The Stage: A short Team Time Trial around Belfast, Northern Ireland to get the Giro started. The expectation: a bit of a pecking order established and an Orica GreenEdge win.
Who won the Stage? Orica GreenEdge (OGE), overwhelming favorites as one of the top two Team Time Trial Teams in the world (the other, Omega Pharma-Quick Step left many of their best time trialists at home) came through in the favorites role, going off early and setting a time that nobody else could beat.
When was the stage won? When OGE announced its team. With no GC riders of note on the entire roster, OGE brought the Austrailian team pursuit team from the track and added a few stage hunters and Canadian time trial ace Svein Tuft (the GC leader by the way though that won't last).
When was the stage lost? It wasn't lost on this day. For the simple reason that OGE won the stage and nobody else had the firepower to match.
What matters in the GC Race? The Garmin guys are done. Also, pre-race co-favorite Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) lost over a minute as did outside GC threat Pierre Rolland (Europcar). At the top, both returning podium finishers from a year ago (Rigoberto Uran, now riding for Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Cadel Evans of BMC) are both within 10 seconds of the lead (that GreenEdge has no chance of keeping once the mountains begin) putting them in the best position going forward.
What matters in the other competitions? Absolutely nothing. With the first stage being a TTT, there are no points either the Points Competition or the King of the Mountains. And the best young rider competition is inhabited by GreenEdge guys that aren't any sort of threat to do anything as soon as this race hits real mountains.
Biggest surprise: Ag2r-La Mondiale put in a credible TTT, finishing 10th. As this team is often allergic to the very concept of the TTT, this is a great result. Team leader Dominico Pozzovivo finds himself less than a minute off the lead instead of his customary 1'45" and that 45 seconds can make a huge difference in a race like this (ask Joaquin Rodriguez, loser by 16 seconds in 2012).
Biggest disappointment: The Garmin crash. With the winner of this race from two years ago and a potential top 10 threat beyond him leading the team there were big things expected from Garmin-Sharp. Instead, Ryder Hesjedal is over 3 minutes down and Dan Martin is out of the race entirely (as is domestique Koldo Fernandez) and Garmin is now reduced to stage hunting with a mostly unhealthy team, just as they were after the Metz massacre in the 2012 Tour de France.
Normally, this is where I would write about the next day's stage, but it has already taken place. Find my review of Marcel Kittel's win here.
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