The office workers look down from their windows above Gustav Mahler Plein … from the big brother-little brother symbols of greedy corporate stupidity. ABN-AMRO and Royal Bank of Scotland are among the multinationals with huge offices here.
When the latter decided to buy the former it set in motion devasting financial events which mean the hubristic tw*t Sir Fred Goodwin is now afraid to show his face in public in the UK. And that was before we heard about his little scheme to build a private motorway for his executives from their Edinburgh HQ to the airport. An exhausted ferris wheel sits opposite the towers, proof that what you think will spin for ever eventually shudders to a halt, no matter how much cash you throw around.
Voice of the Giro Barbara Pedrotti laments the cold weather, which kept the riders from the sign-on until late yesterday, and it’s freezing again today. My fingers can’t hold my camera properly. There’s a watery sun, but no rain and a hint of blue. Barbara’s optimistic that the fun is about to start.
A burly security man parades the trophy out of a side door and round the back of a tribune where its deposited in a little ‘bike-taxi’. Seconds later …
… the cheers begin as Yolanthe brings the trophy back to the podium, looking fabulous. There are even bigger cheers for Dutch soccer hero Wesley Snijder, her boyfriend, when he arrives but he blots his copybook with a grade-A celebrity performance throwing his hand in front of his face when the photographers try to take his picture.
The riders are heading for Middelburg today, then on to Italy, but we’re heading home so it’s our last chance to speak to the guys in the mixer.
Bbox’s Yukiya Arashiro is excited by his Giro. It’s flat today so it’ll be easy, right? “No, it won’t! It’s will be a tough stage!”
The Team Milram duo Linus Gerdemann and Fabian Wegmann ride in. Linus is amazed by the spectators. “There have been thousands, maybe millions, of people on the streets. It’s a good sign that cycling is still so popular. I think it was a great success to bring the Giro to Holland.”
Fabian was more focussed on the day ahead: “I’ll try to stay safe today. It’s going to be a hard stage.”
What have the riders made of their Giro experience in Holland? Cameron Wurf is on an adventure with Androni-Giocatolli: “It was certainly a bit of an adventure yesterday. I flatted with about four k’s to go. I was in the front, and with Scarponi there, too, the team cars just went straight past me! So it was a good reminder of why I’m here. I’m here to support and help him and I’m looking forward to later in the race when I hope I’ll get a chance to do that.”
How about the crowds in Holland?: “I certainly didn’t expect all the people! A little note to all the Dutch families with their children. They’re just incredible in their enthusiasm to catch a photo! Certainly something we’re not used to when we’re out training in Australia!” (i.e. Love the enthusiasm, but maybe not be stepping into the road!!)
Team SaxoBank’s Richie Porte had been on the blower to our own Matt Conn last night. Do you reckon you’ll still be in the Maglia Blanca when the race reaches Italy, Richie?:
“We’ll see what happens. I’m not going to kill myself to hold onto it because it’s pretty dangerous there in the end (of the stage) but hopefully in the second and third weeks I can be in there throwing punches to keep it.
The team’s happy. There’s no pressure on us. We’re a young team, but like in Romandie last week, we’re punching above our weight.”
His team-mate Chris Anker Sorensen is back racing after his recent injury. How’s the collarbone healing, Chris?:
“It’s OK. The preparation for this race hasn’t been perfect. I’ve been sitting inside for the last four weeks on the turbo trainer keeping the form a little bit. It’s nice to be back, but yesterday was a bit of a sh!tty day with a lot of crashes.
I was nearly in one, I just saved myself … I was the only one standing of all the guys around me. That shocks you a bit because you have the broken bone clearly in your memory. Now I need a few more races to get the racing rhythm back. Then hopefully I can try my luck on a stage or two.
Team Milram’s Dominik Roels had an interesting end to his TT on stage one, grabbed by two gorgeous brunette presenters for one of the Dutch broadcasters for an interview when he could barely speak, which they tried in Italian, Dutch and English:
“Yeah, it was a surprise because I was totally worn out after the eight-kilometre prologue. But my soigneur came and gave me a jacket otherwise I would have been freezing by the time I would have got back to the bus!
Yesterday was a pretty stressful stage but our team was lucky because we did not crash at all. Now we’re just trying to keep our luck up for this stage before we go to Italy and everything starts over again.
We have three guys who are maybe able to go for the GC – Linus Gerdemann, Thomas Rohregger and Markus Fothen. They have to see who’s the strongest – one will go for the GC and the others will try to go on the attack to try to win a stage.”
Andre the Giant and Marcel the even more Giant are dwarfed by the commercial might behind them.
Meanwhile, Acqua & Sapone must be expecting a tough day. It’s warm weather gear handy rather than liquids, so someone better be careful not to under-hydrate.
Charly Wegelius, (Omega-Pharma Lotto) was in good form: “We didn’t have anybody fall yesterday which is always positive on a day like that.
“The first stages in three week races are always like this, especially in Holland where there’s a lot of traffic furniture on the road.
I’ve been riding well, so I think I have to just try and get through the first stages unscathed.”
Are you looking after 20-year old Brit Adam Blythe, the second-youngest rider in this Giro: “Yeah … if he listens!”
Chris Froome, (Team Sky), climbs off the podium having avoided any dodgy questions about his background. Back at Amstel Gold 2008, the race announcer asked him why he wasn’t colored if he came from Africa!
“The wind’s out, we’re in Holland, there’s lots of road furniture. It’s going to be stressful again today, no doubt.
Tonight hopefully (we’ll travel) on the plane, and even if we get there late we’ll be able to sleep in a bit tomorrow, then go out and have a look at the TTT route.
The TTT is a big goal for the team so we’ll be going full-on for that. I’m fine after yesterday. I think I was actually one of the only guys who didn’t go down.” Let’s hope Chris keeps it that way.
Yesterday, we saw Omega-Pharma Lotto’s Matt Lloyd looking frozen and thoroughly fed-up in the cold: “It’s the Tour of Italy and you’re anticipating at least some sun. The best part about it is that if it’s like this at the start, it’s going to get better so there are things to look forward to! Hopefully today I’ll be looking a bit more optimistic!”
We started in a really different place and you could see by the characteritics of the race yesterday that a lot of guys aren’t too comfortable. I’m going to be interested to see how big some of the time gaps can be by the finish today. Yesterday there weren’t too many dramatic GC changes, nothing that people can’t make up later. We’ve got to see what the breakaway does.
I’m excited to get involved with some of the mountain stages. I haven’t raced in quite a while, I’ve been injured, so hopefully the general form continues to develop. You never know, in the third week you can find yourself in a good place.”
When you’ve got the pink jersey you get your own scooter-minder to get you to the front of the queue.
Once you’re there the perks are pretty agreeable!
Robbie McEwen and Graeme Brown were shooting the breeze at the back discussing yesterday’s crash-fest. Are they glad to be back in the chaos of a Grand Tour? Brown: “I think that question’s addressed to you, Robbie!!”
McEwen: “Well, it’s great to be back in a Grand Tour, don’t know so much about the chaos! I’d rather it was a little more straightforward but that’s part of a Grand Tour especially one that starts in Holland where there’s small roads, traffic islands, wind. It’ll be more of the same today … actually, probably even worse.”
Svein Tuft from Garmin-Transitions helped pilot Tyler Farrar to the stage win yesterday, and will have plenty to do if his man is to get the Maglia Rosa tonight: “It was chaotic, yeah. The final 50 ks were pretty wild. I think it’ll be more of the same today, especially when we get out on the coast, a lot of guys get pretty nervous in the cross-winds. For us, we’ll just ride on the front with BMC for a bit and look after Tyler.”
The riders are waved off and it’s time for us to head to the Centrum as the Giro heads south. We’re under the Amsterdam World Trade Center, all new, shiny, bigger, better, more.
In the shadow of these towers, we see little baby Aster at her first Giro. Her Grandma has knitted her a replica World Champion’s dress and booties. The Dutch traditional love of cycling will go on for another generation, long after the last pink balloon has popped on the 2010 Giro. And for that we should all rejoice.
From Amsterdam, ‘Ciao’, and ‘Tot Ziens’.