Friday Group Ride #24

Putting aside the controversy du jour/semaine/mois/année, can we all just agree that this Giro d’Italia has not only been the best race of the 2010 season, but the best Grand Tour in recent memory? Can we? If not, there’s a comments section. Lodge your protest there.

For me, this race has been a huge breath of fresh O2. Between successful breakaways (enough that I’m questioning my stance on race radios) and unexpected results (Richie Porte anyone?) and strong men on steep hills, I am beginning to think that Angelo Zomegnan (race organizer) is something of a genius. And they haven’t even crested the Gavia yet!

This week’s Group Ride is sort of a compendium of questions. Where does this Giro stack up against other recent Grand Tours? Why do you think this one has been so good? If Ivan Basso wins the overall, how will you feel about that? Do you think someone else will take the GC? Are Italian podium girls prettier than French ones? Has the Tour of California hurt or helped the Giro? Does Andre Greipel deserve to ride the Tour de France? What happened to Team Sky and Bradley Wiggins? Does it matter? What did you think of the Dutch prologue? Too much road furniture? Has Carlos Sastre’s 21st Grand Tour been disappointing, or is Charlie just passed it now?

Let’s talk about it. Let the craic ensue.

Image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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  1. Jeff B

    The Giro has been so great, as far as I’m concerned because of three things.
    1- Creativity in the creation of stages (for better or worse). Between the traffic furniture at the beginning, rapid succession of mountain stages and crushed limestone, the Giro sets the standard for how a Grand Tour can look.
    2- A lack of an “alpha team.” Liquigas is the closest there is in this race and, yeah, they’ve been great, but they haven’t had a tight grip on the race from the get-go. Further to this – the Giro doesn’t have the “best” racers on their best form. That said, the Italian teams were so motivated after the dearth of victories in the beginning that each of them have been racing for pride. Underdogs make great stories and everyone in this race is an underdog somehow (I guess that’s just because there’s no Contador).
    3- Weather. Rain and cold make races great to watch.

    1. Padraig

      The FGR is for you guys, but on this one, I gotta weigh in:
      Right up there with last year’s Giro.
      Great course, desperate guys.
      God, I hope he’s clean.
      Not without rocket fuel.
      ToC hurt the Giro? How?
      Didn’t like it.
      He’s as competitive as his team is strong.

  2. Jon

    The Giro has always been my favorite grand tour to watch. If last year was amazing (and I think it was) then this year is a full order of magnitude better.

    Unpredictable, challenging stages. Mud, standing water, climbs so steep it hurts just to watch.

    Listening to the Gazetto dello Sport commentary this morning when it became apparent that Italians were going to go 1-2-3 on the stage. Wow you probably don’t even have to understand Italian to have gotten goosebumps at their excited banter.

    Basso? Outstanding performance so far.

    Evans? Good efforts, he hinted at some “problems” that he won’t disclose until after Sunday’s stage.

    I don’t think the Giro diluted the TOC’s field much and of course no one in their right mind would ride the TOC over the giro unless the TOC fit their training schedule better.

    Richie Porte- simply an outstanding first go at a GT, this guy really shows more than a little promise.

    Gazzetta dello Sport’s free live video stream is better quality than Universal Sport’s stream which costs $- I’ll be watching it @0600 tomorrow morning with an espresso in hand.

    I hope they do the Gavia tomorrow. It could prove to be yet another epic stage in a race that has already had several epic stages this year.
    If the Gavia stays in another surprising GC shakeup could easily result.

    This Giro has also provided a welcome respite from the other cycling news that I’m quite heartily tired of by now.

    Oh… I sincerely hope these guys are riding clean. It would be a pity to see Basso et als efforts spoiled by doping.

  3. Champs

    Basso and the “Leakygas” crew altogether are having a great Giro, but there have been some disappointing performances.

    Vino: I thought he was looking good as far back as the Criterium International. Too bad.

    Evans: Backsliding. “Problems he won’t discuss until Verona” sounds just like the bridesmaid of old.

    Sastre: boring as ever.

    Cunego: always a disappointment.

    Katusha: The whole team is AWOL again. Are you sure they deserve a Tour slot more than Vacansoleil?

  4. Touriste-Routier

    One word: Passion It is evident throughout the entire production.

    The way Zomegnan has organized the last 2 Giros has been brilliant. The TDF is so formulaic in comparison. Sometimes crazy ideas work, which in and of itself may be reason enough for the Giro to come to DC in 2012.

    Of course the easiest parcours can be difficult if they are on the rivet the whole way, and the steepest climbs can be moot if they ride piano the whole way. So let’s credit the competitors for making the most of the opportunities presented to them!

  5. randomactsofcycling

    Definitely the best GT for a few years.
    I’m in two minds, and praying he is clean.
    Only if Floyd comes out of retirement.
    There was a Tour in California?
    No, he’s a pussy.
    Who cares. I’ve no respect for anyone that openly proclaims to not care about a GT and treat it as a ‘training
    See above.
    Great spectacle.
    If I can avoid it, whilst also combatting traffic, surely a professional should too.
    He’s never been anything but a ‘solid top-tenner’ on GC. 2008 was the definitive Team victory.

    Having answered the questions (!) I do think the Giro has benefit from circumstances beyond anyone’s control, in particular the weather. The (cringe) ‘epic’ stage through the Strade Bianche could have been a flat-tyre-festival but was truly awe-inspiring to watch. And isn’t it great to see the Rainbow Stripes hammering every day?

  6. sophrosune

    I agree it’s been one of the best GT that I can remember for all the reasons already mentioned. But I would add that I have enjoyed David Arroyo’s performance, a perennial top 10 guy, he finally got a couple of breaks, i.e. no Valverde to support and a poorly organized chase that gave him 12 minutes. I am with the tifosi when they cheered him after the Aprica stage. A real gutsy and noble defense of the pink jersey. I enjoyed that a lot.

  7. Adam

    Greipl is not helping his case. Looks like another summer/fall of cleaning up at the Tour of Poland for him.
    Champs: Katusha has won two stages, so yes, they deserve a Tour slot.
    I always love the Giro – summit finishes every day make for great spectating.
    Watching Basso ride up mountains is poetry in motion.
    Favorite thing in the race so far? Seeing the rainbow strips contesting GC, it’s been too long since that’s happened.

  8. SinglespeedJarv

    Where does this Giro stack up against other recent Grand Tours?
    Absolutely brilliant. Given that prior to the start people were scratching their heads as to how much quality there actually was in the race.

    Why do you think this one has been so good?
    The quality of racing the changes in lead, the whole damn unpredictability of it all and a little bit of team politics…what more could you want. The Tour is going to have a lot to live up to in the July.

    If Ivan Basso wins the overall, how will you feel about that?
    Fine, as the Giro has progressed I’ve learnt more about Sassi his coach and given their work you have to be very cynical and ignorant not to believe he is riding clean.

    Do you think someone else will take the GC?
    Not now, unless the Gavia throws up something very special.

    Are Italian podium girls prettier than French ones?
    I’m a Francophile so, no.

    Has the Tour of California hurt or helped the Giro?
    What was the Tour of California? Seriously, if AEG thought they were going to start to rival the Giro they got it badly wrong. I think it did more harm to the ToC.

    Does Andre Greipel deserve to ride the Tour de France?
    I think Cavendish said it all on this subject a couple of months ago.

    What happened to Team Sky and Bradley Wiggins?
    Team Sky have been looking very light with EBH and Lokvist being injured. I think there will be a few people heading out the door at the end of the season. Many haven’t tjurned up when they were supposed to. Wiggins, who knows. It doesn’t bode well for July if the Tour is going over steeper climbs than last year.

    Does it matter?
    Yes and no. Yes it matters because they talked the talk and aren’t managing to walk the walk quite so well. Other than Cummings and brief flashes of Cioni and Wiggins they aren’t the big-time team their funding deserves to be. But Brailsford has always been about the long-term, so I doubt he’s worried unduly.

    What did you think of the Dutch prologue?
    Great, but starting so far away from Italy is risking becoming gimmicky if they do it all the time.

    Too much road furniture?
    Unfortunately that is what happens if you’re racing in The Netherlands

    Has Carlos Sastre’s 21st Grand Tour been disappointing, or is Charlie just passed it now?
    Yes and Yes. He’ll need to pull a good one out at the Tour, but I don’t think he has it anymore

  9. tako

    last year i fell in love with the giro and this year the affair continues. usually GTs are fairly predictable, but i’ve woken up rather eagerly most mornings to watch the riders claw their way uphill. even the strange commentators don’t bother me anymore. it doesn’t feel like a GT with every day being some crazy climb or miles of mud (AWESOME), but more like a 21 days of a one-day race. strangely i don’t even care who wins (it’ll probably be basso) because they fought pretty hard for it.

    or maybe it’s just been really nice to see a race where the coverage focuses on the riders who are making things happen, not just the ‘popular’ rider…

  10. Champs

    Petrov’s win was an aberration. I don’t know how much I can count any win on a day when Richie Porte takes the maglia rosa.

  11. Souleur

    Where does this Giro stack up against other recent Grand Tours?
    I think the Giro has always played second rate to the Tour de France, but in many ways it is superior. The Italians are not afraid to drag the peloton through places the peloton really doesn’t want to go. Dirt roads. Straight up mtns @24-25% gradient. Long long days, and many in a row. It really is in many ways harder than the Tour de France but doesn’t get the same respect because indeed it is second. But, hey, second best in the world…? Take it or leave it?

    Why do you think this one has been so good?
    There are many many things. Stage 7…period. The Gavia, enough said. The weather.

    If Ivan Basso wins the overall, how will you feel about that? Please come up clean.

    Do you think someone else will take the GC? like who?

    Are Italian podium girls prettier than French ones? Of course…Italians are hot.

    Has the Tour of California hurt or helped the Giro? I really don’t know. It definitely lightened up the field, but it has allowed some riders in the Giro to rise to the top, like Arroyo…Nibali…Scarponi. All good riders, but they have ridden special rides this May. What of the ToC? I think its on tense ground, is it a training ride or the ride? Will see how it fits in. It can be a mutualism between the two, but the UCI needs to fit it.

    Does Andre Greipel deserve to ride the Tour de France? Simple…No. He needs to stop whining and start hardening his ass up and ride harder. Let that be the proof and stop being a pussy like randomacts said.

    What happened to Team Sky and Bradley Wiggins? Will see in a month.

    Does it matter? Really, no.

    What did you think of the Dutch prologue? Glad you reminded me about it…I forgot.

    Too much road furniture? Nope

    Has Carlos Sastre’s 21st Grand Tour been disappointing, or is Charlie just passed it now? He is long in the tooth and lucky he won the Tour when he did. It was his last chance, and given him credit, he did it.

    I do agree w/champs on this, Katusha has been largely a no show, not really overall impressing me with presence even with a couple of stage victories they have not had a presence in the peloton. They have just been spinning along w/the peloton. Vacansoleil deserves a Tour bid over them, but too bad its too late.

  12. Henry

    It had all the elements that make the Giro the Giro. And that made for a roller coaster ride of surprises and epic performances from sources expected and unexpected. There where so many moments and riders that thrilled from Cadel on the Sttrada Bianca, Basso on the Zoncolan, the rider on the Colnago turning himself inside out to win in front of his hometown crowd, etc., etc.,..

    Perfect in every way and a credit to it’s glorious history. Kudos to the riders and the organizers. The Tifosi must be going hog wild the Italians are lighting up the course.

    How boring is it to watch a Tour with a dominant super team and juiced super star controlling every predictable second.

  13. Lachlan

    great race, +1 for all what Souleur says above.
    God we all hope Basso is clean now. Somehow don’t feel the same issues towards him as with Vino… am just glad he faded.

    History says it does really tell us much for July… right? ( Other than that I’m heading for many of the same climbs in July : o ) and am glad I have the 28t lowest gear already to hand!)

  14. James

    I agree with the majority! A great race with great stages. I, for one, could do without the stages outside of Italy because there is no other place as beautiful (please don’t go to D.C.!). All in all it has been a joy to watch and read about. I’m guessing the hype has caught up with Sky and Wiggins…a prologue does not make a race! If the tour is half as exciting I’ll be surprised. I think once the Lance thing goes away the Tour of California will become a lesser Dauphine. Ciao!

  15. Doug P

    This year’s Giro was a winner! All in all, I don’t think bike racing gets any better. Unpredictability, epic stages, and heroics by many riders made for the best racing I’ve ever seen, BAR NONE! The TDF will seem boring in comparison.

  16. james

    I have heard that the Italians say that the Tour is the biggest race in the world, but that the Giro is the most beautiful. That sums it up for me pretty succinctly.

  17. Ron

    I loved the past few weeks of watching this and am a bit sad it is over. I also can’t believe how quickly it passed – seems like it just started! But, I suppose these feelings are because the spectacle was so wonderful. I loved seeing Aussies do so well in both the Giro and ToC. Spent some time there and even got to Tasmania and liked the people so much I’ll always pull for Aussie cyclists. I think Cadel did a pretty impressive job with half of his team dropping out.

    Seeing all the beautiful sites makes me want to get back to Italy! Hopefully soon.

    I loved waking up most mornings really early and riding, then watching online, or scheduling my rides for later in the day, after cover was over. I even enjoyed listening to the commentary in Italian.

    Overall a great race and I loved it. Fingers crossed that the podium dudes were in fact clean.

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