Giro d'Italia Fever
What’s a week of cycling without some cycling drama? Naturally we had another doping revelation. It wasn’t huge, but it was interesting. David Walsh reported in The Sunday Times that according to a rider, Lance Armstrong’s ex-wife was passing out performance enhancing drugs like Pez candies to fellow American Postal riders at the 1998 road world championships. A bit of a shocker, but after a couple of years she knew what she signed on for and was now another person caught up in something bigger than themselves.
For those curious about who was on the team, I did a quick blog post on my personal site (neilbrowne.com) about the whole sordid affair.
In about two weeks the infamous USADA file will be made public and if Travis Tygart really means that the revelations revealed are “30 times worse than any book” everyone needs to brace themselves. Some people more than others ...
Enough of that - let’s move on ...
The news that I really liked this week was twofold. The first is cyclocross season is truly underway and two: the announcement of the 2013 Giro d’Italia route.
Yes at Interbike a couple of weeks ago we had the kickoff to American cyclocross with CrossVegas which Rapha-Focus’ Jeremy Powers took convincingly. In a tight sprint Sanne Van Paassen won the women’s race. It was a great night of racing and a bit of excessive drinking.
In Europe Sven Nys picked up where he left off last year and has already put two victories in the win column. And thanks to the wonders of the Internet we can watch them through either pirated video streams or in the case of some races, a legitimate video feed from the sponsor. And that leads me to the Giro d’Italia.
In a video produced by RCS Sport, the owners of the Giro, the Italian national tour was described by managing director Michele Aquarone as, “a love story between their fans and their champions.” How very Italian.
Garmin-Sharp director Charles Wegelius, calls the Giro, “A reflection of the Italian soul for a month.”
After looking at the stages included in the 2013 Giro d’Italia route I have to agree with several of my fellow cycling journalists - RCS Sport is trying to convince Alberto Contador and Bradley Wiggins to race in Italy for three weeks in May.
In attendance was Alberto Contador, the winner of the 2011 ... err ... I mean winner of the 2008 Giro. In a previous year’s presentation Contador was lowered to the stage in a go-go dancer’s cage. I’m not sure if they expected him to strip, but thankfully there was no nudity.
This year the presentation was casual with defending champion Ryder Hesjedal on stage with fellow marquee riders such as afore mentioned Contador and Mark Cavendish, and towering over them all was BMC Racing Team’s Taylor Phinney. In true Italian style the Giro organizers had the riders cook pasta. Don’t ask me why. I didn’t read anything explaining the reason they had the riders reenact the often played Sidi commercial, which features Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali sautéing their cycling shoe. I guess it’s an Italian thing?
Regardless, the 2013 Giro route is an interesting one. Stage 2 is a team time trial on the island of Ischia. Stage 8 is another race against the clock - 55.5 kilometers. This stage was designed to tempt Wiggins to race the Giro. The prestige of having a Tour de France and Olympic champion on the start list would be huge! The Giro has always been considered the younger sibling to the Tour de France and it wants to step out of its shadow. The other grand tour, the Vuelta a España, is the odd cousin that you only invite to the house for the holidays and you seat them at the kid’s table. I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.
In addition to the Wiggo-tempting time trials, Contador was at the presentation and on RCS Sport’s dream list of participating riders. Stage 18’s uphill time trial might be enough to tempt the Spaniard. However, he played it coy telling AP, “In a few weeks we will begin to study the schedule for next season. I’ll wait for the presentation of the other big tours to see their routes and decide based on that.”
Cavendish states that there are five stages to his liking and if he can’t escape from Team Sky in 2013 the Giro might be his only shot at winning a grand tour points jersey. Team Sky has made it clear they are focused on the general classification and poor Cav isn’t part of that equation. I hate to say I told you so ...
No big surprise - Hesjedal is looking to defend his 2012 victory and is pointing to the last week of the 2013 Giro as really difficult - so same plot as 2012.
Don’t get me wrong - the 2012 edition of the Giro was the best race of the year. It by far out-shined that other race in France. The last week was a nail bitter, while in contrast the Tour de France was predictable.
If you read my column regularly you know I’m a big fan of social media. RCS Sport have nailed that category! They sent out videos of the route to bloggers and news agencies. They have an active Twitter account that responds to people! These seem like small things, but the payoff is huge. It shows that the Giro is passionate about their race and they continue to elevate the race every year. I’m a big fan of how they market the Giro as well as the stage design.
Indulge me a bit as I know the Giro is still eight months away, but I think I have an idea of how the race will shake out. The main protagonists will be Hesjedal and Wiggins. That’s right - I predict Wiggo will race the Giro. The 2012 Tour de France was a perfect storm for the Sky rider. But I got one name that will end Wiggo’s dreams of the Tour double: Contador.
Contador will avoid the Giro and focus on the Tour de France. He’s looking to make a statement and what better way to return to France than by raining holy terror on everyone in the peloton. I just don’t see Wiggins going mano-a-mano against Contador and winning. The safe money is Wiggins for the Giro, Contador for the Tour.
Until we see the parcours for the upcoming Tour de France and rider schedules are finalized remember we have cyclocross season in full effect, so grab your cowbell and head to the races. If you missed any races this year lucky for you Roadcycling.com has the major races archived for your enjoyment.