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Sky wins 2013 Giro d’Italia team time trial, puts Salvatore Puccio into pink

Sky comes out on top after the stage-2 team time trial and puts Giro debutant Puccio into the maglia rosa

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ISCHIA, Italy — Italian Salvatore Puccio took possession of the Giro d’Italia’s pink jersey from overnight leader Mark Cavendish on Sunday as Team Sky and race favorite Bradley Wiggins claimed their maiden team time trial win on a grand tour on the island of Ischia.

Cavendish had sprinted to victory in the opening stage of the three-week race on Saturday to pull on the race leader’s pink jersey for the third time in his career.

But despite their best efforts, Cavendish and his Omega Pharma-Quick Step team were no match for Team Sky over the winding 17.4km course on the scenic island, which sits off the coast of Naples.

Cavendish, a 23-time stage winner on the Tour de France, won his 11th Giro stage on Saturday and said his team would do their best to protect the race lead when the Giro visited Ischia for the first time in 54 years.

However, Omega Pharma could finish only 17th in the 23-team field in a time of 22 minutes, 53 seconds — 48 seconds slower than Team Sky.

“I’m a little disappointed in myself not to have held on to this beautiful pink jersey,” said Cavendish. “But it was a very technical course.” He will console himself by donning the red jersey of the Giro’s points leader for Monday’s stage.

Puccio was Team Sky’s best-placed rider after the opening stage, handing him the race’s top prize, which team leader Wiggins is hoping to secure at the end of the race on May 26.

Puccio, who was born and raised in Sicily, admitted that being overall leader had come as something of a surprise. He is only a second-year pro, and is making his debut at the Giro.

“Today was an incredible result and it is a huge surprise. I could never have thought this morning that I would be pulling on the pink jersey. It is incredible,” he said.

“Once again the team showed how strong we are. Everyone put in a huge effort and it is very satisfying to be part of a big team result like this.

“For an Italian rider the pink jersey is one of the best things that can happen to you.”

Team Sky topped the times in 22:05, nine seconds ahead of Movistar and 14 ahead of the Astana team of overall contender Vincenzo Nibali.

Nibali has been touted as the man most likely to keep Wiggins from following his 2012 Tour de France triumph with victory in stage racing’s second most prestigious event.

Despite losing time to the Briton, the Sicilian was philosophical about his team’s performance on a “hard and fast” course where he said Astana hit speeds of 70km/h on the small downhill sections.

“For me it was a very good performance,” said Nibali. We’re not a specialist time trial team, we’re a team composed mainly of climbers.”

Astana were far from the worst team containing overall victory contenders.

The Garmin-Sharp team of defending champion Ryder Hesjedal trailed in seventh place at 25 seconds behind Sky and Wiggins.

“It was a big hit to our team losing David Millar very early,” said Christian Vande Velde. “He would usually be a staple of the team until the end, but given the fact that he crashed pretty hard yesterday, we are happy that he was in good enough shape to contribute at all.”

“Apart from that we were good but not great. It was a course where you needed to be on at all times. We lacked a little bit of that sharpness and flow.

“For our résumé it wasn’t up to our standard but we did the best we could with the tools that we had. Ryder is in great shape and the team will only get better.”

Former Tour de France champion Cadel Evans is even further off the pace. The Australian was the fourth of five BMC riders who crossed the finish line in 12th at 37 seconds behind Sky.

BMC’s assistant director, Max Sciandri, said the team had been let down on the hillier sections.

“I think if you look at the winning team, it is more of an imprint of a climber team,” he said.

“We had some really good guys who can go on the flats like a regular time trial. But we struggled a little bit with some guys on the climbs. But I don’t think we could have given anything more.”

Evans added: “Thirty-seven seconds is a little bit below what I had hoped or expected, but that’s the way it is. The guys put in everything. Someone like Klaas Lodewyck — he really gave it absolutely everything he had today, so I’m certainly not going to ask anything more of him.”

Monday’s stage 3 is a 222km leg from Sorrento to Marina di Ascea, with the category-3 climb of Sella di Catona sitting 20km from the finish.

Race note

Movistar’s Juanjo Cobo banged one knee on his handlebars in a spill while inspecting the course. He iced the injury, but struggled in the race and finished more than two and a half minutes down.

Editor’s note: Stay tuned for more from Italy.