Sky, Bradley Wiggins draw first blood in battle for the 2013 Giro d’Italia

Wiggins put time on all his rivals and emerged from the Giro’s first real test confident that his team is the strongest in the race

ISOLA D’ISCHIA, Italy (VN) — Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins delivered the first blow in the battle to win the Giro d’Italia with a perfect performance from Team Sky in Sunday’s 17.4km team time trial.

Sky ruled the day on the island of Ischia and put significant time into its rivals over an untested short and technical course that had riders and team directors wondering what sort of time gaps might be expected.

In the end, the differences between GC contenders were significant. Wiggins put 14 seconds into Vincenzo Nibali (Astana); 22 seconds into Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida); 25 seconds into defending champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp); 28 seconds into Robert Gesink (Blanco); and 37 seconds into Cadel Evans (BMC Racing).

Given that Hesjedal won last year’s Giro by only 15 seconds, Sky had reason to celebrate with sparkling wine, both on the podium and during its team dinner. Not only had the British squad won a major team time trial, but Wiggins also emerged from the Giro’s first real test confident that his team is the strongest in the race — particularly after winning a second consecutive TTT to match its victory at Tirreno-Adriatico in March.

While Sky’s 23-year-old Salvatore Puccio rode his way into the maglia rosa, his time in the leader’s jersey will likely be short-lived. With time bonuses available on every finish line, and a much bigger objective on the horizon, Sky won’t burn any extra energy trying to preserve Puccio’s time in pink.

“No way,” Puccio said. “For sure our goal is to race at Brad’s side, from today until Brescia.”

Wiggins now sits second overall, tied on time with Puccio. As for his GC rivals, they could only acknowledge his team’s superiority on Ischia.

“Fourteen seconds is a good distance, but this is only the second stage,” Nibali said. “The rest of the Giro is ahead of us, and it’s anybody’s guess what can happen. We have to wait and see.”

Garmin’s Christian Vande Velde said his team had been “good, but not great,” adding, “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.”

As for Evans, he’s lost grand tours by a slimmer margin than he lost to Wiggins on Sunday.

“Thirty-seven seconds is a little bit below what I had hoped or expected, but that’s the way it is,” the BMC rider said. “The guys put in everything.”

As many of Wiggins’ rivals correctly stated, there is still plenty of Giro to be raced. However, as all of his rivals also know, Wiggins drew first blood.