Things could not have started any better for the Slipstream/Chipotle team at the Giro d'Italia when they won the opening 23km team time trial to put Christian Vandevelde into the maglia rosa, the pink leader's jersey. It was a stunning effort made all the more exceptional by the fact that they bested every Pro Tour team, most with budgets two to three times that of the upstart American squad.
To be sure, Slipstream targeted this stage from the outset and well they should. With ace time trialists in Dave Zabriskie, David Millar and Christian Vandevelde you play to your strengths. Ryder Hesjedal and Magnus Backstedt can also turn the cranks pretty well which is critical since it is a team time trial. Acknowledging that Vandevelde was the strongest rider on the squad that day, the team elected to have him cross the finish line first. When their time edged the powerful CSC formation by six seconds and High Road Sports finished a further one second back, the celebrations began.
It has been 20 years since an American wore the pink jersey in the Giro. In 1988, Andy Hampsten became the first, and still only, US rider to win Italy's national race. Christian was quick to point out that he isn't aiming to follow in Hapmsten's footsteps, but Slipstream has a number of cards to play with sprinters Julian Dean and Chris Sutton and opportunists like Backstedt, Vandevelde and Millar all going for stage wins.
Unfortunately, a crash on some railroad tracks on stage 2 took out the teams' best time trialist, Dave Zabriskie. With a fractured L1 vertebrae, he is headed home, but he was instrumental in winning the team time trial so it is a bittersweet moment. Can the "Argyle Armada" bring home some more glory? They are off to a great start and a positive attitude is a huge factor in a three-week race. Bravo!