Columbia Steamrolls Giro D'Italia's Opening TT

James ThompsonCorrespondent IMay 9, 2009

PRUSZKOW, POLAND - MARCH 25:  Mark Cavendish of Team GB trains at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships at the BGZ Arena on March 25, 2009 in Pruszkow, Poland.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

The Centenary edition of the Giro d'Italia is now on the road. 

Today's opening stage consisted of a team time trial around the historic city of Venice. Over the next three weeks, the riders will take on 21 stages covering over 3,000 kilometers. 

Team Garmin-Slipstream had been banking highly on this stage.  Last year, they won the opening TTT by six seconds and put their leader, Christian Vande Velde, into the overall leader's Maglia Rosa (pink jersey).  Their team director, Johnathan Vaughters, had said as recently as yesterday that "Our season starts [Saturday]," signifying their intense focus on this particular stage.

So much hype, though, may have worked to undermine them.  Team Garmin may have used up some of their talent in Danny Pate and David Millar a bit too early and lost speed towards the end.  They ended the day in second.

Coming home with the win today was the powerhouse Columbia team of Mark Cavendish.  The boys in yellow steamrolled around Venice, averaging a staggering 56 kph for the 20.5 kilometer course.

Mark Cavendish was the first of his teammates to cross the line, meaning that he becomes the first wearer of the 2009 Giro's maglia rosa leader's jersey.  His is also the first British rider to wear the jersey. 

Coming in second on the day were the Garmin-Slipstream hopefuls at six seconds adrift.  Rounding out the podium was the squad of Astana, led home by Lance Armstrong, at 13 seconds behind.  Astana limited the damage as well as came in ahead of some key overall contenders, setting up their leader Levi Leipheimer well for the coming mountain stages.

Tomorrow's stage is designed for the sprinters, and should see a head-to-head showdown between star sprinters Cavendish and Alessandro Petacchi (LPR-Brakes).