Monday, May 10, 2010

Giro d'Italia

Wouter Weylandt, of Team QuickStep, sprints to victory at the end of the third stage

We enjoyed the spring classics, we were glued to the TV screen during the Paris-Roubaix, but at last the season of the Grand Tours has started. The Giro d’Italia began last Saturday, May 8, 2010, with a time-trial race in Amsterdam. Next Sunday, May 16, the Tour of California, our home race, will start. In July we’ll have the Tour de France. And then, the Vuelta de España, and so forth. There are plenty of reasons for celebrating for those of us, at BikeNüt and elsewhere, who like to follow bike races. Most of these races will be shown live on TV. We’ll also check out the new bikes, hear the typically bland interviews with the riders, check out the garish uniforms. Bliss!
I have a couple of thoughts about the Giro. Many of the big names in professional cycling today, from Alberto Contador to Lance Armstrong, Mark Cavendish, Fabian Cancellara, George Hincapie, and many others are missing from the roster. Many chose to ride on the Tour of California rather than on the Giro. Why was it necessary to choose between the two? Why was the Tour of California planned at the same time as the Giro? We don’t know. Since it was moved from its usual time slot in February, couldn’t the tour organizer avoid schedule conflicts altogether? Couldn’t the Tour of California organizers and the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the international body that supposedly coordinates these events, get together for coffee or something and decide on a schedule? What are they thinking?
Enough of that.
I also wonder why this year the Giro is starting from Amsterdam, rather than from one of the many Italian cities, as it did in the past. 

True, last year the Tour de France also started in the Netherlands, and I suppose the Giro organizers felt the pressure and didn’t want to be left behind. Indeed, next year, they will outdo the Tour and start from Washington, D.C. What will the following year be, Sidney, Australia? Bangkok, perhaps? The North Pole? I entirely agree that these races are too important to be confined by narrow nationalistic boundaries, but is it necessary to leave a carbon footprint as large as Europe to make the Giro a newsworthy race? The whole thing strikes me as a marketing gimmick.
Not to take anything from the other grand races, but I think the Giro is the most entertaining. It’s more unpredictable, has more variety of places and topography, and has more heroic mountain stages. Why not make the most of these qualities rather than introduce novelty stages? Besides, I strongly feel that the Giro organizers, as well as the organizers of all of the other races, have the responsibility of communicating the virtues of cycling—its efficiency, health benefits, and sheer beauty—rather than transform it into a circus involving hundreds of cars, trucks, buses, and airplanes.

There, I’ve said it.
Today, at the end of the third and last of the Dutch stages, Alexandre Vinokourod, of Team Astana, got the pink jersey. After tomorrow’s rest day, necessary to survive the 1,200 mile trip to Italy, the Giro will start from Cuneo, Italy with the Team Time Trial. 
That’s where it will really begin.
Alexandre Vinokourod, enjoying the lead

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