Britain's Mark Cavendish took the race leader's pink jersey after his Columbia team won the opening stage of the Tour of Italy, a 20 km team time-trial at Venice Lido.
REUTERS - Team Columbia went out first and finished first in the opening time trial of the Giro d'Italia with Britain's Mark Cavendish bagging the pink jersey on Saturday.
Garmin-Slipstream, criticised by rivals for concentrating their preparation on the time trial rather than the three-week race, came in second while Lance Armstrong's Astana pulled off a minor surprise by finishing third.
Going first on the 20-km course around Venice's Lido may have been seen as a disadvantage but America's Team Columbia surged round and never looked like being beaten.
Times were recorded for the fifth-finishing rider in the teams and Columbia managed the flat route in 21 minutes 50 seconds, with Cavendish leading the way.
The 23-year-old from the Isle of Man won the Milan-San Remo race in March and again showed his sprinting skills in front of a crowd who had packed the water-taxis east of Venice's main centre.
Slightly overcast conditions and a pick up in the wind affected teams going out in the middle while some lost time with lead riders pulling too far ahead of their fifth-placed colleague.
Avoiding the distraction of a panoramic view of the Venice skyline across the lagoon, Armstrong grimaced as he hauled himself over the line after his impressive Astana team had gone out last.
The 37-year-old American, who returned to cycling in January after spending more than three years in retirement, had only just recovered from a broken collarbone and lies 15th overall.
Sunday's 156-km second stage goes from Jesolo to Trieste in the very east of Italy. The finish is in Rome on May 31.
Date created : 2009-05-09