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Omega Pharma wins Tirreno opener, Cavendish leads

Manxman takes overall lead in Italy after Belgian squad aces team time trial

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Omega Pharma-Quick Step won a soggy stage 1 team time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico on Wednesday.

Former world champion Mark Cavendish donned the blue leader’s jersey after the 16.9km stage from San Vincenzo to Donoratico on Italy’s Tyrrhenian Coast.

“One name is a huge reason why we did so well today: Tony Martin,” Cavendish said of his Olympic champion teammate. “He did the majority of the work, but the guys today, all of them, were just incredible.”

Movistar was second on the stage, at 11 seconds. BMC Racing and 2011 Tirreno champion Cadel Evans were third, at 16 seconds.

“We lost a few riders midway through, but I think it was more of a bit of a discrepancy of strength,” said Evans. “When you have a couple of time trial specialists in a team, it is stronger. But it means for the four guys who have to follow behind, it’s not always easy. But it’s always good to have a few seconds on whom I consider to be the main GC contenders like Vincenzo Nibali [Cannondale], Alberto Contador [Saxo-Tinkoff], and Chris Froome [Sky].”

Pre-race favorite Froome and his Sky mates were seventh, 25 seconds off the pace. Contador and Saxo finished a further four seconds adrift.

“The boys did a solid performance and we finished ahead of some of our rivals running for the GC,” said Saxo director Fabrizio Guidi. “It was pretty dangerous out there in pouring rain but we went full gas. Everyone is very motivated and we’re in this race to win. Tomorrow’s stage is very long and we have to pay attention as the bad weather continues and the main goal tomorrow is simply to stay out of trouble.”

Former world TT champion Fabian Cancellara led RadioShack-Leopard across the line seven seconds slower and director Dirk Demol expressed his frustration. The team opted to save GC riders Chris Horner and Andy Schleck, pulling instead with its six other riders.

“To be honest, I’m disappointed in our performance today,” he said. “Last year we were second, although it’s clear that the field here this year is much stronger. I was thinking we could finish fifth or sixth with the team we’ve brought here but that was too optimistic.”

Tirreno-Adriatico, the third stop on the 2013 UCI WorldTour, continues Thursday with the 232km second stage from San Vincenzo to Indicatore. The stage is likely to end in a bunch finish, offering Cavendish an opportunity to pad his overall lead with time bonuses of 10, six, and four seconds on offer for the top three finishers.