Orica wins team time trial on opening day of Giro d'Italia

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SAN REMO, Italy (AP) — Orica Green-Edge won the Giro d'Italia's opening team time trial on Saturday for the second year in a row, with Simon Gerrans taking the overall leader's pink jersey to complete an astonishing turnaround of fortunes.

Orica justified its tag as the overwhelming stage favorite on the 17 1/2-kilometer (11-mile) course from San Lorenzo al Mare to San Remo.

The Tinkoff-Saxo team of two-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador was second, seven seconds behind Orica, and six ahead of third-place Astana.

"San Remo is turning into a special place for me and the team," said Gerrans, who won the Milan-San Remo one-day classic in 2012. "It's a real honor to cross the line first ... We studied the time trial like every team here and came up with a plan. Our victory comes down to everyone committing fully to the plan. Everyone gave 110 percent and it's thanks to them that we got the win today."

Gerrans broke a collarbone in December and missed the Tour Down Under. The Australian crashed in his first race back in March, breaking his elbow, which then did not heal as quickly as expected, delaying his comeback. He also crashed twice in the space of 10 minutes as he attempted to defend his Liege-Bastogne-Liege title a fortnight ago.

Team Sky had a disappointing day and finished ninth, 27 seconds behind Orica, with Richie Porte losing time on Contador and other pre-race favorites such as Fabio Aru of Astana and Rigoberto Uran of Etixx-Quick-Step, which was fourth.

Orica was eight seconds faster than the teams that had already gone at the intermediate time check, and it upped its pace to knock Astana off the top of the leaderboard by 13 seconds.

Tinkoff Saxo stormed through the first part of the stage and was first at the intermediate check. It looked set to threaten Orica, but faltered and continued to lose time in the closing kilometers, even dropping Contador briefly.

Contador is attempting to become the first rider since Marco Pantani in 1998 to win the Giro and the Tour in the same year. The Spaniard won the Giro in 2008 and was also triumphant in Milan in 2011, but was stripped of that title for testing positive in the 2010 Tour.

Sunday's second stage is a mainly flat, 177-kilometer (110-mile) route from Albenga to Genoa, with one categorized climb.

The 98th Giro finishes on May 31, in Milan.

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