Good morning and welcome to our rolling ticker as we build up to tomorrow's Giro d'Italia. We'll be bringing you news and reactions throughout the day. Stay tuned for all your pre-Giro coverage.
To re-cap, yesterday we saw the main contenders gather in the centre of Belfast for a short presentation. Quintana, Rodriguez, Roche, and Evans were all present. We captured the action and you can see the photos from the event, right here.
And remember that for the next three weeks, this page here should be your dedicated homepage. No excuses.
Garmin Sharp confirmed their Giro line up last night. Dan Martin and 2012 race winner Ryder Hesjedal have been given the roles of leadership. They've worked well in the past as a pair but Hesjedal hasnt been in the best of form this season. Martin, in this exclusive interview, talks about his prep for the race and his hope for the next three weeks of racing.
Golden oldie - I think we can we get away with that -
over the last month. The BMC leader talked about his chances in the Giro but hinted, strongly, that he may not return to the Tour de France before he retires. He probably has another season left in him.
Here's the official start list for this year's race. Scarponi wears dossard number 1.
The Spaniard has been in France and riding over several key stages and climbs in this year's Tour de France. The two-time winner has been in impressive form so far this year with a string of victories.
The man, the myth, the legend Gianni Savio has arrived in Belfast. Click here if you don't believe us. There are still a few visa issues he has to sort out for his riders but it's all systems go for his team. Next stop for Savio, I'm sure, will be the press room.
Ahead of tomorrow's TTT, Alasdair Fotheringham has penned this preview of the race route. It's of course the first time the race has started with a TTT since 2011.
Basso in Gazzetta this morning:
More from Rodriguez (right), who was second here in 2012 and third in last year's Tour de France:
Can he finally net the Grand Tour that has eluded him for the last 14 years? "I hope so, I hope so," Rodriguez told Cyclingnews. "It's about time. But you know that two and two never equal four in this sport, at one race you can have the best form in the world and the best route for you in the world and lose it, and another day you can think you're in really bad shape and that there's no way you can succeed and you win."
Tech Gallery news:
Tech guru James Huang has landed in Belfast and he's sent in this report on race vehicles of the Giro d'Italia.
Savio: "Yesterday evening, the passports and visas arrived. They’re valid until November 7. We’ll even be able to do the Tour of Britain now."
More on the Androni passport situation from Barry Ryan in Belfast: " The team press officer went from Belfast to London yesterday to collect passports and bring them to Rome. Then Savio and the riders flew to London last night and on to Belfast this morning."
Cycling does not traditionally offer high prize money but there is a total of 1.378.000 Euro up for grabs at this year's Giro d'Italia.
Each stage win is worth 11.000 Euro and a day in the pink jersey is worth 1000 Euro. The final overall winner in Trieste on June 1 will collect at least 200.000 Euro.
Marcel Kittel talks to CN:
“I always say that the pressure is only as big as you make it yourself, but of course the situation changed for me after taking those four [Tour] stages. Still we try to focus on our normal work and normal way of preparing the sprint and we can’t do anything else. Of course the expectations are higher, but sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Of the two mass start Irish stages, Kittel says that “we have both of them as a highlight for the team, but Saturday’s not so sure because of the weather” - said to be turning very rainy and windy over the weekend. “If there’s a crash and the bunch splits in the weather, then maybe you are dropped and can go nowhere for the win. So we have pay a lot of attention and try to go for the sprint.”
Mauro Vengi hits back on the passport issue:
The Giro route was presented in October of last year, around six months ago. In six months, you can get any kind of visa for any country in the world,” Vegni said. “I have to say, too, that we have a team that is completely made up of riders from outside the EU [Colombia – ed.] and they’re all here with their visas…”
Our first edition of the Giro shorts (news) is here.
Alessandro Petacchi (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) is the oldest rider in the race at 40 years and 129 days, while his age is balanced out by Sebastian Henao, who is the youngest at 20 years 280 days.
58 riders are making their Giro d'Italia debut, a significant 29% of the 198 riders in action. The Bardiani-CSF team has the lowest average age at 24 years and 218 days. Katusha is the oldest at 33 years and 145 days.
Giro organisers RCS have issued the official start list. There have obviously been some changes from the original one they issued last week, with so many riders suffering from visa issues. You can final all the riders that will line-up in Belfast tomorrow, right here
While it should be dry (although nobody can truly predict the Irish weather) for the team time trial tomorrow, the riders can expect plenty of rain heading their way on the weekend's stages. The general classification riders will have to be very careful, as a crash at this early stage could end their hopes.
Most people are aware of the three Irish riders at the Giro this year, Dan Martin, Philip Deignan and Nicolas Roche. However, there is a fourth. Tinkoff-Saxo's Christopher Juul-Jenson was also born on the Emerald Isle. Juul-Jenson raced in the country until he was 16, but chose to take a Danish race licence as his parents are from there. This will be his first grand tour.
The Giro starts with a time trial for the first time since 2011. Take a look at our preview of the 21.7 kilometre course, here
Robert Millar has written a piece for CN and talks about the start in Belfast.
It's a bit of a strange choice to start the Giro d'Italia in Belfast. When you think the last time a Grand Tour visited Ireland, the infamous 1998 Tour de France, the only memorable thing was the Festina affair and everyone suspicious or frightened about going home before the end. Then there's the Titanic Centre as the first stage focal point, that wasn't exactly a successful venture either.
Maybe the organisers are thinking outside the box, maybe it's third time lucky or maybe I'm just being miserable. It just seems a strange choice, but then the Giro d'Italia people quite often make decisions like that.
Barry Ryan's excellent feature on Fausto Coppi racing in Ireland in 1959 is here. It's a must-read ahead of tomorrow's race.
“For the first time ever, there are two Colombians here as favourites, which is a cause of national celebration. But I think everyone sitting here has almost equal conditions to win the Giro. The race will put us all in our place.”
Dan Martin talks to CN ahead of his Giro d'Italia ride. Watch the exclusive video, right here.
More from the race director Mauro Vengni when asked about the headliners at this year's Giro d'Italia.
“I can’t deny the value of the Tour but I have to say that in the past ten years we have reduced the gap that existed between the Giro and the Tour before the year 2000. There’s still a lot of work to be done but we’re not suffering from any inferiority complex faced with the Tour or any other race.”
Just a couple of hours now before the official teams' presentation here in Belfast.
We've caught up with Ben Swift before tomorrow's start. He's been one of the few riders to perform well at Sky this season:
“I’m coming off some good form in País Vasco, the Ardennes didn’t go so well but to be honest they weren’t really going to suit me.”
“I’ve had a couple of good weeks of training and hopefully I’m still on an upward trajectory here, and although I love the big bunch sprints, I’m really going to target the ‘lumpier’ stages.”
Mark Cavendish is down for the race, and has made his way over to the US. He's spent some time at Specialized HQ in Morgan Hilll.
Meanwhile Peter Stetina will lead the charge for BMC.
Italy's Rossella Ratto (Estado de Mexico-Faren) is the new race leader of the Friend's Life Women's Tour in Britain after beating fellow Italian Susanna Zorzi (Astana) in Bedford, after an aggressive ride in the rain.
Michael Matthews is writing a blog for CN during the Giro. The first one is right here. The GreenEdge sprinter has already taken wins this season and will be making his debut in the race.
Have you been following our daily countdown to the Giro d'Italia?
It all started last week with this general preview of the race route and leading riders.
Click here to read it.
It's just over an hour to the start of the official team presentation in Belfast.
The teams in this year's Giro d'Italia will gather in Belfast City Hall, in Donegall Square.
Despite the presence of Team Sky at the Giro d'Italia, Ben Swift is the only British rider in the race this year.
Read what he told us about targeting sprint victories here.
Who is your favourite to win this year's Giro d'Italia?
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) seems to be many people's pick. He was second in last year's Tour de France but this is his first ever Giro d'Italia.
We will see who pulls on the final pink jersey in Trieste on Sunday June 1. Before there are 3445.5km to race.
We've just uploaded another video. This time from inCycle who have put together this short but sweet promo video for this year's race. Watch it here.
Roche is coming into the race without too much form. However he's plenty of experience in aiming for top ten placings in three week tours. It's all going to be about the third week though, and keeping out of trouble during the opening stages in Ireland.
Complete start list of the Giro d'Italia is right here and the teams' presentation starts in the next few minutes too.
There's been a brief let up in the rain as crowds have started to gather for the team's presentation here in central Belfast.
Belfast City Hall in Donegall Square is now packed with cycling fans and photographers as we await the start of the teams' presentation. It's just a few more minutes away.
Behind the stage, all the riders and teams have arrived. They're all clearly excited and itching to race but today is just about the presentation with the TTT tomorrow evening.
Meanwhile the startlist for tomorrow has been issued. Colombia will be first off, GreenEdge next, in tomorrow's TTT.
BMC, Omega and Astana all follow each other towards the end of the stage. Movistar are off 6th, Team Sky 12th.
Teams and riders are now making their way onto the main stage. Up now are Neri Sottoli - Yellow Fluo. They'll be here for stage wins and have Matteo Rabottini and Simone Ponzi in their ranks. Last year the team under a different name brought shame on the race with Di Luca and Santambrogio testing positive.
Corti has now led his Colombia team onto the stage. No stage wins last year for the team but they'll be looking to light things up in the mountains.
A quick wave to the crowds and they're off, with race organisers RCS keeping things fairly brief at this stage for the teams on stage.
Yukiya Arashiro in his national kit is proudly leading out the Europcar team now. A few decent riders here for the French team that are back in the WorldTour. Sicard and Arashiro will look for stages while Rolland is a good bet for a top ten. He's flown under the radar heading into this race but he's got the talent for ride well over three weeks. As we started to see in 2011 when he won on Alpe d'huez and did well on GC in the Tour de France.
And here comes the franchise: it's Gianni Savio and his Androni team. They've had visa problems all week but they're here. The team include Franco Pellizotti, Sella and Johnny Hoogerland.
Belkin are up next. Now this is a team that could do something here. Wilco Kelderman and Steven Kruijswijk have both impressed here in the past and they've been given joint leadership this time around. Kelderman might be the better bet for a GC rider but either of them can win stages here. They've got experience in the form of Maarten Tjallingii.
When each team arrive on the stage they have a flag from the nation they represent, or rather from where their team is registered. When they leave the stage they leave behind a model, who is left standing with said flag. I've made something simple sound rather complicated haven't I? There's three weeks of this.
Anyway Trek are up next. No Schlecks, no Cancellara but they do have Julian Arredondo, Robert Kiserlovski and a couple of handy riders for the sprints. They'll be looking for a stage and top ten this time around. Hondo is here too. It's his civic duty to attend the Giro each year.
Here come the favourites for the first maglia rosa, Orica GreenEdge. They've had success against the clock already this season and they're stacked with TT riders. They also have Matthews here who is writing a diary for CN and is looking to take on Kittel. And of course Ivan Santaromita, Italian national champ, is here too. Will he lead them over the line tomorrow and pull on pink?
Italian soft prog rock rings out as Bardiani high-five their way onto the stage. Nothing says rock n roll like nine nervous Italians in lycra. Decent team though, who have riders for breaks and the sprints. Pirazzi will attack all the time and Battaglin has won a stage in the race before.
Domenico Pozzovivo and his AG2R riders are up next. The Italian climber has looked in good form so far this season. He'll certainly lose time in the TTs and the French team will suffer tomorrow but a top five place isn't out of reach.
The rain has started again but the models on the stage are still smiling. Not sure what the collective noun is for models. A business of models maybe?
Cunego leads Lampre onto the stage next. He won the race ten years ago. He's passed is best but look out for Winner Anacona, Przemyslaw Niemiec and Diego Ulissi. Ferrari is here to expect some calamity in the sprints too. Niemiec could grind his way onto the podium though.
Meanwhile Kittel has been pulled into a TV interview. He talked pretty quickly but the German was as humble and honest as ever and talked about being one of many sprinters here. He's the man to beat, that's for sure though.
There's a man cycling onto the stage on a BMX bike. Please look away now.
Cunego looks suitably uncomfortable as he watches the BMX bandit do tricks a 13-year-old school truant would be proud of.
Giant Shimano, with Marcel Kittel, are next up. What's to say? He's the best sprinter in the race and should come away with a number of stage wins if he and his team perform to their ability and to their Tour level from last year.
Tinkoff-Saxo are up next with 8 riders on foot followed by Nicolas Roche who rides his bike onto the stage. This is a strong team with Rogers and Rafal Majka also here. Huge cheers for Roche though from the home crowd.
Back stage and Ryder Hesjedal, the 2012 winner, is talking to the media. 'Don't write me off' is the message from the Canadian and he points to the last week when asked when and where the race will be won. Ciao Ryder.
Team Sky are up next. No Porte but Cataldo will lead the GC charge and Deignan is in the squad too.
Only one British rider in the team and in the race in fact and that's Ben Swift.
Cannondale next with Basso leading the line. It's Vivianni, Moreno and Moser who have better chances of being on podiums in this year's race though. Basso was pretty honest and relaxed in the build up to this race though.
Garmin Sharp head to the stage. Daniel Martin follows as the last man on his race bike with Hesjedal on foot with the rest of the team. Farrar is here too and could pop up with a stage win if he gets everything right but it's all about Martin who will be looking to complete the set having won stages in the Tour and the Vuelta.
Omega Pharma are up next with Rigoberto Uran, second in the race last year, leading the Belgian outfit. He's been building up slowly to the race but was improving at least week's Tour of Romandie.
The team also have De Gendt who was on the podium here in 2012 and veteran sprinter Alessandro Petacchi.
Cadel Evans and his BMC team are quickly followed onto the stage by Joaquim Rodriguez and his Katusha squad.
This might be our final team, as Movistar begin their trip to the stage. This is arguably the strongest team in the race with Quintana backed by Amador, Anton, Capecchi, Insausti, and Malori. They could even have a rider in pink by tomorrow evening.
And that's the presentation over for today and with that we draw the curtain down on today's live coverage. Thanks for joining us and remember, we'll be back tomorrow with live coverage from the TTT.
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