Day one of the Tour of California and the first road stage of the Giro d’Italia delivered the ‘grandstand’ finishes they had billed. Spectators in Sacramento were greeted with an all too familiar sight of the past half a decade from the peloton, but first to Genoa where team Sky’s Italian fast man Viviani came away with the win.
In a day marred by several pretty nasty looking crashes, one of which – according to Trek Factory Racing’s Eugenio Alafaci – was caused by some genius on a fixie riding into the bunch, Viviani managed to come up looking brand new avoiding the fate delivered to other fast men including Australian road race champion Heinrich Haussler of IAM cycling who was seen rolling on the tarmac more than once. Possible worst off of all was Ettix Quickstep rider Pieter Serry who came over the line looking like he’d went a few rounds with Tyson, his ear was alright mind you, mostly his eye showing it.
One of the Eurosport commentators was particularly fast to dub the sprint as messy, and although I agree that the lead up to the sprint was pretty scattered, Viviani’s actual gallop was a masterpiece. The aerial shot revealed the way the Sky rider surfed the wheels in the last 500 metres leaving it to the last second to hit the wind. Orica Greenedge rider Michael Matthews looked to be the one to take the day after making his way to the front just a bit too early, although managing to take the Maglia Rosa I in a repeat of last years race. There’s no denying the stage win was well deserved after seeing Viviani having a bit of a tumultuous time throughout the spring classics particularly when a picture of him chasing a wheel he threw away across a field during the Strade Bianche. With fewer big name sprinters than we’ve seen in the grand tours of years past, Viviani has a chance of more stage wins if he’s able to displace Greipel and Boonen in the upcoming flat days.
Later on in Sacramento it was the Manx Missile that got his hands up after a textbook lead out by his team mates from HTC High- I mean Etixx Quickstep. After reeling in the breakaway with the face that seems to be taking most of the wind in these Pro Tour races, Will Clarke of Drapac, the boys at Etixx shrugged off the usual infiltrations by foolhardy teams trying to get one up on them before the gallop, with finally Mark Renshaw leading out Cav with Peter Sagan of Tinkoff Saxo hardly even close in second place.
Although in different colours than before it was hard to ignore the mirror image of the HTC Highroad train that we were so used to seeing a few years ago. Barring a few fleeting moments of brilliance in the past few years, this was probably the first time we’ve seen a dialled lead out train for Cavendish in the Belgian squad. The finish looked pretty bloody easy for the Manxman and although he’s always had an aptitude for picking his way through the crowd, now there’s other strong guys that can box with him, namely Kittel of Giant Alpecin, it’s not hard to imagine that Cavendish might be putting up a better fight than we seem from him last year in the Tour de France with his bodyguards around him.