The 2006 Giro d’Italia began on 6 May in Seraing in Belgium, and stage 11 occurred on 18 May in Pontedera. As is usually the case in a Grand Tour, the first half of the race was considerably easier than the second half – both rest days occurred before the halfway point, and there were no mountain stages or stages ending with climbs among the first eleven.
The Giro began with an individual time trial, which defending champion Paolo Savoldelli won to become the first race leader. After breakaways and the team time trial in stage 5 (the first on Italian soil) resulted in three other riders wearing the pink jersey, Ivan Basso took a lead he held all the way to the Giro’s conclusion in Milan with his victory in stage 8.
Sprinter Alessandro Petacchi, who had won thirteen stages in the last two editions of the Giro, fractured his kneecap in stage 3 and was forced to abandon the Giro and miss the rest of the season.
The Giro began in Belgium with a short individual time trial. It was the first time the Giro had come to Belgium since 1973. The course included some climbing, with the second intermediate time check also awarding points to the mountains competition.
A number of early riders posted provisional best times on the day. The first to stand up for any sustained length of time was Stefan Schumacher‘s 8’03”. That time held up against reigning world time trial champion Michael Rogers and other riders like José Rujano and Tom Danielson before José Enrique Gutiérrez bettered it by less than a second. Shortly afterward, Bradley McGee stopped the clock two seconds faster than Gutierrez. The only riders to follow McGee were the Giro’s overall favorites and contenders. Danilo Di Luca had the best time at the first intermediate time check, but lost time as the ride wore on and finished in 8’09”. Former teammates Damiano Cunego and Gilberto Simoni, though neither of them renowned as particularly good time trialists, both finished in 8’16”, with Cunego milliseconds the better of the two. Ivan Basso turned in an 8’13” ride to place himself better than Simoni and Cunego in the first general classification.
With only defending Giro champion Paolo Savoldelli left to leave the starthouse, McGee’s 8’01” was still best and it appeared that the Australian would get the first pink jersey. Savoldelli, however, set by far the best time at the intermediate time checks and was 11 seconds better than McGee at the finish, winning the stage and all four jerseys on the podiums afterward. Savoldelli was the only rider to finish the course in under eight minutes. McGee expressed disappointment after the stage that the last man had beaten him, but also recognized that Savoldelli had turned in the considerably better ride. For his part, Savoldelli was surprised by his victory, and felt poised to challenge for a third Giro victory.
Stage 1 result and general classification after stage 1