US team Garmin-Barracuda won the fourth stage of the Giro d’Italia, a time trial held over 33.2km around Verona, to take control of the race on Wednesday.
Garmin’s Lithuanian rider Ramunas Navardauskas took possession of the pink jersey from US rider Taylor Phinney of BMC Racing, who had led the race since winning the opening stage time trial in Herning, Denmark.
“I come from a small Lithuanian village, where there was just football and cycling,” Navardauskas said. “I began with national races and once I had competed in my first race in Germany, my career took off. This course was ideal for a team time trial.”
BMC, one of several teams to flirt with disaster along the course — Phinney at one point rode deep into a grass verge — finished 10th, 31 seconds behind Garmin.
The 21-year-old Phinney, who is not considered among the contenders for overall victory, is now fifth overall, 13 seconds behind Navardauskas.
“I would like to thank my teammates, who waited for me,” said Phinney, who added he was pleased for Navardauskas as he is a friend of his. “I experienced the worse moment I have known in cycling for a very long time. It was due to a mixture of things. I just didn’t have the legs.”
None of the bona fide contenders for the pink jersey suffered badly on the day.
Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez — whose Katusha team finished second, just 5 seconds behind Garmin — snatched 17 seconds from Czech rival Roman Kreuziger after Astana finished third, 22 seconds back.
Rodriguez also took 21 seconds off Italy’s former two-time winner Ivan Basso, whose Liquigas Cannondale team finished seventh, 26 seconds back.
Defending Giro champion Michele Scarponi of Italy lost only eight seconds to Basso.
In the unofficial general classification, Navardauskas leads three teammates, Tyler Farrar of the US and South African Robert Hunter, by 10 seconds, with Canadian Ryder Hesjedal 11 seconds back.
Garmin’s best-placed rider before the stage was Dane Alex Rasmussen.
His chance of pulling on the race leader’s jersey effectively ended when he failed to keep pace with his teammates after the first 15 minutes.
Navardauskas, 24, joined Garmin last year and he was a part of the team that won the team time trial at the Tour de France in Essarts.