ISCHIA, ITALY // Italian Salvatore Puccio took possession of the Giro d'Italia pink jersey from overnight leader Mark Cavendish on Sunday as Team Sky and race favourite Sir Bradley Wiggins claimed their first team time-trial win on a Grand Tour on the island of Ischia.
Cavendish had sprinted to victory in the opening stage of the three-week race on Saturday to pull on the race leader's pink jersey for the third time in his career.
But despite their best efforts, Cavendish and his Omega-Pharma team were no match for Team Sky over the winding, 17.4-kilometre course on the scenic island which sits off the coast of Naples.
Cavendish, a 23-time stage winner on the Tour de France, won his 11th Giro stage on Saturday and said his team would do their best to protect the race lead when the Giro visited Ischia for the first time in 54 years.
However, Omega-Pharma could finish only 17th in the 23-team field in a time of 22 minutes, 53 seconds - 48 seconds behind Team Sky.
"I'm a little disappointed in myself not to have held on to this beautiful pink jersey," Cavendish said. "But it was a very technical course."
Puccio was Team Sky's best-placed rider after the opening stage. Puccio, born and raised in Sicily, admitted that being overall leader had come as a surprise.
"Today was an incredible result and it is a huge surprise," he said. "I could never have thought this morning that I would be pulling on the pink jersey. It is incredible.
"Once again, the team showed how strong we are. Everyone put in a huge effort and it is very satisfying to be part of a big team result like this.
"For an Italian rider, the pink jersey is one of the best things that can happen to you."
Team Sky topped the times in 22:05, which was nine seconds ahead of Movistar and 14 ahead of the Astana team of overall victory contender Vincenzo Nibali.
Nibali has been touted as the man most likely to stand in the way of Wiggins following his 2012 Tour de France triumph with victory in stage racing's second most prestigious race.
Despite losing time to the Briton, the Sicilian was philosophical about his team's performance on a "hard and fast" course where he said Astana hit speeds of 70kph on the small downhill sections.
"For me it was a very good performance," Nibali said. "We're not a specialist time-trial team, we're a team composed mainly of climbers."
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