Astana takes fifth in rainy, windy TTT, Gruzdev unhurt after early crash
Astana Pro Team rode to a strong fifth place in the opening team time trial on Wednesday at Tirreno-Adriatico, gaining precious time ahead of dangerous rivals in the mountains and losing precious little advantage after a mid-race crash in heavy winds removed Dmitriy Gruzdev from the group effort.
Gruzdev, Kazakhstan's national time trial champion, was caught out in a heavy crosswind burst and slammed to the asphalt at more than 50k per hour as the squad raced to north to the finish of the relatively short 16.9km stahe from San Vincenzo to Donoratico along the Tyrrhenian sea coast. He was bruised and scraped after the crash, but remounted his Specialized Shiv time trial bike and rode to the finish, and will start Thursday's second stage.
"The earth shook when Dima hit the ground. It was a freak wind that first blew Tiralongo and then Gruzdev swerved and crashed. Nothing he could do to avoid it, and it delayed Nibali a bit as he was just setting up behind," said Astana Pro Team Director Sportif Alexandr Shefer.
Astana Pro Team finished in fifth place, 20 seconds behind Belgian squad Omega Pharma Quick Step, but five and 12 seconds, respectively, ahead of rivals on other teams who will figure more prominently later in the week when the race moves to the mountains.
"At worst we lost a few seconds in the chaos that surrounded the crash. We maybe could have been 10 seconds faster at most at the end of the race. But the unfortunate incident did not affect our overall advantage ahead of Froome and Contador, and that's what counts most in the end," said Shefer.