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Il Giro d’Italia 2014 – Stage 1; The Giro in Belfast, 21.7 km. Joy and Pain, Sunshine and Rain

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The Giro in Belfast‘Joy and Pain, Sunshine and Rain,’ went the song by Frankie Beverley and Maze back in 1980. Joy and sunshine – well, at least no rain – for big Svein Tuft and the GreenEdge loco; but for Dan Martin and Garmin it was all rain and pain for the Giro in Belfast.

Tuft is one of the nicest men you’ll ever meet, the original Gentle Giant – a beast of a man on a bike, off it he’s polite, friendly, gentle and laid back.

In my book, one of the ‘Good Guys’ – happy birthday, sir!

The Giro in Belfast
Svein celebrates a very memorable birthday. Photo©Gian Mattia D’Alberto

The GreenEdge press release says:

“Part of the team since its maiden season, Tuft has been an integral part of each of the Australian outfit’s important team time trial results.

“During his tenure with the team, the eight time Canadian National Champion has helped deliver victory in the collective race against the clock at Tirreno-Adriatco, Eneco Tour and at the Tour de France.

“The win at the Tour put Simon Gerrans in the yellow jersey.

“Tuft teamed up with Luke Durbridge to twice win Duo Normand, sending a record-breaking time last year.

“He also was part of the team’s medal winning rides in the team time trial at the World Championships – bronze in 2012, silver last year.

“The second Canadian to pull on the pink jersey, Tuft follows in the footsteps of Giro d’Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp).”

Svein Tuft
Orica Green Edge on a high. Photo©Fabio Ferrari

What they omit is that Tuft was a silver medallist in the World Elite Time Trial Championship in Varese in 2008 behind German road roller Bert Grabsch.

And there’s a ‘but’ to that story, Tuft punctured and had to change a wheel…

Svein Tuft
Orica GreenEdge hurtle towards the line, with no time checks or measures to their ride. Photo©Fabio Ferrari

Svein Tuft
Warm up about to begin. Photo©Simon Nicholls

In my Giro appraisal Dan Martin wasn’t going to make the GC podium but I certainly had him down for a spectacular stage win, at least.

His form in the Ardennes speaks for itself but as well as his ‘Luck of the Irish’ deserting him in Belfast, it did the same thing in Liege.

Perhaps it’s because he’s only ‘kid-on’ Irish – having been born and raised in Birmingham but taking his mother’s Irish nationality on board because the GB selectors couldn’t see the talent in the man.

So it’s all Sir David’s fault.

Svein Tuft
Garmin, before disaster struck. Photo©Fabio Ferrari

Having cleared that up, let’s talk about the rest of the race.

The first item on the agenda has to be the seeding – picking names out of a hat?

Why the hell do we have a World Team Time Trial Championship?

As reigning champions the Quickstep boys should have been last team on the road; with seeding based on Worlds positions.

Teams who didn’t participate in the Worlds should have been assessed on TTT rides in other races.

A few years ago we changed the rules here in Scotland so as the top riders don’t go off on the 10 minute marks, rather at two minute intervals at the rear of the field to ensure a level playing field as far as weather conditions go.

Had this type of common sense approach been taken in the Giro, it would have been a different race; with GreenEdge, BMC and QuickStep all riding over the same tarmac.

Whilst GreenEdge must have been disappointed to go off second with no opportunity for time checks and before the crowd was ‘warned up,’ they ‘won a watch’ riding in dry conditions whilst the later teams had to ride through anything from a raging downpour to across slippery tar, white lines and drain covers.

Svein Tuft
The fantastic Titanic building was the backdrop to the partenza. Photo©Gian Mattia D’Alberto

The course was tougher and more technical than it looked, 52 kph isn’t CTC pace but these days 56 kph isn’t uncommon for this discipline.

Whilst GreenEdge got what they came for and anything else now is a bonus, it was a good evening’s work for QuickStep, putting Uran right where he needs to be from day one.

And isn’t Petacchi a man?

Yeah, yeah, we know – Salbutamol – but it never a black and white case and did he take it for every one of those 180-odd victories?

He was at the front on the long drag to Stormont then put in a huge final turn as the finish approached.

He’s all, handsome, tanned, fast, and not prone to gubbing off; for me, along with Hondo, the coolest man in the peloton.

BMC put in a good ride for Cadel. Photo©Fabio Ferrari
BMC put in a good ride for Cadel. Photo©Fabio Ferrari

It was a good start too for Cadel Evans, those BMC boys ride a mean TTT – second in Valkenburg to QuickStep – and those Time Machines they ride are beautiful.

So good starts for two of the favourites but not so hot for Quintana.

Svein Tuft
The Movistar boys bore the brunt of the weather. Photo©Fabio Ferrari

Despite Movistar being strong in this discipline – remember their winning ride in the Vuelta TTT the other year? – they were scrappy but team boss Eusebio Unzue put it into perspective;

“We knew that weather in such a country changes in a matter of minutes — this could happen, since some favourites were starting more than one hour apart.

“We had to do our whole TTT under the rain, from the very start, and especially the most complicated section, which was the downhill after the slopes to the palace.

“There wasn’t much water on the road there, but enough to force us to cover it more slowly. It was awful for us.”

Quintana is 50 seconds behind Uran and 48 behind Evans; there’s a school of thought which says; ‘that’s nothing come the mountains’ – but remember that Horner’s winning margin in the Vuelta was 37 seconds over Nibali.

The ‘Big’ who had the worst day – apart from Martin – has to be Joaquin Rodriguez; he’s already almost one-and-a-half minutes down on Uran and Evans.

Svein Tuft
Katusha didn’t go the ride they wanted to. Photo©Gian Mattia D’Alberto

The thing with TTT’s is that the “good big ‘un will always beat a good little ‘un” theory is never more applicable than in this discipline.

The Katusha boys may be hard as nails but they’re not bears like Tuft and Durbridge.

Svein Tuft
Katusha at speed. Photo©Simon Nicholls

I’ve got through that without too much of a rant – but…

Svein Tuft
Nero Sottoli are presented to the public in Belfast. Photo©Gian Mattia D’Alberto

The ‘should Scinto and Nero Sottoli be here?’ routine from the EuroSport commentator was totally unnecessary – should Garmin be here, in that case?

There’s also Cannondale, QuickStep, Tinkoff etc. – if you’re going to name two ‘dopers’ then name them all – or better still, keep your mouth shut.

Svein Tuft
FdJ Recce the route. Photo©Simon Nicholls

And finally, I never thought I’d find myself writing about Travel Visas – but here goes; couldn’t British Cycling have had a word at the highest levels to sort that mess out?

And we keep getting told that Britain is obsessed with cycling and all things bike racing…

‘Joy and Pain’ for some – but for most teams the TTT is summed up by the words of Salman Rushdie; ‘what can’t be cured must be endured.’

Ciao, ciao.

Svein Tuft
An amazing turnout in Belfast sends the Giro on it’s way. Photo©Fabio Ferrari

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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