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A look at the school, the races and the future of this unique 'sport'
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Maarten Tjallingii (Belkin) in the mountains jersey
2014 race already better than last year for Belkin
Thanks to Maarten Tjallingii's efforts in the four-man break on stage two, Belkin enjoyed its first podium visit of the 2014 Giro d'Italia. Tjallingii was first over both category four climbs during the stage which ensured that upon finishing, he would be awarded the blue climbers jersey after the 219km stage from Belfast to Belfast. It also made him the first Dutch rider to wear the Giro’s mountains jersey since 2005.
"There are not many chances to be in breakaways in this Giro, so I wanted to try today," Tjallingii said. "I felt I was in control of the group, and when I won the first points sprint, I wanted to go for the second one. I got the jersey, and I am satisfied because I think I got the most out of the day's effort.
"Tomorrow there will be another chance for a breakaway, so maybe I can get in the group and defend the jersey."
10km into the stage, Tjallingii along Team Colombia’s Jeffry Johan Romero Corredor, Lotto-Belisol’s Sander Armee and Andrea Fedi (Neri Sottoli-Yellow Fluo) escaped from the peloton and created a lead that averaged between five and six minutes until the chase begin in earnest in the final 10km.
Tjallingii tried to stay away while his breakaway companions were swallowed up and he lasted until 3km to go before he too succumbed to the pace being set by the likes of Giant-Shimano, Cannondale and Orica-GreenEdge.
"It was a good performance today by Maarten," Sports Director Frans Maassen said of Tjallingii's ride. "He wanted to try for the breakaway. We knew it would be difficult to win, but he won the climber's jersey, and was caught with only three kilometers to go, so we are happy with that.
"We had no problems with the other boys. We don't have a true sprinter here, but Jetse [Bol] will have his chances in the sprints, even though we're not going to have anyone to help there. It was rainy today, but the team spirit was high. Everyone is excited to be racing."
In 2013 the team was riding the Giro in the hope of attracting a new sponsor after Rabobank withdrew their sponsorship and failed to record a stage win or a podium visit. They also lost Robert Gesink to illness.
Carrying Belkin's GC hopes this year is Wilco Kelderman who benefited from a split in the bunch in the final dash to the line to earn three seconds on his rivals. "It was rainy all day, but it was ok,"said Kelderman. "It was a nice coast line here in Ireland, with big crowds, especially in the last 10km.
"The roads are really good here. Tjallingii wanted to go in the breakaway, and go for the climber's jersey, so it was a good tactic. We are waiting to return to Italy, and that's when the hard stages begin. It's nice to begin here in Ireland, but I like the good weather in Italy."
The third and final stage in Northern Ireland and the Republic is a 187km dash from Armagh to Dublin. The riders will then enjoy a rest day before resuming the race on Italian soil in a short 112km stage from Giovinazzo to Bari.