Taylor Phinney of the BMC Racing Team averaged more than 50 kilometers an hour Saturday to win the opening stage of the Giro d’Italia in Herning, Denmark, and become only the third American to wear the maglia rosa of race leader.
Starting 17th-to-last of the 198 riders, Phinney blazed across the 8.7-kilometer course on his BMC timemachine TM01 in 10:26, nine seconds faster than runner-up Geraint Thomas (Sky Procycling). In taking the lead of the three-week race, Phinney joins Christian Vande Velde (2008) and Andy Hampsten (1988) as the only U.S. riders to lead the Giro in its 95-year history. Afterwards, the Boulder, Colo., resident said he was confident heading into his first Giro. “I’ve been thinking about this for a really long time, this jersey and this win,” Phinney said. “I knew warming up today I felt really good and I’ve done a lot to prepare for it. I have to thank the team for supporting me and putting me on the perfect trajectory to get to this race ˆ especially (BMC Racing Team Assistant Director) Max Sciandri, who lives near me (in Italy).”
Phinney said he rode the course “about 10 times” in the days leading up to the race, with his final reconnaissance being key. “It was important to get on the course today because of the way they set up the barriers,” he said. “It was a little bit different than the way they were the other days.” Phinney said he would like to hold onto the race lead until the race returns to Italy for Stage 4 Wednesday. “We’ll take it day-by-day,” he said. “But I’d like to keep it until at least the team time trial in Verona. To be able to sport it in Italy would be pretty special.” Saturday’s victory was the BMC Racing Team’s second stage win in three Giro appearances, adding to one by Cadel Evans in 2010. Evans is also the only other BMC Racing Team rider to wear the maglia rosa (also in 2010).
Phinney becomes the eighth American to win a stage of the Giro d’Italia, joining Ron Kiefel (1985), Greg LeMond (1986), Andy Hampsten (1988), Tyler Hamilton (2002), Fred Rodriguez (2004), David Zabriskie (2005, 2008) and Tyler Farrar (2010). The 2010 U.S. national time trial champion also won the prologue of the Eneco Tour last year and was an integral member of the BMC Racing Team’s winning team time trial squad at the Giro del Trentino last month. Another member of that Trentino squad, Marco Pinotti, finished eighth Saturday, 24 seconds behind Phinney.
The BMC Racing Team’s day was not without incident, as Ivan Santaromita crashed between kilometers two and three in his Giro debut. “I maybe took the turn too fast,” Santaromita said. “I don’t know exactly what happened, but I felt my front wheel sliding and I crashed. The first kilometer after that was painful and my moral was down, but I got my rhythm back with three or four kilometers remaining.” Though his injuries were not serious, Santaromita does have abrasions on his right elbow and wrist and left leg.
Photo copyright BMC/Tim de Waele