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Tuesday, 2 June 2015

GIRO D'ITALIA 2015 REFLECTIONS


THE CROWDS
Cycling is a sport that allows the fans to be in close proximity, for free, to its stars and heroes. That has the side effect of gathering distracted, ignorant (or potentially mean) people, alongside the vast majority of fervent supporters. So it happens that an idiot enters the course with a fixie bike and the peloton crashes to a halt, losing some of its best pieces, and almost stopping the eventual winner on day two. Then there were the idiots taking photos by leaning into the path of the oncoming peloton, causing more crashes.
But, as I witnessed in person, there are no better fans than cycling fans, and Giro spectators are awesome. Everywhere there was enthusiasm (still not sure about Milan and puncturegate) and excitement, people
genuinely happy to have the race rushing past their houses, celebrating the moment with festoons, balloons and bunting. The party atmosphere goes beyond the route and the race itself. It carries on in newspapers, magazines, tv programmes, themed menus and drinks, shops selling anything cycling related and even colouring the city's main fountain pink.

THE SPRINTERS
This was not a sprinter's fest. Yes there were some notable wins by Modolo, Viviani and Greipel but that was it for the pure sprinters. Ulissi managed to outdo his faster peers, Formolo, Boem and Keisse denied them by winning from successful breakaways. Cavendish and Sagan were greatly missed.

THE TEAMS
Orica GreenEdge did what Orica GreenEdge does. They turned up for the first week, won stages, jersey and glory, then faded away with lots of UCI points and champagne.
Astana did it all wrong, they went too hard too deep in the first week, keeping an insane pace for the peloton, thus knackering its relatively rookie leader.
Tinkoff-Saxo didn't turn up at all. They showed Contador the route book, put a gps on the bike and patted him on the shoulder (the healthy one) and told him to go grab the trophy.
Bardiani was not entirely a disappointment, its riders did manage to get in the breaks and win a stage, but they didn't have the verve of last year, they missed that extra gear they seemed to have in 2014. Kamikaze Pirazzi was on duty and duly failed every attempt to attack.
Movistar, while lacking a GC rider, it still did a great job with Intxausti and Visconti, winning a stage and the mountain jersey.
Trek Factory Racing was solid in helping Nizzolo to an unprecedented Maglia Rossa. Job done.
BMC was saved by a revived Gilbert, showing a great form, which hopefully he'll manage all the way to the Worlds.
Team Sky........................................? Porte can't do three weeks on top form, and the team then looked lost as what to do, who to put in charge as all the big guns were rested for the Tour.
Notably and regrettably no Brits at the Giro... tut tut.

ARU v CONTADOR
Aru clearly showed his inexperience but talent for the future. Although he won the last two mountain stages by soloing to the finish line, he was by then way behind in GC to be a threat. Contador just had to manage the gap on stage 19. On stage 20 to Sestriere, he showed weakness, but had Aru been closer in GC I'm pretty sure the Spaniard would've gritted his teeth even more and stayed closer to the Italian contender.
Also, Aru had his Froome (2012 Tour reference between captain Wiggins and deputy Froome). His teammate Landa showed better form and climbing skills, but the pecking order had been decided by the team prior to the Giro, choosing the young Italian no matter what. So, even though the young Spaniard could've have been a greater threat to Contador, it was not to be.

DEBATES GALORE
The polarisation of opinions is embedded in cycling fans, every aspect is dissected and analysed, points of view are often at the opposite ends of the spectrum:
Contador, evil doper or one of cycling's greatest talents;
Contador's shouldergate, did he or didn't he have a proper injury, which then led to the question whether it was right or wrong for the peloton to "respect" the pink jersey and slow down for next day's stage.
Having a mechanical, should the opponents wait or attack; even lending the wheel to an opponent sparked heated debates on racing ethics;
Aru, great talent or strange recovery in the third week (considering he was not performing at all up to the Giro's start);
Are teams hiding motors or is that just a silly urban myth;
Zakarin, is he the real deal or does his former doping shadows his future performances.
Tinkov, mad man who's cheapening cycling with cash and bad taste, or passionate saviour of an evolving sport.

Whatever the opinions on any of these subjects, cycling is passion. People get emotional, angry, nasty even, but it's their sport and people want it protected by cheaters and fraudsters who have had a field day so far. And who doesn't like a bit of conspiracy. There are the haters and the lovers, the experts and the clueless.
Not a single day of this Giro proved boring or predictable. Even when there were supposed to be transition stages, something happened to turn the tables.

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