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On the start line: Giro d'Italia stage 2

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Marco Pinotti (HTC-Highroad) is a hugely popular pink jersey.

Marco Pinotti (HTC-Highroad) is a hugely popular pink jersey.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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The Giro d'Italia peloton

The Giro d'Italia peloton
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) carries much of the home hopes.

Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) carries much of the home hopes.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Danilo Napolitano (Acqua & Sapone) had time for a quick espresso before the start.

Danilo Napolitano (Acqua & Sapone) had time for a quick espresso before the start.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Mark Renshaw (HTC-Highroad) has a very specific job in Italy.

Mark Renshaw (HTC-Highroad) has a very specific job in Italy.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) at the start of stage 2.

Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) at the start of stage 2.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Richie Porte (Saxo Bank-SunGard) will be a key man in Alberto Contador's Giro bid.

Richie Porte (Saxo Bank-SunGard) will be a key man in Alberto Contador's Giro bid.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) was cheered loudly on the podium in Alba.

Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) was cheered loudly on the podium in Alba.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo) after signing on for stage 2.

Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo) after signing on for stage 2.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Denis Menchov (Geox-TMC) says he is unconcerned by his team's less than stellar showing on the opening day.

Denis Menchov (Geox-TMC) says he is unconcerned by his team's less than stellar showing on the opening day.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Denis Menchov (Geox-TMC) rides to the start line.

Denis Menchov (Geox-TMC) rides to the start line.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) draws a lot of attention as Italian champion.

Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) draws a lot of attention as Italian champion.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) cut a determined figure on the first road stage.

Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) cut a determined figure on the first road stage.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Thiago Machado (RadioShack) at the start of stage 2 of the Giro d'Italia.

Thiago Machado (RadioShack) at the start of stage 2 of the Giro d'Italia.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) wait for the start in Alba.

Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) wait for the start in Alba.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) at the start of stage 2.

Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) at the start of stage 2.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Domenico Pozzovivo (Colnago-CSF Inox) is looking forward to the mountains.

Domenico Pozzovivo (Colnago-CSF Inox) is looking forward to the mountains.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Murilo Fisher (Garmin-Cervelo) in the distinctive jersey of Brazilian champion.

Murilo Fisher (Garmin-Cervelo) in the distinctive jersey of Brazilian champion.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Jussi Veikkanen (Omega Pharma-Lotto) is Finnish champion.

Jussi Veikkanen (Omega Pharma-Lotto) is Finnish champion.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Thiago Machado (RadioShack) enters this Giro as one of the strongest outside bets for a high overall finish.

Thiago Machado (RadioShack) enters this Giro as one of the strongest outside bets for a high overall finish.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Italian champion Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) rides to the start.

Italian champion Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) rides to the start.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone) is one of the most experienced riders at this Giro d'Italia.

Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone) is one of the most experienced riders at this Giro d'Italia.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Bjorn Selander (RadioShack) wears the white jersey of best young rider.

Bjorn Selander (RadioShack) wears the white jersey of best young rider.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Mario Cipollini put in an appearance at the start in Alba.

Mario Cipollini put in an appearance at the start in Alba.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Danilo Di Luca (Katusha) is riding his first Giro since his return from suspension.

Danilo Di Luca (Katusha) is riding his first Giro since his return from suspension.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Pavel Brutt (Katusha) is in fine form, as testified by his showing at the Tour de Romandie.

Pavel Brutt (Katusha) is in fine form, as testified by his showing at the Tour de Romandie.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Emanuele Sella (Androni Giocattoli) at the start in Alba.

Emanuele Sella (Androni Giocattoli) at the start in Alba.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Roman Kreuziger (Astana) is looking to shine at this year's Giro.

Roman Kreuziger (Astana) is looking to shine at this year's Giro.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) was a popular figure at the start in Alba.

Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) was a popular figure at the start in Alba.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) knows that the stage to Parma is one of his chances to make a mark at this Giro.

Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) knows that the stage to Parma is one of his chances to make a mark at this Giro.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) is in fine form after a solid Ardennes campaign.

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) is in fine form after a solid Ardennes campaign.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Marco Pinotti (HTC-Highroad) goes to sign on as maglia rosa.

Marco Pinotti (HTC-Highroad) goes to sign on as maglia rosa.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Michele Scarponi and Danilo Di Luca share a joke on the start line in Alba.

Michele Scarponi and Danilo Di Luca share a joke on the start line in Alba.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)

In the autumn of 1944, during World War II, partisans in Alba famously established a short-lived independence from Fascist-controlled northern Italy, an incident memorably recounted in Beppe Fenoglio’s short story “The 23 days of the city of Alba.” On Sunday morning, a 23-day narrative of a rather different variety continued from the Piedmont town, as the Giro d’Italia gathered for the beginning of stage two.

The early protagonist in this epic is race leader Marco Pinotti (HTC-Highroad), but he is well aware that the leading role could pass to his teammate Mark Cavendish in Parma. Lead-out man Mark Renshaw is the man charged with piloting the Manxman to victory and he told Cyclingnews that HTC-Highroad will be looking to dominate proceedings from the front on the run-in to the finish.

Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) could well prove to be Cavendish’s principal rival for sprint honours at the end of the Giro’s longest stage. The Italian fastman admitted that he was unsure of his sprint form as he has not had occasion to dispute too many bunch finishes to date this season.

Nonetheless, his recent stage win at the Presidential Tour of Turkey augured well for his condition, and he told Cyclingnews that he likes the look of the run in to the finish line. “The last bend is 600 metres from the line, which is much better for than if it was 200 or 300 metres out,” he said just as the flag was about to drop.

Roman Kreuziger (Astana) and Denis Menchov (Geox-TMC) were both keen to put a brave face on their squads’ disappointing performances in Saturday’s team time trial, with each man insisting that the seconds won and lost in Turin would count for little come the final week.

By contrasts, the three favourites Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) finished more or less even on Saturday, and could afford to be in relaxed mood at the start. Contador has looked very much at home since arriving in Italy on Wednesday evening, and the tifosi in Alba offered up hearty applause as he went to sign on before facing into the 244km stage.

Alba is the home of Ferrero chocolate and a minute’s silence was offered in memory of the late Pietro Ferrero before the start. A keen cyclist, the company CEO died recently while riding during a business trip in South Africa. Fittingly, the minute’s silence took place on the street that bears his grandfather’s name.

After that moment of solemnity, the Giro peloton pedalled out of Alba, leaving behind the scenic hills of the Langhe and heading for the flatlands of the Po basin. Under clear blue skies and with little wind on the menu, it will be difficult to deny the sprinters their day in the sun.

For an exclusive gallery from the start in Alba, click here.