Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of the centennial Giro d'Italia, the wonderful stage race that started back in 1908 with a win by Luigi Ganna. This year there are many favourites up for the win: Lance Armstrong (Astana) to Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam), Levi Leipheimer (Astana) to Ivan Basso (Liquigas), Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini) to Damiano Cunego (Lampre-NGC) and Gilberto Simoni (Diquigiovanni) to Denis Menchov (Rabobank).
The favourites for victory are Garmin, Columbia and Katusha.
Marco Pinotti (Columbia-Highroad), the Italian national champion: "We are one of there favourites. Garmin is our main rival."
The Giro d'Italia has featured Venice (or Venezia) in the past. The first time was in 1936 with an individual time trial – Gino Bartali went on to win that year's race. In 1972 there was a road stage from Venice to Mestre and another road stage in 1978. The most famous visit was the start of the 1952 stage, to Bolzano. Fausto Coppi took the race leader's maglia rosa three days prior, but needed more time. He went on the attack in the stage and put in enough time to win that year's race by 9:18.
Here are the start times:
1 Columbia 15.35'00
2 Rabobank RAB 15.40'00
3 Barloworld BAR 15.45'00
4 Garmin-Slipstream GRM 15.50'00
5 AG2R La Mondiale ALM 15.55'00
6 Diquigiovanni 16.00'00
7 Bbox Bouygues Telecom BBO 16.05'00
8 Xacobeo Galicia XGZ 16.10'00
9 Silence-Lotto SIL 16.15'00
10 Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo 16.20'00
11 Quick Step 16.25'00
12 Liquigas LIQ 16.30'00
13 Fuji-Servetto 16.35'00
14 Cervélo TestTeam CTT 16.40'00
15 Saxo Bank SAX 16.45'00
16 Katusha KAT 16.50'00
17 ISD 16.55'00
18 Milram MRM 17.00'00
19 Lampre-NGC 17.05'00
20 Caisse d'Epargne GCE 17.10'00
21 LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini LPR 17.15'00
22 Astana AST 17.20'00
Columbia is about to start.
The American team starts under clear and sunny skies.
Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini) is racing for the L'Aquila earthquake victims. He has special jerseys with his race number printed on them.
There is a slight wind from the east. It is 20°C.
The time checks are at 6.5 and 12.7 kilometres into the course.
"I am not strong in the crono, but I know how to defend myself," said Michele Scarponi (Diquigiovanni) to Rai. "We will go as strong as we an today to limit any losses."
Mark Cavendish (Columbia-Highroad) is the team's sprint star, but there are three national TT champions in the team: Italy's Marco Pinotti, Australia's Michael Rogers and Sweden's Thomas Lövkvist.
Barloworld, with Soler, is in the start house.
The nine men are lined out side-by-side with nine ladies hold each of them up.
Columbia is 10 minutes into the test.
10km to go for Columbia.
Rabobank passes the first time check at 6.5km at 7" behind Columbia.
USA's Garmin is in the start house.
There are two Brits, two Aussies and five Americans. Last year, Garmin won the TTT and put Christian Vande Velde in the maglia rosa.
"The thing about it is that the Giro's 21 days," Mark Cavendish (Columbia-Highroad) told Daniel Friebe Friday morning. "I think it's a bit disrespectful to the race [Garmin staking so much on this]... Your race is going to start on the first day and end on the first day, and that's what Garmin is fundamentally doing.
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We get a look at captain USA David Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream). He had a bad crash in stage two last year and had to withdrawal from the race.
Rabobank at 13.49 on the second time check, 20" less than Columbia.
AG2R is ready to start.
"My computer is not the only thing extra I packed in my suitcase for the three week journey," said Ivan Basso (Liquigas). "There is always a photo of my family, which will accompany me for these weeks. Certainly I can see photos on my computer, but to have a printed photo is a lot better than anything else. The other thing that I always bring is a pillow for sleeping, you never know what you are going to find at the hotels."
Columbia comes to the line...
20km remaining from 20km
They will have the fastest time, they are the first. They clock 21:50, the time of the fifth rider over the line. Cavendish led the team over the line.
News from this morning...
In the team is Gilberto Simoni (Diquigiovanni), a two-time Giro d'Italia winner. Rubens Bertogliati, who is on the team, turns 30 today. Buon compleanno.
Rabobank turns right to start the final straight.
The Dutch team records a time of 22:28.
Garmin is nine seconds down on Columbia after the first time check!
"We went very well, but we have to wait to the end to know if this time is best. We had a good average (57km/h)," said Marco Pinotti (Columbia-Highroad) at the finish.
Garmin is going to have to shake and bake to make up time on its American rival.
Barloworld loses shape as it approaches the line. The front two men have to weight for the rest of the men. They clock 22:44
David Zabriskie and Tom Danielson (Garmin-Slipstream) are trading pulls on the front of the train.
Diquigiovanni lose 19" to Columbia at the first time check.
They drop Cameron Meyer (Garmin-Slipstream) and head to the line with five riders.
David Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream) is in second spot after the left turn.
oh, right turn!
21:56 is their time... the favourite does not win.
Simoni's Diquigiovanni is 12 minutes into the test.
Mark Cavendish (Columbia-Highroad) could take the race leader's maglia rosa if his team wins the 20.5 kilometre time trial.
Silence-Lotto is on the line, ready to start. In the team are Philippe Gilbert and Brit Charles Wegelius, among others.
"I did not know what happened, all I know is that they [Columbia] had a better start than us," said Brit David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream).
AG2R hits the final corner, a right. It has Tadej Valjavec (AG2R La Mondiale) in the team.
Bbox Bouygues Telecom has a time of 14:05 at the first time check.
Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) and his team are on the start line. He won in 2000 and has several stage wins to his name, including two in 2007.
"We worked hard in these last two weeks and we have specialist in the team. It is still early to say if we will win," said Valerio Piva, DS of Columbia.
Diquigiovanni comes to the line with a time of 22.56, 1:06 back for the team of Simoni.
Quick Step is in the start house. The nine men will want to score a good time to forget about problems of the team's star rider, Tom Boonen.
Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas): "It is time to start, break the ice and then the Giro will finally have begun."
Blockhaus stage cut by 5.5 kilometres
It is a hot day here in Piazzale Ravà!
Ivan Basso (Liquigas) recently won the Giro del Trentino and is the number one race favourite this year. His last race was Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Here comes Xacobeo...
The Spanish team clocks 23:09 with an average of 53.1.
We get a look at Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo); his team is 13:52 into the race.
We are here on Venice's lido (the beach that separates mainland Venice from the Adriatic Sea).
Columbia's average was 56.33km/h!
Australia's Cameron Wurf is a new addition to ProTour's Fuji-Servetto, team manager Alvaro Crespi acknowledged in Venice yesterday
Here comes Silence-Lotto, past the final turn.
A right-hander and then the final metres to the line.
They don't score well, a time of 23:12, 1:22 back for Gilbert and co.
Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam) and his boys are on the start line. In the team is Hunt, Lloyd, Gerrans...
Acqua e Sapone comes to the line...
All nine riders seem to be there...
They have a time of 23:11, 1:21 back on Columbia.
"I really wanted to ride the Giro this year because the centennial makes it special, and I want to finish on the podium of all three Grand Tours," Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam) said. "I'm inspired by this race. I like the course. It's hard. It's good for climbers. I just hope we won't have as many transfers from stages locations to hotels as we had when I rode the Giro in the past."
Ivan Basso (Liquigas) and his boys are going at 53km/h.
James Huang had a look at Fabian Cancellara's Specialized S-Works TTR prototype. He is in Venice enjoying the race and working hard for Cyclingnews, like always!
Gilberto Simoni (Diquigiovanni): "It was a good time for us [1:06 back on Columbia], we will go forward after this first day."
Quick Step has a time of 23:04.
Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam) and co. are blasting through the 20.5 kilometres on Venice's Lido. If they keep the heat on high they will knock USA's Columbia off the top of the charts.
"If you think there are 22 teams and 21 stages, it is hard to get at least one stage," Katusha DS Parsani told Cyclingnews the other day. "But we hope to do what we have been doing from February up until now; we hope to come away with a stage win."
Liquigas is 1.5km from the line.
Liquigas is rocking along the waters that separate the Lido from Venice (the other side is the Adriatico sea).
Ivan Basso (Liquigas) and co. pass the last corner.
The team looks good and clocks a time of 22.30, 40 seconds back on the Columbia team of American Bob Stapleton.
"We tried to do the best we could, it is clear Columbia and Slipstream are suited to this. In the end, we had a good time," said Ivan Basso (Liquigas) at the finish.
Fuji comes to the line with a time of 23 and change. The team got a last minute chance to race after the courts forced organiser RCS Sport to take the team last year known as Saunier Duval. Riccardo Riccò and Leonardo Piepoli spoilt the Tour de France with the news of their positive doping controls last year.
Here comes Sastre and his Cervélo boys.
The wind seems to have changed in the last minutes to be more of a headwind in the second half. The stage is an out-and-back course on Venice's lido (the beach that separates mainland Venice from the Adriatic Sea).
Cervélo passes the final turn and approaches the line, they will not beat Columbia.
They slip down the standings.
The team scores a time of 22.39, 49" back on Cavendish's crew.
ISD passes the sixth kilometre with the same time of Columbia! A great day by Giovanni Visconti (ISD) and crew.
Damiano Cunego (Lampre-NGC) is on the road with his teammates. They have a nice tailwind now, but we will see after the first 10 kilometres a slower time.
Saxo Bank nears the line. They have not had the best day.
Columbia will beat Saxo Bank and stay the leader.
Saxo Bank records a time of of 22:45, 55" back on Columbia.
Piazzale Ravà is a place of great tension for 23-year-old Mark Cavendish (Columbia-Highroad). If the team wins he will become the first race leader of the centennial Giro d'Italia, taking the maglia rosa ahead of tomorrow's sprint stage.
Katusha launches down the final straight...
Katusha finishes the day with a time of 22.25, 35" back on Columbia.
Certainly the higher speed winds are not helping the teams starting later in the day. What will Armstrong's Astana team do?
"There was a little wind this morning and more today than the other days," said Filippo Pozzato (Katusha).
ISD closes the day in third, at 22.17.
"I created some different fundraisers to help the survivors: I am selling different cycling related items on eBay and I am selling pink bracelets with Abruzziamo written on them, like Armstrong did for LiveStrong. They will be sold at the Giro d'Italia; it would be great to sell a lot and give a hand to the victims," said Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini) to Cyclingnews this week.
Astana (and Armstrong) is in the start house.
"We thought we could do better," said Giovanni Visconti (ISD) after the stage.
Lance Armstrong (Astana) and team starts. The American, in his first Giro d'Italia, wears race number 21.
LPR travels at 58Km/h!
This is Armstrong's first time to race in Italy since Milano-Sanremo in March. In fact, Mark Cavendish (Columbia-Highroad), the provisional leader, won that day with a tight sprint over Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo).
Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini) and crew passes the first time check with 1" over ISD and 2" over Columbia!
Astana is 3km into the day.
Caisse passes the 2nd time check at 14:01.
Lampre has 2km left to race and the Italian team looks fast. Let's see what they do on this 20.5km Venice course.
Lance Armstrong visited Venice for the first time Thursday afternoon at the Giro d'Italia team presentation. The seven-time Tour de France winner arrived by gondola to Piazza San Marco.
Here comes Lampre...
Lampre of 2004 winner Cunego clocks 22:32, 42" back on Columbia and 2" back on Basso's Liquigas team.
"It is great to get this over and it will be nice to start tomorrow, and the first climbs!" said Damiano Cunego (Lampre-NGC). "It is a good time and we are looking ahead now."
Astana is about half way through the 20.5km test. It is a great view of the team along the waterfront of Venice.
"On an island there is always wind," said Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre-NGC). "We are happy with our time."
Caisse marks the day in Venice, Italy, with a time of 22:48, 58" back on Mark Cavendish (Columbia-Highroad) and crew. That is an average of 53.9km/h.
"It's been a while since I did a race of this magnitude. I know the Giro from its history and its former winners. In 15 years, I never had the opportunity, or I didn't take the opportunity to do the Giro. I'm excited. I'm fit enough. I'm ready to be here," said Lance Armstrong (Astana) on Thursday.
Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini) and crew close with 22:12, 22" back on Columbia and some seconds up on Basso and Cunego's teams.
"We lost some time in the finale," said Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini). "We did well, we knew we could do this."
Astana nears the finish, -1.5km to go.
Janez Brajkovic (Astana) is pulling like a train engine!
They are fighting a close battle with Columbia.
There are still seven of the men left (they have to cross with five).
The team of American Armstrong concludes with a time of 22:03, 13" back on Columbia.
Mark Cavendish (Columbia-Highroad) takes the first maglia rosa of the centennial Giro d'Italia with his team's win today.
Armstrong relaxes after his ride; the team went full gas but fell short to the USA team of Columbia.
Armstrong and Leipheimer talk over the stage.
"We are more than satisfied, the first and second teams were targeting this day," said Levi Leipheimer (Astana).
Thanks for joining Cyclingnews on the first day of the centennial Giro d'Italia. Please return tomorrow for the second day of the three-week stage race.
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