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Good morning and welcome to our live coverage from stage 2 of the 2014 Giro d'Italia.
We're in Belfast for stage 2 of the race. A few clouds above us and a few spots of rain but it's another wonderful atmosphere here in Northern Ireland.
Roll out is in around 20 minutes and riders are riding up to the sign in area at the moment. Huge turn out as one might expect too with crowds gathering earlier this morning. Most of the talk at the start this morning has of course centered around Dan Martin, who crashed out of the race in yesterday's time trial.
Svein Tuft and his Orica teammates are about to sign in. The 37 year old led the Australian WorldTour team home on his birthday yesterday to take the stage win. They'll be looking to defend the lead for as long as possible and with time bonuses available it's possible that Michael Matthews could take the maglia rosa today. A similar situation to last year's Tour de France, where the team swaped the jersey between riders after a win in the TTT.
As you would expect Orica riders fill the top placings on GC but here's how the top 10 looks:
1 Svein Tuft (Can) Orica Greenedge 0:24:42
2 Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica Greenedge
3 Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica Greenedge
4 Cameron Meyer (Aus) Orica Greenedge
5 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge
6 Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Orica Greenedge
7 Pieter Serry (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:05
8 Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
9 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
10 Serge Pauwels (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
And here's how the GC riders (other than Uran) are looking:
Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team @ 7sec
Nicolas Roche (Irl) Tinkoff-Saxo @ 23sec
Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana @ 38 sec
Ivan Basso (Ita) Cannondale @ 53 sec
Nairo Quintana Movistar @ 55 sec
Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha @ 1:33
The rain is on and off and it's going to be like that all day. There's not much wind at the moment but that's surely going to change once the peloton hit the coastline. The stage profile suggests bunch sprint but really, anything could happen once the peloton reach the coastline: crosswind, echelons, crashes, breaks, you name it.
The riders, who have now set off, will head through Antrim before heading towards the Giant Causeway. There's a fourth category climb at 126km but by then the rider will be on the coast. They'll head a little further east, even closer to the sea as they travel south before swinging west and towards Belfast again to complete the 219km stage. You can read our stage preview right here.
Two non-starters today, Daniel Martin who will be heading home to nurse a broken right collar bone and Koldo Fernandez who missed the time cut. You can read about Garmin's shocking day in the saddle right here.
Assuming today does end in a sprint the big favourite must be Marcel Kittel. Three stage wins at the Tour de France last year and a strong start to this season make him the man to beat.
We've picked out our top five sprinters to watch in the race and gathered them together into one tidy video. Which you can watch right here.
No major action to report has yet from the race as the peloton begins stage 2 of the race. They'll be a lot of nervous riders for sure though. The good thing about the TTT is that it can establish an early pecking order and can calm a few nerves as it means riders aren't fighting for every second. However the tight roads, the weather, the desire to make it into an early break, and the fact that everyone is still fresh will mean that the racing is frantic no matter what.
Belkin's Tjallingi, who has been on the podium in Paris-Roubaix, has sparked the first attacks. He is being chased by a handful of other riders but so far the gap is just a couple of seconds.
Three riders have linked up with the Belkin rider and I think we might have our break. The bunch has let this one go and the gap has quickly moved out to a minute.
And your break, which now has 3 minutes after 12 miles of racing consists of Jeffry Johan Romero Corredor (Col) Colombia, Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team, Sander Armee (Bel) Lotto Belisol, and Andrea Fedi (Ita) Neri Sottoli - Yellow Fluo.
Through Antrim for the break and they're continuing to work well together. The bunch have eased up and Orica will soon be on the front to control things. So far so good for the GC riders hoping to keep out of trouble.
Huang Time Scoop: James Huang has spotted a prototype Campagnolo group at the start this morning. You can read the story, right here.
The rain is coming down a little harder now and the break push on, extending their lead to five minutes over the bunch. OricaGreenEdge have moved to the front but they're not too concerned with chasing just yet.
26km into the race and the gap has reached a stable 5 minutes and it's holding.
Away from the Giro d'Italia, news in that John-Lee Augustyn has retired from racing for the second time. The former Sky and Barloworld rider has battled health problems for a number of years and tried to come back with MTN this season. It wasn't to be and he hangs up his wheels for the second time. He'll always be remembered for that spectacular day in the 2008 Tour de France when he was on the attack, led over the col de la bonette and crashes on the descent.
You can read about Augustyn, right here.
We've a number of must-read blogs and diaries during this year's Giro d'Italia and none better than Federico Bahamontes, who penned this piece for us last night.
"The stage to Mount Bondone [in the 1956 Giro d'Italia, run off in a severe blizzard, ending with Bahamontes abandon and victory for Charly Gaul - Ed] was like that. I could have been in the pink jersey that day but had to quit because of the weather. That day nobody made it to the summit [of the Bondone] on a bike, whatever anybody says. Everybody got in a car, including Charly Gaul."
"Then the next day the organisers came round the team hotels asking who would want to start the stage even if we'd abandoned, because they didn't want a tiny peloton for the last day into Milan."
Somewhat of a lull in the race action so why not take yourself over to our youtube channel to watch some of our Giro d'Italia videos? And remember you can subscribe to the channel there too.
44km into the race and the break, which has passed through Ballymena, has 6:30 over the GreenEdge led peloton.
Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi is just five seconds off pink. Could he add another stage win to his collection and become the oldest rider to ever win pink? Uran has given him the green light to go for the stage but Petacchi, talking to CN at the start this morning, says it's all about protecting the Colombian's position in GC. You can read Barry Ryan's story, right here.
"For the general classification, I think our result is quite promising. We have already made some time gains to some of the favorites and that is really favorable for the overall.
Tjallingii started the day 1:01 down on GC and with the break now 6:47 clear of the peloton the Dutch rider has a healthy lead on GC. For now. Orica are still on the front but there are a couple of Giant Shimano riders near the head of affairs too.
“It’s important to allow the riders a bit of time to be disappointed, because they work hard and they care about what they do. But after that there has to be a moment where you draw a a line in the sand and start looking forwards, look at the positive things and what projects we can still do.”
60km into the race and the break are at 6 minutes.
Nearly 90km into the stage and the break have seen another minute come off their advantage. They still hold a healthy 5 minute margin though. The race is about to head through the feedzone.
One rider we've not mentioned so far today, should it indeed come down to a sprint is Italian Elia Viviani. Fresh from two wins in Turkey and another win earlier in the season at Settimana Coppi e Bartal, the Cannodale rider spoke to Cyclingnews ahead of today's stage.
“The eight days of racing in Turkey gave me the jump in quality in my condition that I needed before a big tour, and winning the two stages there has definitely given me a bit more belief in that condition too,” Viviani told Cyclingnews.
“Last year, I rode well at the Giro but I didn’t come away with a win. But back then, I wasn’t coming into the race with a pair of important wins beforehand. Those two wins in Turkey mean that my head is in a different place to last year for the first sprints of the Giro.”
You can read the full story, here.
The rain has been on and off all day so far. It's meant that the roads have been wet throughout the stage.
Bad news for Katusha with Giampaolo Caruso on the deck after a fall. Luckily he's back on his bike and riding again.
The race is heading east now, and will soon run by the Giant Causeway. The rain continues to come down but it's sunny skies at the finish at the moment.
Just over 100km to go and the bunch continue to work hard in the rain. The break look to be suffering though, the conditions and the roads starting to wear them down.
Picturesque scenes as the break heads along the coast. They've been away for nearly three hours now and have 97km to go.
There's injection of pace in the break as they contest the KOM points. It's Fedi who kicks things off.
There's still a long way to go until the top of this fourth cat climb though and now it's the Belkin rider who opens the sprint and takes the points.
Romero was second and Fedi third.
At the front of the bunch Orica GreenEdge continue to set the pace. Astana are the head of the race too, keeping Scarponi out of trouble. Not much wind around at the moment and there's Uran, near the front with his Omega body guards around him.
Looks like a fall in the bunch as they head over the climb. Thurau is on the side of the road and trying to sort out his bike. An Androni rider was also involved but they're all up and riding again.
Up ahead and Armee takes a long pull on the front of the break. Lotto had a poor ride yesterday and were down to five riders quickly. They'll be looking for stage wins in the race and Monfort will be in the hunt for a top ten place on GC.
There's an Orica rider at the side of the road and he's looking for mechanical assistance.
84km to go and the rain is pouring down now . Orica knock the pace off a little on a short descent, a sign that no one wants to take any risks at the moment. They'll also be waiting for their teammate at the back of the bunch.
Despite the conditions the crowds have turned out today to cheer on the riders. The peloton pass through another small village with the break at 5'26.
Baden Cooke @badencooke 1m
Interesting to see @cammeyercyclist riding on the front. That tells that @ORICA_GreenEDGE are very serious about the sprint today.
The break have lost a minute, the gap down to 4'35.
Right on the coastline now and the bunch have Orica and Giant Shimano on the front. Still not much wind but the rain continues to come down.
It's undulating terrain though as the break press on, holding their gap at 4'37.
The crowds are three-four deep in places, a fantastic turn out given the poor conditions. The four leaders, still working well, have 4'30 over the peloton with 62km to go. The bunch are strung out but the pace is steady rather than fast at the moment.
Timmer! has a rear wheel flat and has been forced to set up and wait for the team car. And Omega are now on the front for the first time today. Petacchi told CN this morning that he wouldn't contest the sprint but they're trying to keep Uran out of trouble for now.
Gatto is at the back of the bunch and taking off a layer of clothing, as more Omega riders move to the front.
A number off riders are dropping back to the cars and taking off clothing. We're approaching the last hour or so of racing.
3'46 now with 52km to go . Riders have to be careful as they drop back to the cars because the pace is increasing and the roads are still wet.
A reminder of the riders in the break: Jeffry Johan Romero Corredor (Col) Colombia, Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team, Sander Armee (Bel) Lotto Belisol, and Andrea Fedi (Ita) Neri Sottoli - Yellow Fluo
Petacchi is riding in the wind, further confirmation that he's not going to mix it in the sprint today.
Romero takes the chance to drop back to his team car and pick up some food and drink. He takes off a rain jacket too.
If you've not seen it, we've created a playlist of all our Giro videos and you can watch and subscribe to the channel, right here.
Orica have moved back to the front of the bunch and the gap to the leaders is at 3'22. We're into the final 40km of racing.
A couple of Tinkoff riders have moved near the front too, the race is starting, at last, to wake up.
And the roads are dry in patches too. 36km to go and the gap is at 3'00
There's one more 4th cat climb to come but it's not certain if the break will make it their in time. The bunch have them at 2'14, with 31km to go. It's all building up to a sprint finish.
Into the final 28km and more teams are pushing to the front, FDJ, Omega, Giant, Orica, Sky even are all there. It's going to be real battle between the leadout trains but Giant will be expected to take control.
Here's the report from the women's tour, Vos wins again.
The four main break are coming up to the final climb of the day, they should make it and this will confirm the leader in the KOM. Tjallingii was first on the the earlier climb.
The Belkin rider is sitting in second wheel with Armee on the front.
They know they can't win the stage but they've worked so hard today they'll want a jersey to show for it.
Tjallingii is ushered to the front.
Fedi is itching to attack
And Tjallingii goes for it.
Fedi is trying to match him but it's all over and Tjallingii will wear the KOM jersey on stage 3. The first Dutch rider to do so in the Giro since 2005.
Fedi was second on the climb but with Romero out of the top two Tjallingii only had to finish second. He was first and now has 6 points.
Meanwhile, the bunch have closed to 1'10.
There's an intermediate sprint coming up in around 5km.
Movistar have hit the front, they'll be looking to keep Quintana out of trouble on the tight roads around the finish. BMC draw themselves level with Cadel Evans well placed.
19km to go, the gap to the leaders has gone back out to 1'22.
And it's started raining again, as up ahead Fedi wins the intermediate sprint ahead of Armee.
Chicchi is forced to stop and change wheels with a teammate. Certainly not ideal with the sprint in 16km.
Viviani has called his men up and now Cannodale are near the front. All the sprinters are fresh and fancy their chances. BMC cut through the middle of the bunch though, Evans in full control of the situation is seems.
It's Orica GreenEDGE right on the front though, where they'be been for most of the day it has to be said. They've had to work really hard to defend pink today but in Michael Matthews they have a rider who can win today. Bouhanni is there too for FDJ.
And there's Tyler Farrar. Can he win for Garmin? It would be the perfect tonic after what happened to them yesterday.
12km to go and the gap is at 57 seconds. Cannondale up the pace in dramatic fashion, they're really in the mood to take on Giant on the first road stage of this year's Giro.
The rain has halted as the break pass under the 10km to go banner.
Romero has been dropped from the break, the gap now at 46 seconds.
Tjallingii has attacked with 8km to go. The rest of the break are chasing him down though but the peloton are at just 28 seconds.
Van Emden has a flat but up the road Tjallingii is clear and on his own.
Lots of risks at the front though with riders swerving and dipping through the field in order to move to the front. Cannondale continue to set the pace though.
Into the final 5km and just Tjallingii left out in front but Cannondale are hunting him down.
The Dutchman has 19 seconds, it's not going to be enough but it's a really brave ride.
4.5km to go and the gap is at 14 seconds and here come Giant and FDJ.
Omega are in the mix too.
It's all over for the Belkin rider, caught with just over 3km to go.
And it's Trek on the front now for Nizzolo
Just over 2km to go.
And Sky hit the front for Swift and Boason Hagen.
It's all drawn out but Kittel is a little too far back at the moment.
FDJ take over.
Now Kittel is there and close to the front and his team now lead with 1.4km to go .
1km to go!
Here come Orica though.
One tight corner to come.
They're through safely.
They open up for the line and Kittel looks to be in control.
Kittel just needs to hang on.
Comfortable in the end. Kittel takes the stage.
1 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano
2 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ.fr
3 Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek Factory Racing
4 Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale
5 Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Lampre-Merida
6 Manuel Belletti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli
7 Ben Swift (GBr) Team Sky
8 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge
9 Davide Appollonio (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
10 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin Sharp
The German rider was simply too good. His team put him in the perfect position and from there everyone else was racing for second place. Back to the drawing board for the German's rivals.
And confirmation that Matthews is the new leader of the race. Tuft lost three seconds in the finish and that's enough to see Matthews move into pink during his debut Giro d'Italia. I'm sure you cant wait to hear about it in his next CN blog.
Here's how the GC now looks:
1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge
2 Svein Tuft (Can) Orica Greenedge 0:00:03
3 Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica Greenedge
4 Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica Greenedge
5 Cameron Meyer (Aus) Orica Greenedge
1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge 5:37:54
2 Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Orica Greenedge 0:00:03
3 Svein Tuft (Can) Orica Greenedge
4 Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica Greenedge
5 Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica Greenedge
6 Cameron Meyer (Aus) Orica Greenedge
7 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
8 Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
9 Pieter Serry (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
10 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
Thanks for joining us today for stage 2 of the Giro d'Italia. You can find our report, images, and results right, here.
We will be back tomorrow for complete coverage of stage 3.