Brent Bookwalter
Brent Bookwalter nearly pulled off the win in stage 1 of the 2010 Giro. Photo: Graham Watson |

Brent Bookwalter (BMC) came within a few pedal strokes of the biggest win of his career Saturday when he stopped the clock just two seconds shy of the maglia rosa in the opening stage of the 2010 Giro d’Italia.

Bookwalter, 26, rode aggressively on rain-slickened roads to surprise many with a very strong time of 10 minutes, 20 seconds, on the 8.4km course in Amsterdam. Starting 144th out of 198 riders, only Olympic pursuit champion Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) could nip him at the line with the winning time of 10:18.

“I am a little speechless — my head is still spinning a little bit,” Bookwalter said after the stage. “I really  had no expectations of doing a ride like that going into it.”

To put this in perspective of how impressive his ride was, Bookwalter had never finished in the top 10 of any European time trial he’s started since turning pro with BMC in 2006.

While he’s no stranger to winning prologues — he won the leader’s jersey in the 2009 Tour of Utah — the Giro d’Italia is a whole other kettle of fish.

Bookwalter didn’t let the grandeur of the Giro or racing in front of tens of thousands of rowdy Dutch fans get to him in his grand-tour debut.

“The distance and technical nature of the course suited me,” he said. “I had no pressure; this is my first grand tour, which also helped. It’s really exciting to do a good ride.”

Bookwalter’s time was good enough to even edge teammate Cadel Evans by fractions of a second. The world road champ settled into third.

“It’s a very special situation to have a guy like Cadel come in to say, ‘Impressive ride,’ it really means a lot,” he said.

BMC performed well in the individual time trial, which bodes well for the team’s first grand tour as it rallies around Evans with a push toward overall victory.

“We’re looking forward to supporting him this week,” Bookwalter said. “It’s good confidence. From what I heard so far, the whole team rode well. It’s great to get the first stage done — we’re all excited and confident to keep it going.”