American Taylor Phinney won the first stage of the Giro d'Italia, a 5.4-mile individual time trial on Saturday.

Phinney becomes the first American to wear the pink jersey since Christian Vande Velde when Garmin won the opening team time trial in Palermo in 2008.

The BMC Racing cyclist finished in 10.26 minutes, nine seconds ahead of British cyclist Geraint Thomas (Sky Procycling) in the 198-strong field. Home favorite Alex Rasmussen, whose career hung in the balance last year after he missed a doping test, finished third.

The 21-year-old Phinney increased his pace on the second part of the course, improving on his two-second advantage over Thomas at the halfway stage.

I've reached one of my aims for the season. I've been thinking about this time trial for months," said Phinney, who said he committed each of the 19 turns to memory. "Everyone said I was favorite, but it's not easy to live up to that on the course. I was confident before the start, I knew I had good legs. It's a dream to wear this shirt.

"During the time trial the public encouraged me, they helped me during the last kilometer. Now I hope to still have this shirt in Italy, to wear it in the team trial on Wednesday."

The Giro has two more flat stages in Denmark for sprinters on Sunday and Monday before moving to Italy on Wednesday.

Ramunas Navardauskas of Garmin-Barracuda led for most of the day, but was overtaken by Saxo Bank's Manuele Boaro.

Defending champion Michele Scarponi - who received the 2011 trophy this week after Alberto Contador was stripped of the honor for doping - finished in 135th place with a time of 11:32.

Scarponi, who is keen to win the Giro on the road, is already almost 30 seconds down on main rival and 2010 winner Ivan Basso.

"I'm not happy at all," Scarponi said. "I should have lost less time. But we are just at the beginning of the Giro, there's still a long way to go."

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