It was another amazing team time trial for the boys in argyle, taking the win on the fourth stage of the Giro d’Italia and earning the race leader’s maglia rosa for Ramunas Navardauskas. Director of Competition Allan Peiper sent this report.
After some good results during the hilly classics and second in the GC at Romandie it seemed like we were always present in the races but still yearning for more.
We flew into Denmark on the Tuesday after Romandie — just a day at home before our four week trek through Denmark and Italy. We had to pull in Ramunas Navardauskas to replace an injured Thomas Dekker. I had given Ramunas a heads up the last day of Romandie he may have to go to Italy.
He was just back after a collarbone break and still not in top form in Romandie but willing to go to Italy even though as he told me he was not wanting to disappoint. He had 12 hours at home before repacking his bags but did it as a true pro, without complaint.
Robby Ketchell our sports science director planned out the training for the days before the prologue in Denmark and the emphasis was the TTT in Verona on stage 4. We were hoping for a good result with Rasmussen in the prologue so TT work was in order.
Peter Stetina was a little nervous with so much expectation within the team that won the TTT in last year’s Tour de France. Climbers are usually not the strongest at the TTT but with some 5km efforts and repetition of the start order confidence grew that we could pull it off in Verona.
Rasmussen finished a fine third in the prologue and with six riders inside the first 30 we had done our homework. Navardauskas lead the leaders table for two hours before his time was beaten and finally finished sixth — so he was obviously in form.
Stages one and two ended in bunch sprints with Tyler Farrar finishing fourth and third respectively. Ramunas was part of a six-man break that lasted 170km on stage two so the boy who worried he was not good enough had other people worried!
The transfer to Italy was an undertaking to say the least but all arrived in Verona monday night before the rest day. It was not a rest day as such as the tension was building for the TTT. Robby Ketchell had flown in early to Verona and gone over the course with local ex-pro Eros Poli. He had seen where we had to win time and on the rest day the boys went over the course and did some efforts to keep the motor running nicely.
Today everything was set and organized to run like clockwork. The official warm-up on a closed circuit gave us the chance to go over the course at a good pace to really test the corners and climb. I thought they were riding too hard during the warm up as we sat on 55-60kph on the flat but we let them be.
Other teams saw us or were passed by us as they warmed up and I saw they were impressed as the boys drilled it in training only hours before the event. The pace they rode in training would give them the confidence in the technical parts of the course to win time on the opponents.
We started well and then Vande Velde had a moment through a corner and was a little gapped. We had to call them to ease and reorganize to let him get on. It took 3km before we hit cruise speed and at the first split we were up on Katusha.
At the second split we still led and as we turned onto the main road after the climb and descent we knew we just had to maintain the speed to win. The boys got a bit shabby in the last 5km but if that does not happen you cannot win as everyone has to be at their limit.
Stetina rode the race of his life and hung on by his nails. The stalwarts of the team VDV, Hesjedal, Farrar and Hunter kept the pace high with Bauer and Navardauskas the big motors. Rosseler did some big turns nearly exploding each time he came off the front only to find the courage to get back in line for one more pull.
At 1500 meters out Navardauskas did a huge pull and we hit a 300 meter false flat piece he came off the front and as VDV lifted the pace he went off the back. Ramunas fought to hold the gap at 3 meters and in the final left corner at 900 meters he made contact!
Into the final straight it was eyeballs out to the finish. Bauer did his final pull and come off and Stetina lost contact in the last meters but the time was inside the rest. One team to come BMC but their splits were slower and the joy was overwhelming for all of us.
Wins are hard to come by in pro sport. We have been consistent all through the Classics, Tour de Romandie and into the start of the Giro. We needed this win and the joy and pride of getting onto the podium together makes every sacrifice worth it. As we went onto the podium I said to Jack Bauer he had to remember this moment because it would be one of the peak moments of his life.
We won the TTT, our goal, but we also got the pink jersey. Ramunas Navardauskas wears pink — the boy who did not want to let us down. The one who led the prologue, in the break on stage two and now wears the coveted maglia rosa. His team mates were all overjoyed at him being the leader because he is the ultimate team player. An unassuming, shy and humble young man has hit the highlights in the Giro.
Garmin-Barracuda will defend the jersey and we will go for the stage tomorrow with Tyler and who knows, with six riders in the top 10 in GC we may just get someone else in pink in the next days!
More photos from the Giro d’Italia: