on the scene and had to race around the carnage.
“In a meeting today, the team brought it up with the organizer. ‘What should we do in case of a crash or puncture?’” White continued. “In some parts there is a wall on one side and the ocean on the other; there’s no room to stop. There’s no solution yet from the organizer.”
The teams will also need to look out for riders who were dropped from their teams. Those riders will need to make sure to hug the wall or edge near the ocean to let the approaching team pass.
Last year, the Australian team won the 21.7-kilometer stage at an average of 52.713kph.
“It’s going to look fast [on] TV, for sure,” added White.
“It lacks corners, but [has] chicanes that you can’t take at full speed. There are a couple of parts where the guys have to get off the aero bars and be cautious; you can’t take those at full speed.
“They also have to make their changes in the right parts, you cannot change in some parts and be two abreast on the path.
“The boys are going to wear glasses with clear lenses tomorrow because of the three tunnels. The lights were partly out in one of them. I don’t know if they will fix them overnight or what.”
Along with the time trial Orica won in Belfast last year, it counts many other wins in the TTT discipline, including the Tour de France’s stage 4 in 2013. The team wants to win again tomorrow.
“100 percent, it’s a goal in this Giro. The goal is to try to win and keep the jersey for a couple of stages and win some other stages. If we can repeat last year, that’d be great,” said White.
“We don’t have Tuft, but the nine men here are very experienced. That’s why we are so good, we put effort into it more than other teams do. We have three Olympic medallists in the team pursuit, ex-world champions from the track. The event is short and sharp, with no room for mistakes, and the track prepares you for that.”
White listed team Katusha as a dark horse for the stage win. The Russian team brought six men from the Tour de Romandie, where it was third in the team time trial, five seconds behind Sky. He also named traditionally strong time trial teams: reigning TTT world champ BMC Racing, Etixx-Quick-Step, and Sky.