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Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the 2010 Giro d'Italia! The race starts out with a short individual time trial. The riders will take a short dash through the streets of lovely Amsterdam, Netherlands, to determine the first holder of the maglia rosa.
Hello, and welcome to the first stage of the Giro d'Netherlands! No, wait, that's not right – the Giro d'Italia, starting today in that famous Italian city of Amsterdam. Whatever or wherever, it is sure to be a real spectacle, as we kick off the first Grand Tour of 2010.
The weather could well play a role in today's stage. The forecast is for up to 13° Celsius, with light rain and drizzle on and off all day, with the chance of a constant light rain improving as the afternoon moves on.
I was in Amsterdam yesterday with similar weather, and can tell you, it was not nice.
As usual, the riders will go off at one-minute intervals, up until the end. The last 22 will have two-minute intervals.
The course today is being called a typical city course. It has 13 corners and 8 curves, with a number of long straightaways. There is one intermediate time check, at 4.1 km, not quite halfway through.
The last kilometer features a slight left-hand curve and a 90-degree left-hand turn with about 200 metres to go.
The first rider off today is Matthias Russ of Milram. The Giro is his favourite race, but he hasn't really had a lot of luck with it. In 2008 he was in a break group in the sixth stage which finished 11:34 ahead of the field, and although he was the virtual leader much of the day, he missed out on the maglia rosa by hundredths of a second. He returned to the race last year, only to crash in the second stage and having to abandon with a broken collarbone.
And he should be taking off right now, to open the 2010 Giro d'Italia!
Some big names starting early are two Australians: Robbie McEwen (Katusha) and Jack Bobridge of Garmin-Transitions. But we must say we think the latter will have better chances than the former.
The start today is in a great location. The ramp is in the Museumplein, or Museum Square, flanked by the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum, with its stunning collection of Rembrandts, among other things. In fact, the first 10 metres or so go over water – very appropriate for the Netherlands. They have build a long ramp over a pool. Don't worry, it is nice and wide, so they riders shouldn't have to worry about falling off.
Well, McEwen just got off to a bad start. He olled down ramp and had to stop to tighten his q release of rear wheel. and lost 15 seconds
Russ is nearing the finish and will bring in the first time. How long will his best time hold?
His time was 11:03., which gives us a 45km/h average.
Italian sprinter Alberto Loddo (Androni Giocattoli) is next in. He sets a time of 11:17, putting him in second at the moment.
McEwen has made it to the finish, 45 seconds down.
Sebastian Lang of Omega Pharma-Lotto has apparently blasted the intermediate time check and should set a new best time by a goodly margin. But, then again, he's a TT specialist.
And Lang comes through as promised. He caught his one-minute man Guillaume Blot just before the finish, and came in with a time of 10:48.
Alexander Efimkin of AG2R had the same time as Russ, but is behind him in third place.
Italian climber Domenico Pozzovivo (Colnago-CSF Inox) sets a time of 11:20. He was only four second down on Lang after four kilometres but crashed on a wet corner.
And he probably won't be the only one to go down today.
Pozzovivo said, "It's nothing serious, I was going well but now I have to lick my wounds and get ready to suffer on the next few days."
Maciej Bodnar (Liquigas-Doimo) sets new fastest time of 10:41
And, yes, this is Stage One and not a Prologue. What's the difference? According to the UCI rule 2.6.006.1, “ A prologue may be included in stage races on condition that: 1. it must not exceed 8 km. ....” Today we are 400 metre over that limit, so it is considered an individual time trial.
Dario Andriotto (Acqua & Sapone) sets a time of 11:20.
Andriy Grivko (Astana) has set the new fastest time of 10:31.
So who is going to take it today? Big favourites seem to be Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and David Millar (Garmin-Transitions), with some also favouring Alexander Vinokourov (Astana).
Here's Rabon. He sets a time of 11:06. Slower than expected.
Is this a flat stage? Dumb question, right? North Holland is not exactly known for its climbs, although some of those highway bridges might qualify. The biggest climb today is all of 10 metres, taking the riders up to the dizzying height of 12 metres.
Xavier Tondo of Cervelo has moved into second place. Unfortunately we are not getting their times, just their rankings.
Bakelants of Omega Pharma-Lotto brings in a good time and bumps teammate Lang out of fourth place. Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Transitions is on the road now, and had the third best time at the intermediate time check.
The start ramp heads towards the Rijksmuseum, and if the riders look up, they will see a giant portrait of Queen Beatrix smiling down on them.
Farrar has finished in fifth place, squeezing in between the two Omega Pharma Lotto teammates.
This is the ninth time that the Giro has started outside of Italy, and the second time in the Netherlands. That was back in 2002.
Colnago-CSF Inox sprinter Sacha Modolo will debut a fancy new bike in the race on Sunday. He will literally be the first rider in the world to ride a Colnago C59. Read more about it here.
Damiano Cunego of Lampre comes in with a time of 11:10.
Rabobank's Rick Flens puts in a new best time at the intermediate time check, five seconds faster than Grivko. And Milram sprinter Robert Förster is third fastest there, only seven seconds behind Flens.
No Dutch rider has ever won the Giro. The Dutch team Rabobank won it last year, but eh rider, Denis Menchov, is Russian.
Flens wasn't able to hold on to his high tempo, and is currently in second place at the finish.
Förster couldn't hold up his blistering pace either, and drops to 24 seconds down at the finish,
Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Transitions) sets a time of 10:44, the sixth fastest time so far and exactly the same as his teammate Tyler Farrar.
2010 in Amsterdam, 2012 in Washington, DC? It's a good possibility. Check out the latest comments from the DC organising committee on what's happening
The Netherlands are really on a roll with the Grand Tours. Last year's Vuelta a Espana started in Assen, the Giro is here and in July the Tour de France will start in Rotterdam.
Sweden's Gustav Larsson (Saxo Bank) sets a new fastest time of 10:25, six seocnds faster than Grivko.
The lanky rider was second in the Olympic time trial and last year's world time trial championships behind teammate Fabian Cancellara.
The Netherlands and bicycles have a very close association, not just with pro cycling. The bike is a major form of transportation in this country, which has an incredibly extensive bike path system. In amsterdam alone, there are nearly half a million bicycles, and they cover over two million kilometres around the city every day!
Russia's Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) could be the next rider to challenge Larsson's time. He is a former track rider and team pursuiter.
McEwen has already twittered his commentary: Not a gd start to my giro. Pulled back wheel off start, rubbing on frame + had to stop twice.... #notveryhappy
Mauricio Ardila (Rabobank) sets a excellent time of 10:40. Pretty fast for a climber!
We have some changes in our Top Ten so far, as Astana's Dyachecnko and Lampre's Hondo have now moved in.
Here's Ignatiev. The Russian sets a time of 10:53. He has an excelent time trial position but was very careful on the corners.
The weather in Amsterdam is still cold and cloudy but large sections of the course are now dry. However some of the 20 corners are still wet, making it even more difficult for the riders to judge their speed going into the corners.
Ardilla is currently in sixth place, an excellent showing for the climber on this very flat course.
After his ride, Ignatiev said, "It's a hard race. the weather is cold and the time trial is a bit dangerous. I'm waiting for the easier stages in Italy, where I'll go on the attack. I also hope to win the longer time trial in Verona, at the end of the Giro."
One of the unique challenges here is the trams or streetcars, which run on tracks embedded in the roads. They seem to offer a great opportunity to catch a tire and cause a crash, which is something nobody wants. So the tracks along the stage route will be filled in with a foam rubber tape, making them smooth and blending to the street surface.
Dario Cioni (Team Sky) sets a time of 10:51. He was third fastest at the intermediate time mark, six seconds slower than Gustav Larsson (Team Sky). He is also third fastest at the finish.Larsson is still fastest with a time of 10:25.
Cioni hasmoved into third place, and said, I'm very happy. I gave it everything to try and limit my losses against the other overall contenders. This is the first battle of the three weeks."
What are your thoughts and insights into today's stage? Go check our the Cyclingnews forum and let everyone else know.
Bad news for the final riders. It has just started to rain heavily and the course will soon be wet again. That could mean Gustav Larsson wins the stage.
Here's a surprise. HTC-Columbia's big man Marcel Sieberg hs come in with the third best time so far.
Even better, Sieberg was third at the intermediate check and second at the finish.
Bad news for HTC-Columbia. Captain and star sprinter Andre Greipel has come down with the stomach-intestinal problems that have been so popular lately. He took it easy yesterday he said, and hopes to be back up to snuff Sunday for the first expected sprint fnish.
Gasparotto moves into fith place now.
HTC-Columbia's Marco Pinotti is underway. Usually he would be a favourite, but he says the course is too short for him. He picks Wiggins or Vinokourov.
Is Bradley Wiggins a split personality? He has a new haircut, a short one. "When I have my hair short, I'm a cyclist. When my hair's long, like Keith Richards, I'm Bradley Wiggins."
Before the team presentation on Friday afternoon, Italian riders Filippo Pozzato and Marco Pinotti visited the Anne Frank museum and house in the centre of Amsterdam. Frank wrote her famous diary in the house while hiding from the Germans for two years. She later died in a concentration camp.
Pinotti told Gazzetta dello Sport: "Seeing the house is worth more than winning the pink jersey."
Cervelo's Marcel Wyss knocks Gasparotto down one place.
Tom Stansnijder of Rabobank is now in second place overall, four seconds behind Larsson.
And Pinotti knocks Stamsnijder to third. The HTC-Columbia rider is only two seconds slower than Larsson.
Louder of BMC is the next to take to the course.
What did it look like before the start today? Take a look-see!
Gilberto Simoni is off now, starting his last Giro.
This is a tricky course, anyway, and the rain isn't going to make it easier. Lots of curves and white painted markings on the road.
Wiggins' new time trial bike has been developed but Pinarello with help from the specialist that develop British Cycling's track bikes they used so successfully at the Beijing Olympics. According to Gazzetta dello Sport, the bike is worth 15,000 Euro.
There are barriers on both sides of the course the entire way. There are no places for fans to cross the road itself, but there are bridges they can use at several places.
Simoni's time is over 11 seconds, putting him in 89th place so far.
Cadel Evans revealed to Gazzetta that the book he has brought to the Giro is by Paulo Coelho, called "The Winner Stands Alone."
Thomas Voeckler of BBox is 17th at the finish, 35 seconds down.
Evans told Gazzetta: "I've already finished on the podium at a Grand Tour. To do better, there's only one thing I can do: win."
25 seconds down for Fothen, which puts him pretty low down.
Still wet in Amsterdam. Which is actually what we usually expect of Dutch weather.
What can be expected of Ivan Basso in this race? It must be remembered that he has only 16 days of racing so far this season.
Vande Velde has had time to recover from his ride and get down to the important stuff, mainly twittering.
"Still juicy out there on the prologue course @ the Giro. The tram lines are just kinda wet now=good t.v. and shit bike racing."
"Wow, that was a horrible experience. I was picking daisies through the corners and they were now dry, woops. Looking 4wrd to ttt now."
Picking daisies? We could have sworn this was a bike race......
Irishman Dan Martin of Garmin hits the finish line, in 46th place.
It looks to be a bit dryer at the moment. That is, it doesn't seem to be raining. The road is probably still wet, though.
BMC's Bookwalter is the next to head into the finish. ANd he brings in a time of 10:20, to take over first place!
This is Bookwalter's first Grand Tour. What an experience if the American could win this stage!
Bookwalter has been a domestic pro for the last few years, now getting his chance with a top team. He is a former US U23 time trial champ, and last year won the Tour of Utah prologue. So he certainly has the credentials for this.
Here are some more Amsterdam cycling facts: There are 400 km of cycle paths in the city centre. Cyclists have absolute right of way. There are140 bike shops in the city. An astonishing 55 percent of all commuting here is done by bike!
17 percent of the families here have three or more bikes, and 75 percent of the city residents over the age of 12 own a bike. They don't just own them, either, half of them use the bike every single day.
The next Rabo rider comes in, Jos Van Emden. His time is 10:27, good for third place at the moment.
Liquigas' Nibali is on the course, coming a bit too close to the barrier for our taste on that last curve.
Karpets has a final time of 10:40, 17th place.
Nibali crosses the Amstel River. Yes, Amstel, like the beer. And actually, Amsterdam is a derivation of "Amstel Dam" -- the dam on the Amstel river.
Bono is on his way! No, not the singer. Matteo Bono of Lampre.
Moncoutie is out of the top 100 today.
Nibali gets close to the barriers again. Personally we don't find that such a good idea.
Konovalovas of Cervelo, in his national TT kit, is the next to go. He must also be considered a favourite today.
Sky's Gregory Henderson tears to the finish. It is close, but he can't bring in a new best time. But he is in second, three seconds behind Bookwalter.
Adam Hansen of HTC--Columbia goes off now, and from here on, there is a two-minute gap between riders.
Nibali managed to finish without crashing into any barriers, in sixth place.
Milram's LInus Gerdemann is the next to go.
Michele Scarponi is now underway. 20 riders still to go.
Pippo Pozzato of Katusha crosses himself and takes off.
Konovalovas nears the finish line. But no victory for him today. This course is too short for his taste, anyway.
12th place so far for the Cervelo rider.
Sebastien HInault of AG2R takes off.
Peter Weening of Rabobank is next ot come in. Also not with a new best time.
He is 22nd
The road looks dry at the moment. Let's hope it stays that way.
Gerdemann comes to the finish line, with a time of 10:35, for tenth place.
Omega Pharma-Lotto's Michiel Elijzen is the next to go. The Dutchman would dearly love to win here.
Marzio Brushegin takes to the road, while Scarponi comes in to the finish. We don't know his time, though.
Pozzato comes in to the finish now. He will have a good but not outstanding time.
PozztatoÄs time is 10: 50, which actually is not all that good.
Colnago's Modolo is underway. Remember, his new bike will be making its world debut tomorrow.
David Millar is on the course. He can look for an outstanding time today.
And here goes another of the top favourites for today: Bradley Wiggins. The short-haired Wiggins, you know.
Did we say it was dry? It was. It isn't now. We see raindrops again.
The next rider to go is another big name, Ivan Basso (Liquigas). His season so far certainly has not gone as he had anticipated.
The next rider is THE top favourite to take the overall title in this race: World champion Cadel Evans of BMC.
Wiggins is underway on his custom bike, in his all-white Britisch champion's kit.
Bruseghin crosses the line as 71st.
Wiggins doesn't slow down for a second. He is obviously out to win this thing today.
Eros Cappechi of Caisse d'Epargne goes, and the next after hims none other than Alexandre Vinokourov.
Milar comes into the finish. Will he take the lead?
No. But good enough for third at the moment.
Wiggins is chugging along, and we do think he will have the new best time.
And it is indeed! He is two seconds faster than Bookwalter, and takes over the lead with a time of 10:18.
The man in neon pea-green, Ivan Basso, is the next to finish.
Richie Porte of Saxo Bank takes off as Basso crosses the line, 23 seconds down.
Evans passes under the one km marker.
With Porte's start, we now have only six riders left to go.
Evans moves into third place, with a time of 10:20. Looks like he is really serious about winning the Giro!
STefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone) and Dario Cataldo (Quick Step) have started. We also missed mentioning Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre), who started after Vino.
Vinokourov could very well bring in the new best time. But who knows.
Sastre (Cervelo) is the next to go.
After Sastre, there are only three riders left.
No top time for Vinokourov, but he is in fourth place, only five seconds down.
William Bonnet of BBox, Bauke Mollema of Raboank and HTC-Columbia's Andre Greipel are the last three in the start house.
Definitely not a new best time for Petacchi. But this is not the kind of stage he is looking for. "Ale- Jet" will have his chance tomorrow.
Mollema takes off. Only one more rider to go.
10:23 for Porte.
Andre Greipel, HTC-Columbia's top-winning sprinter of the year, leaves the start house as the final rider of this year's first stage.
Greipel is said to be suffering not only from intestitinal problems, but also from a fever.
40th place for Sastre.
Bonnet, Mollema and Greipel are still on the road.
Greipel may be ill, but he is giving his all. He doesn't really have to take such chances on the corners, though, does he?
Bonnet's time is 10:38, which is 26th place. Not bad for a sprinter.
Now only Mollema and Greipel left.
Mollema goes into the last km, as we once again see a few raindrops.
Mollema is Rabobank's captain this year, in the absence of three-time world champion Oscar Freire. He finishes down where expected, 46th place.
Greipel is in the last km now. He is doing his best., and that is pretty good.
Greipel opens the sprint!
He finishes in 25th place, 18 seconds down. if he wins tomorrow, he ought to be able to take the pink jersey, with the time bonuses.
Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky wins the stage and takes the first Maglia Rose of the 2010 Giro d'Italia.
And outstanding results for BMC Racing Team, as it takes second and third, with Bookwalter and Evans in the same time.
That was it for the opener. Be sure to join us again tomorrow, as we take a jaunt with the peloton from Amsterdam to Utrecht.