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Giro d'Italia: 23 teams presented in Turin

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The Italian colors lit up the sky

The Italian colors lit up the sky
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Lampre ISD brought in Roberto Damiani to run the team

Lampre ISD brought in Roberto Damiani to run the team
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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An unusual form of camouflage

An unusual form of camouflage
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Vincenzo Nibali led the Liquigas-Cannondale team

Vincenzo Nibali led the Liquigas-Cannondale team
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The Piazza Castello in Turin hosted the presentation

The Piazza Castello in Turin hosted the presentation
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The Frecce tricolori left plumes of green, white and red smoke to linger in the skies

The Frecce tricolori left plumes of green, white and red smoke to linger in the skies
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The Italians know how to put on a show

The Italians know how to put on a show
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Astana in aqua

Astana in aqua
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Katusha's nine-man team

Katusha's nine-man team
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli

Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Team BMC heads to the presentation

Team BMC heads to the presentation
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The Saxo Bank team kitted out in blue

The Saxo Bank team kitted out in blue
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The Alpini were honored at the Giro presentation

The Alpini were honored at the Giro presentation
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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It's Italy so you have to have beautiful women with signs.

It's Italy so you have to have beautiful women with signs.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Leopard Trek at the Giro presentation

Leopard Trek at the Giro presentation
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Team Sky didn't get the 'casual wear' memo

Team Sky didn't get the 'casual wear' memo
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Team Sky re-painted their motorhome in Italian colors

Team Sky re-painted their motorhome in Italian colors
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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National coach Paolo Bettini was all dressed up

National coach Paolo Bettini was all dressed up
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The minister Ignazio La Russa

The minister Ignazio La Russa
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alberto Contador was popular with the press

Alberto Contador was popular with the press
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Joaquim Rodriguez and Katusha manager Andre Tchmil

Joaquim Rodriguez and Katusha manager Andre Tchmil
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The color guard was out en force

The color guard was out en force
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank Sungard) all smiles before the presentation

Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank Sungard) all smiles before the presentation
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Mark Cavendish leads the HTC-Highroad parade

Mark Cavendish leads the HTC-Highroad parade
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Roman Kreuziger (Astana) will race against Italian favourite and former teammate Vincenzo Nibali

Roman Kreuziger (Astana) will race against Italian favourite and former teammate Vincenzo Nibali
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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There was a parade of classic cars

There was a parade of classic cars
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Michele Scarponi was styling in a traditional alpine hat

Michele Scarponi was styling in a traditional alpine hat
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The teams were lined up Olympic-style

The teams were lined up Olympic-style
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The air force provided some drama for the photographers

The air force provided some drama for the photographers
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The spectacle that is the Giro team presentation

The spectacle that is the Giro team presentation
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The new peloton of the Giro

The new peloton of the Giro
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The Liquigas riders are greeted by the local minister

The Liquigas riders are greeted by the local minister
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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A little local color.

A little local color.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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A crush of photographers in between the parade and riders

A crush of photographers in between the parade and riders
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Vincenzo Nibali saves his legs

Vincenzo Nibali saves his legs
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alberto Contador tries on a new hat

Alberto Contador tries on a new hat
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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These men were on hand in case the proceedings got out of control

These men were on hand in case the proceedings got out of control
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Friday afternoon saw Turin's ambient Piazza Castello host the presentation of a Giro d'Italia aiming to celebrate 150 years of Italian unity. Beginning in Italy's first capital and sweeping south as far as Sicily before beginning the long trek back north to Milan, the race route is designed to showcase the country's sense of nationhood and collective belonging.

To emphasise the motif, the presentation was heavy on patriotic imagery, as it combined the ceremonial opening of the Giro with the annual celebrations of the veterans of the mountain brigades of the Italian army, the Alpini, who are also gathered in Turin this weekend. Two flyovers from the Frecce tricolori left plumes of green, white and red smoke to linger in the skies above, while the Alpini led the riders in a parade into the piazza.

Italian defence minister Ignazio La Russa then took to the plinth to address the Alpini only to face loud jeers from sections of the crowd as he delivered his speech. The Alpini themselves then responded only half-heartedly to his attempts to drown out the murmurs of discontent with chants of "Italia, Italia."

While this spectacle unfolded, the riders were left with a long wait at the fringes of the square before being presented to the crowds. With three gruelling weeks of racing ahead of them, there was widespread bemusement among the peloton as they stood on ceremony, and some riders understandably opted to sit as La Russa continued his lengthy oration.

Nonetheless, the Giro's main players were all present and correct in Turin on Friday afternoon. Pre-race favourite Alberto Contador was in relaxed mood as he chatted with his former Astana teammates, while Mark Cavendish joked with fellow British fastman Adam Blythe.

Vincenzo Nibali and Michele Scarponi attracted the bulk of the cheers from the home crowds, although Alessandro Petacchi, Stefano Garzelli and Italian champion Giovanni Visconti also enjoyed hearty roars of encouragement as they entered the square.

Sidelined they may have been for much of the proceedings on Friday afternoon, the riders definitively take centre stage from Saturday, as the Giro kicks off with a 19.3km team time trial from Venaria Reale into the centre of Turin.