The 88th Giro d'Italia began on Saturday evening with a 1.15 km prologue along the Lungomare Italo Falcomata' in Reggio Calabria. The atmosphere was perfect, with a large crowd of spectators watching the riders as Mt Etna loomed in the background across the Straits of Sicily. After Danilo Di Luca set the early best time, it was the turn of Guadeloupe-born Frenchman Rony Martias (Bouygues) to come home in 1'23. His time held until one of Petacchi's leadout men, Matteo Tosatto, stormed home in 1'21. Tosatto's time was good, but it wasn't good enough to beat Panaria's Brett Lancaster, a two-time World Champion in the team pursuit and the reigning Olympic Champion in that discipline, who became the only rider to go under 1'21 with a time of 1'20.958.
Lancaster had a nervous wait as the last 40 riders had their turn, but at the end of the night he had won the stage from Tosatto and a speedy looking Alessandro Petacchi. It was only his third win as a pro but definitely a big one, following up from compatriot Brad McGee's win in the prologue last year. Impressively, Lancaster's team is one of only two non-ProTour teams in the Giro, the other being Colombia-Selle Italia.
The GC riders Cunego, Simoni, Garzelli, Savoldelli, Gonchar and Basso all finished within a few seconds of each other, and today's times will surely not make a difference to the final overall classification.
Last, but not least, Mario Cipollini signed off on his glittering career by riding the prologue as last rider, even after Damiano Cunego. Cipollini was clad in an all-pink bodysuit with silver veins, riding a pink Bianchi. A showman until the end, Cipo took the time to wave to the crowd, acknowledging them all for their support over the years. Exit one of the most colourful characters in the peloton.