Mathieu van der Poel wins chaotic finale to land stage one at Giro d'Italia after Caleb Ewan crashes heavily

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Mathieu van der Poel - GETTY IMAGES
Mathieu van der Poel - GETTY IMAGES

Mathieu van der Poel took the first pink jersey of the Giro d'Italia in a chaotic finish to the opening stage in Visegrad.

The Dutchman, making his Giro debut, emulated his success in taking the yellow jersey early on in his first Tour de France last summer as he beat Biniam Girmay in an uphill sprint to the line.

Caleb Ewan was on for a podium finish but the Australian brushed wheels with Girmay in sight of the line and hit the deck hard, allowing Pello Bilbao to take third place.

Van der Poel, grandson of the late French favourite Raymond Poulidor and a star on the road, in cyclo-cross and on his mountain bike, started the day as favourite given the uphill finish to the 195km stage from Budapest.

His Alpecin-Fenix team took up the chase at the foot of the five kilometre climb from the banks of the Danube to the line, and Van der Poel controlled his effort as attacks from Lawrence Naesen and Lennard Kamna came to nought.

"I knew positioning was going to be the key to win today," the 27-year-old said. "There was some difficulty, I was boxed in a few times on the climb and it cost a lot to catch up.

"At the final I just launched my sprint and it was pretty close because the legs were full of lactic acid but of course I'm really happy.

"It's incredible after the yellow jersey to have the pink and now we will see what the time trial brings tomorrow."

While Van der Poel takes pink, Girmay goes into the white jersey for the best young rider, a superb return for the 22-year-old Eritrean on the opening day of his first Grand Tour.

"It was a super hard finish," the Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux rider said. "I tried to do my best, I've never done a sprint like it. For 250-300 metres I am at the limit. I fully accept he was stronger than me today but I'm really happy."

The uphill finish created some small time gaps, with 2019 champion Richard Carapaz, Wilco Kelderman and Bauke Mollema among those to pick up four seconds on the other general classification contenders, including Britain's Simon Yates.

Mark Cavendish had said prior to the race he would not seek to contest this stage given the uphill finish, but he was active in the intermediate sprint, picking up a handful of points and indicating he intends to see this Giro through to the finish in Verona.

The race continues with a 9.2km time trial in Budapest on Saturday, the second of three stages in Hungary before the race shifts to Sicily next week. PA

Giro d'Italia stage one: As it happened . . .

03:20 PM

Van der Poel wins stage one to take pink!

Mathieu van der Poel has done it, the Alpecin-Fenix rider wins the opening stage on his Giro d'Italia debut to take hold of the leader's pink jersey. It was a frenetic finale following a relatively benign day, but once the attacks started flowing the stage exploded into life.

Davide Formolo attacked appearing as if UAE Team Emirates team-mate Diego Ulissi was coiled and ready to go for it, but the pair were reeled back. Caleb Ewan, whose Lotto-Soudal team-mates had done a sterling job at setting him up going into the climb, looked fresh, as did Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux). However, after Van der Poel had gone wide down the left-hand side of the road, Girmay opened up his sprint with Ewan jumping onto his wheel. Unfortunately for Ewan, though, the Australian brushed the rear wheel of the Eritrean and he crashed down to the ground, his hopes of winning the opening stage, like his jersey, in tatters.

Caleb Ewan - GETTY IMAGES
Caleb Ewan - GETTY IMAGES
Caleb Ewan - GETTY IMGES
Caleb Ewan - GETTY IMGES
Caleb Ewan - GETTY IMAGES
Caleb Ewan - GETTY IMAGES

Speaking seconds after the stage finish, Van der Poel said: “I knew positioning was going to be the key for winning today and it's been difficult because I've been boxed in a few times. Only at the very end I realised that I could beat the sprinters. It's incredible to wear the maglia rosa after the yellow jersey. But there's a time trial tomorrow and I don't know if I will be able to defend it. I'm gonna try for sure."

Mathieu van der Poel  - AP
Mathieu van der Poel - AP

Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) held on for third, with Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) in fourth. Richard Carapaz was sixth, the Ineos Grenadiers rider gaining 4sec on on general classification rival Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco). Ben Tulett, the 20-year-old Briton making his grand tour debut for Ineos Grenadiers, finished in 15th between general classification contenders Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) and Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe).

03:19 PM

500 metres to go

Davide Formolo attacks . . .

03:18 PM

1km to go

Lennard Kämna is giving it everything, but he's starting to look laboured and I fear he may be caught.

03:17 PM

2km to go

Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe), stage winner at the 2020 Tour de France, has set off. The German catches and drops Lawrence Naesen, while 6sec down the road the Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux powered peloton is pulling hard and in close pursuit.

03:16 PM

2.5km to go

Biniam Girmay inches towards the front of the field, while further back Davide Ballerini is caught up in a crash.

03:15 PM

3km to go

Three Ineos Grenadiers riders now lead the peloton, but the head of the bunch is packed with talent and firepower.

03:14 PM

4km to go

Lawrence Naesen clips off, and the Belgian is motoring. But can the Ag2r-Citroën man hold off the chasing pack?

03:13 PM

4.5km to go

Lotto-Soudal may have lost Harm Vanhoucke, but the Belgian team has lost none of its hunger. But Alpecin-Fenix have five riders on the front, with the unmistakable figure of Mathieu van der Poel punching his way through the air.

03:11 PM

6km to go: Crash!

Erik Fetter (Eolo-Kometa) of Hungary has been caught up in a crash, as has the in-form Harm Vanhoucke of Lotto-Soudal.

03:08 PM

8km to go

Mark Cavendish and Romain Combaud (DSM) are hanging off the back, while their respective teams are tanking it on the front. Nervous moments for teams and riders as they approach the decisive climb of the day, but thankfully the road is fairly wide with no pinch points.

Interestingly, there is no 3km rule in place today so general classification riders will,not want to be getting caught out behind any spills.

03:06 PM

11km to go

British rider Owain Doull, 29, is pulling hard on the front now, possibly thikning about EF Education-EasyPost team-mate Magnus Cort.

03:04 PM

13km to go

Michael Morkov of Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl is riding dead centre, is he working for Davide Ballerini, or perhaps just staying out of harm's way?

03:02 PM

14km to go

Game over for Mattia Bais and Filippo Tagliani. The two brave souls who have been out in front for 181km of this long, and fairly uneventful, stage. But fear not, things are winding up as teams battle for position at the front of the speeding pack.

03:01 PM

15km to go

Thomas De Gendt is pulling hard down on the right-hand side of the road, creating a slipstream for his team-mates and Caleb Ewan who may be thinking about going for glory in a short while. Groupama-FDJ are positioned alongside Lotto-Soudal, but are they thinking about sprinter Arnaud Démare or their Hungarian Attila Valter?

02:57 PM

17km to go

Mark Cavendish is riding off the back of the bunch, I think it is safe to assume he is not thinking about contesting the stage today. At the other end, the bunch is fanned out with rider filling the entire width of what is a wide looking road. Mattia Bais and Filippo Tagliani are digging deep, holding on to an advantage of 22sec but it is only a matter of time before the Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli team-mates are reeled back in after clipping off from the flag.

02:51 PM

21km to go

Just under 16km from the foot of the key point in today's race, the short 5.5km climb in Visegrad. Speaking on Eurosport a short while ago, Mathieu van der Poel reckoned the climb may not be hard enough for him to get rid of the natural sprinters.

Visegrad
Visegrad

02:47 PM

24km to go

The peloton is within touching distance of stage leaders Mattia Bais and Filippo Tagliani. Just 19sec separates the two now.

02:45 PM

27km to go

Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) led the bunch through the intermediate sprint to give himself a nine 1sec time bonus. With Saturday's time trial, is the Belgian thinking about taking hold of the pink jersey 24 hours from now? What a popular result that would be.

02:42 PM

27.5km to go

Mattia Bais passed through the second intermediate sprint of the day to earn himself a 3sec time bonus, while team-mate Filippo Tagliani picked up 2sec. The peloton will follow through the town of Esztergom in around 1min, but there is just 1sec left for the first rider through the intermediate sprint – it will be intriguing to see if it is contested, and who wins it.

The stage leaders, by the way, have seen their advantage drop to below a minute now, 19sec to be precise.

02:35 PM

Rein's best friend . . .

02:30 PM

37.5km to go

Mattia Bais and Filippo Tagliani's advantage plummets to just 1min 15sec. Alpecin-Fenix, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux and EF Education-EasyPost all have riders on the front of the bunch. DSM are not budging, holding their position with all of their riders tucked in behind those setting the pace. Are DSM thinking about Cees Bol or Alberto Dainese today? Or does Romain Bardet fancy it? The finale may not long or hard enough for Bardet, but let's wait and see.

02:26 PM

40km to go

Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, with their luminous yellow shouldered jerseys, are swarming around the front of the bunch. Biniam Girmay's team will be hoping to set their man up, but can the young Eritrean who won silver in the Under-23 race at last year's world championships in Belgium get the better of the power-house that is Mathieu van der Poel?

02:15 PM

47km to go

Giacomo Nizzolo is chasing back on after the Italian sprinter, I think, was forced into dropping back to his team car. Thankfully for Nizzolo, he has Israel-Premier Tech team-mate Matthias Brändle shepherding up the road, while Colombian Harold Tejada (Astana Qazaqstan) hitches a lift. For those that have not been paying too much attention to the cycling season, Israel-Premier Tech is one of the teams whose WorldTour future is looking a little precarious.

In order to compete in next year's WorldTour a team must not only match the International Cycling Union's ethical, financial and organisational criteria, but also finish this season in the top 18 of the rankings that cover the previous three seasons of racing (2020, 2021 and 2022). Based on the standings going into this season – points are won in all UCI races, not just those part of the WorldTour – Cofidis and Lotto-Soudal (19th and 20th) faced potential relegation, while Alpecin-Fenix and Arkéa-Samsic stood to earn promotion. Israel-Premier Tech, as it stands, are worryingly close to the drop zone and are in desperate need of some UCI points. An awful lot rests on the shoulders of Nizzolo who is Israel-Premier Tech's leader at the Giro.

02:11 PM

50km to go

And the leading duo have 1min 27sec on the peloton.

02:07 PM

52.5km to go

Senne Leysen rides on the front for Alpecin-Fenix, the Belgian pedalling smoothly. Tucked in behind is Rein Taaramae (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), then a rider from EF Education-EasyPost. As has been the case for almost all of the stage, DSM have taken position just behind those pace-setters, followed by Alpecin-Fenix and Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux.

02:02 PM

58.5km to go

The breakaway's advantage has dropped to below two minutes for the first time for over three hours. As Sean Kelly has just said on Eurosport, today's stage has been a 'slow burner', but those that are hoping to contest the stage will soon be starting to position themselves.

01:55 PM

63km to go

Mattia Bais and Filippo Tagliani's lead is down to 2min 15sec, while back in the bunch Mark Cavendish was just spotted grinning ear to ear. Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma), meanwhile, has been stretching out while on the move. As you do.

01:48 PM

Here's some pictures of Cavendish . .

Mark Cavendish - GETTY IMAGES
Mark Cavendish - GETTY IMAGES
Mark Cavendish - GETTY IMAGES
Mark Cavendish - GETTY IMAGES
Davide Bramati and Mark Cavendish  - GETTY IMAGES
Davide Bramati and Mark Cavendish - GETTY IMAGES
Mark Cavendish - GETTY IMAGES
Mark Cavendish - GETTY IMAGES

01:41 PM

70km to go

Giro - GETTY IMAGES
Giro - GETTY IMAGES
Giro - GETTY IMAGES
Giro - GETTY IMAGES
Giro - GETTY IMAGES
Giro - GETTY IMAGES

01:35 PM

75km to go

Mathieu van der Poel has a phalanx of Alpecin-Fenix team-mates shielding him up towards the strung out peloton. The wind is blowing, but the Alpecin-Fenix boys look fairly relaxed. No sign of Biniam Girmay just yet, but it is early days in this long and, let's face it, not very exciting stage just yet. The two-man breakaway is applauded by the crowds in the town of Bicske. Must say, the locals appear to have taken the race to their hearts.

01:26 PM

80km to go

The peloton passes through a vast looking space, fairly exposed with a left to right wind. Don't think it is strong enough to cause any splits, but teams and riders will be on high alert.

01:20 PM

84.5km to go

The peloton inches its way past a handful of soigneurs who are stood at the roadside with bottles and musettes packed with food for their riders. Always dangerous places, if a rider misses a bag or drops anything in the bunch it can result in carnage.

01:16 PM

87.5km to go

Alpecin-Fenix and EF Education-EasyPost are sharing the work on the front of the peloton, while the entire DSM are tucked in behind. Filippo Tagliani and Mattia Bais's advantage has dropped slightly to 2min 45sec as the pair roll along on a lovely looking smooth road.

01:09 PM

What does today's finale look like?

finale
finale

01:03 PM

95km to go

Mark Cavendish took a bike change a few minutes ago. The British sprinter didn't appear to have a puncture, with Robbie McEwen who is on commentary duty for Eurosport saying he just took a lighter bike from his team car. There's a 5km climb at the end of the stage and although it just has an average gradient of five per cent, it may be too hard for the Manxman. Or is he thinking otherwise?

12:59 PM

100km to go . . .

. . . and Filippo Tagliani and Mattia Bais's lead is down to below 4min.

12:53 PM

Easing into things

For those that use power meters, or like to discuss Watts when out riding with mates when you should really be concentrating on improving your bike handling skills, the 2019 winner Richard Carapaz is having an easy day of it thus far.

12:46 PM

110km to go

Filippo Tagliani and Mattia Bais plough on having lost a bit of time following the injection in pace from the intermedite sprint a few minutes back. The pair have 4min 20sec on the peloton.

12:32 PM

Tagliani the early points classification leader

Filippo Tagliani (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli) rolled through the first intermediate sprint ahead of team-mate Mattia Bais (8pts), around 5min ahead of the peloton, to take 12 points. There is one more intermediate sprint to follow just over 20km from the line, but time bonuses will be up for grabs there rather than points that go towards the race for the magila ciclamino.

Interesting to see that Giacomo Nizzolo (Israel-Premier Tech) take third (6pts). Mark Cavendish appeared a little annoyed after taking just three points behind Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) and his Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl team-mate Bert Van Lerberghe. Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates), meanwhile, took 2pts and Sacha Modolo (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane) picked up a solitary point. Not sure if we can read too much into Cavendish's mood, but it may suggest the Manxman is brimming with confidence and, perhaps, is thinking of targeting the magila ciclamino here this year?

12:28 PM

120km to go

Caleb Ewan and Mark Cavendish have been chatting in the bunch where it looks very relaxed right now. Depending on how the stage pans out, Lotto-Soudal rider Ewan may find himself contesting the stage win, though I doubt it very much that Cavendish will be doing so.

Cavendish, of course, is riding his first Giro since 2013. While he is, as it stands, not pencilled in to ride the Tour de France, he has so far avoided discussing July's race. He did, however, speak about the Giro earlier this week.

“I’m coming into the race prepared and relaxed,” Cavendish said. “I worked hard for this, scored some victories already this year, and the motivation is there. I always loved being here and it feels great to return after nine years. Last time I was here I took five wins and the points jersey, so there are a lot of great memories I have from the previous participations.

Mark Cavendish - GETTY IMAGES
Mark Cavendish - GETTY IMAGES

“Obviously, the dynamic of the Giro might have changed since the last time I was here and it might not be the race I remember, so we’ll see how things unfold. But as I already said, I had a good preparation and I’m happy with where I am. Actually, I’m in pretty similar form to last year, and this gives me confidence.”

“We have a very good team for this race and I’m delighted to have Michael as my lead-out man, but also Davide [Ballerini] and Bert [Van Lerberghe], who will form a strong train for the bunch sprints. That’s the biggest factor for my confidence, knowing that I have these incredible guys in front of me that I can trust. But it’s not only them, it’s also Mauro, Mauri, James and Pieter, all great guys to ride around Italy and spend time with.”

“I looked over the parcours (route) and there will be a couple of opportunities for a bunch sprint in the next three weeks, although I don’t think the pure sprinters will have a chance on the opening stage. The Giro has always had some savage stages and this year is no different, but it will be the same for everyone. We’re happy to be here, you can feel how everything is building up with just days to go until the start, and we’ll try to be in contention every time there will be an opportunity.”

The two-man breakaway, by the way, has seen its lead drop to a shade over 5min.

12:15 PM

130km to go

Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli team-mates Mattia Bais and Filippo Tagliani have lost a little bit of time as Rein Taaramae continues to work with DSM on the front of the peloton. DSM, who are no strangers to using some clever tactics, are clearly riding to a clear plan . . . I just don't know what that plan is right now. Perhaps they are just keeping the likes of Romain Bardet and Thymen Arensman out of harm's way, or are they thinking about the stage win?

Anyway, this is probably one of the highlights of the day so far . . .

12:10 PM

Girmay: 'My childhood dream becomes reality'

Speaking earlier this week, Biniam Girmay said riding at the Giro d'Italia was a 'childhood dream', with the Eritrean explaining that a win would be huge for his country and African cycling in general.

Biniam Girmay - GETTY IMAGES
Biniam Girmay - GETTY IMAGES

"As a kid I watched the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia on television with my friends," Girmay said in an Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux statement. "I went out on the bike dreaming of participating to a grand tour and this Friday my childhood dream becomes reality.

"My performances since the start of the season, I admit that they exceeded the expectations, enable me to start in Budapest with ambition. With the team, we aim for a stage victory. If I manage to achieve this, I would become the first black African to win a grand tour stage. Just like my medal at the world championships and my victory in Ghent-Wevelgem, this would mean a lot to my country, to the African continent and to cycling in general."

12:00 PM

As it stands . . .

Right folks, the Giro d'Italia is very much under way, though rather than popping or fizzing, the racing today got off to a fairly sedate start when Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli team-mates Mattia Bais and Filippo Tagliani rode off the front of unchallenged.

The peloton crosses the Szabadsag Bridge in Budapest - EPA
The peloton crosses the Szabadsag Bridge in Budapest - EPA

Lotto-Soudal and Alpecin-Fenix had positioned riders up near the front, tucked in behind the race director's car and the bunch ambled its way through the neutralised section of road that took them out of Budapest, monitoring the situation on behalf of their riders Caleb Ewan and Mathieu van der Poel who will both be thinking about the stage win today. As soon as the flag dropped, though, the Italian duo wasted little time in clipping off the front. Having slipped into cruise control, Bais and Tagliani gained an advantage of almost 11 minutes after around 30km of the stage chalked off.

If truth be told, there is not a great deal to say about what has happened (or has not happened) so far today. But be rest assured, the peloton will not be wanting this leading pair to still be on the front once the race reaches the final 5km climb of the day.

Tom Dumoulin and Mathieu van der Poel - GETTY IMAGES
Tom Dumoulin and Mathieu van der Poel - GETTY IMAGES

After looking fairly disinterested earlier, Alpecin-Fenix now have some riders up near the head of the field. Interestingly, too, DSM have decent numbers up there while Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux have had Rein Taaramae helping out. For those new to cycling, these teams will be doing their best to make sure the gap between the stage leaders and the peloton, or main bunch, does not grow too large. If Bais and Tagliani cannot be caught then their respective team leaders, or riders whose attributes suit today's finale, cannot challenge for the stage win. Because this is the opening day, whoever wins will top the general classification and get the opportunity to wear the maglia rosa, the pink jersey, of race leader.

With 142km of the stage remaining, Bais and Tagliani's advantage has dropped to a shade below 8min.

08:00 AM

Ciao!

And so here we are, day one of the first grand tour of the year: the 195-kilometre first stage from Budapest to Visegrad. That's right folks, the 105th edition of the Giro d'Italia kicks off later today and Telegraph Sport is all present and correct and reporting for duty.

Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that today's stage – and the subsequent two days of racing that make up the grande partenza, or 'big start' – takes place in Hungary, which in years to come may not look to have been the wisest of moves from race organisers RCS. Whatever the rights or wrongs the Giro getting under way in Hungary, the three-week race should be a cracker. It almost always is.

Giro 2022
Giro 2022

Despite not having two of the biggest names in grand tour racing on the 176-man start list, the absence of Tadej Pogacar and Primoz Roglic should make the Giro an open and fiercely contested race. Unlike the Tour de France which can, at times, feel a little predictable and, dare I say it, formulaic, its younger Italian cousin is a little rougher around the edges. Chaotic, anarchic and often unpredictable, the Giro is unquestionably the most beautiful stage race in world cycling.

Comprising 21 stages and contested over 3,437.6 kilometres – that's 2,136 miles in old money – which is an average of 163.7km (101.7 miles) per day (see below for the complete 21-stage profile). Although race organisers have this year included fewer climbs that go high above 2,000m than usual, the race features 50,610 metres (166,043 feet) in altitude gain. The highest point in the race – la cima Coppi – comes on the penultimate day of racing, during the Dolomites stage when the riders crest Passo Pordoi.

Giro stage profile
Giro stage profile

Three former winners start – Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo, 2013 and 2016), Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma, 2017) and Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers, 2019) – but there are plenty of others who will be hoping for a crack at the general classification.

Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) is Britain's best hope and, for me, is probably second favourite behind Carapaz who has a slightly stronger support team. Yates, 29, who wore the maglia rosa, the leader's pink jersey, for 13 days in 2018 before his dramatic collapse on stage 19 when Chris Froome memorably took the overall lead, arrives in fine form having won two stages at last week's Vuelta Asturias. Speaking in the days counting down to the race, Yates explained his love of the race that he starts for a fifth time today, while outlining his ambitions.

Simon Yates - GETTY IMAGES
Simon Yates - GETTY IMAGES

"There are many things that keep bringing me back," Yates said. "It's just a race I enjoy racing. We have a lot of Italian staff on the team, our service course is [in Varese], and I really enjoy the atmosphere in the team when we all come together and try to win the Giro. I think it's a race that suits me well, it's a very difficult race with lots of climbing.

"I think I've learned patience. You need to be quite calm. The race is three weeks. You can always go back to 2018 where we really went after it in the first and second weeks and then fell apart in the third.

"But even last year I had some problems with my hamstrings in the first week but still came good towards the end, managed a stage and arrived on the podium. You've got to have an eye on the big picture, be patient and wait for the race to come to you."

Yates, however, refused to be drawn on whether he will take home the maglia rosa, saying: "I'll let you guys make that decision. I think the riders are just anxious to start. There are others who will be competitive. Take it back to last year. I'd won the Tour of the Alps [ahead of the Giro] and I kept reading I was a massive favourite. Romain Bardet won the Tour of the Alps this year and I've heard nothing about him so I think there's a few guys flying under the radar.

"I feel good," he insisted. "I won two good stages and the sensations are good. The second day was my first exposure to some really hot conditions and in the past I've had some difficulties with my first exposure of the year. But I'm not worried. We'll see once the race starts."

Aside from Carapaz and Yates, there area a handful of other general classification riders who will be eyeing the Trofeo Senza Fine (the swirly trophy awarded to the overall winner) and, of course, the fabled pink jersey. Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirtaes), Miguel Angel López (Astana Qazaqstan) and Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) are probably the next group of favourites, while Romain Bardet (DSM), Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) will also have designs on a podium finish in Verona a little over three weeks from now. I would not be surprised if Tobias Foss ended up leading the Jumbo-Visma team as I am not too sure about Dumoulin's form, while Hugh Carthy, one of three Britons in the EF Education-EasyPost team, could leave his stamp on the race. Enough of the idle speculation, what does today's stage look like?

Featuring two intermediate sprints, the long and flattish looking stage appears, at first, relatively benign. But there is a sting in its tail. After what is expected to be a fast approach, the finale includes a short 5km climb with an average gradient of five per cent, though it nudges up to eight per cent in places. Likened by some as Poggio-esque climb, but without the descent over the other side, we could see a varied field of riders challenge for the stage win and, of course, the first pink jersey of the race.

Stage one
Stage one

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) is one of the favourites, but the powerful Dutchman will be gifted nothing from his rivals. Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), winner of Ghent-Wevelgem in March, would make cycling history this afternoon as the Eritrean aims to become the first black African to win a stage in a grand tour.

Depending on how the stage is raced, a sprinter like Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) may even prevail – the Australian can hoik himself over these type of climbs with relative ease – while Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) or team-mate and Italian compatriot Alessandro Covi may also fancy a crack. I suspect Hungarian rider Attila Valter (Groupama-FDJ) will also be keen on challenging.

Today's racing starts at 11.40am (BST), while our live coverage gets under way at 1pm.