I’m not a fan of all those end of year reviews, the countless lists and retrospectives. So it’s with a bit of contradiction that I want to revisit what was my best day’s racing of 2010 and during the week, a few look backs at other events.
My only justification is that what’s below isn’t just about 2010, it was a moment that goes way beyond 2010…
Giro d’Italia, Stage 7: Carrara to Montalcino, 221.9km
The stage had it all on paper: distance, climbs, Tuscan scenery and the strade bianche, the dusty white roads. In a preview of the stage months before, ex-pro and one day specualist Michele Bartoli said “It’s like turning back 50 years. It’s a striking stage. The entrance of the gravel sector is hard and it scared me a little bit. The road shot up more than I expected, up to 17%, and you need a 25 gear behind, otherwise you can’t go on. Also, the rollers don’t allow you to catch your breath. It is going to be very difficult.”
When the day came things were more hellish than planned thanks to big rain. Earlier rain had already provoked a landslide, prompting a change of route. Views were mixed on the day. BMC’s technical advisor, the wily Fabio Baldato suggested the rain would help, stabilising the dust. But if the dust was stable, the riders were not.
It’s easy to think of this stage as just the strade bianche but 200km were on tarmac. The unpaved sections were nevertheless strategic and the bunch split under pressure from teams driving the pace in order to keep their leaders at the front. With 60km to go a major split occured and half the bunch were never to get back on. Then before the offroad action occurred, race-leader Vincenzo Nibali and lost ground.
|Vinokourov, Evans and Pinotti|
By this time Cadel Evans, Alexandr Vinokourov, Stefano Garzelli, Damiano Cunego, Marco Pinotti, John Gadret and David Arroyo were at the front of the race in a group that kept splitting and reforming, often under the attacks of Vinokourov. At first it was a surprise to see Gadret and Arroyo but the next two weeks of racing proved they were some of the strongest guys in the race and that the selection included no passengers.
|A timeless image of a rider (in this case Baden Cooke)|
I’m not the first to note that the word “epic” is over-used today. The word is based on long poems about medieval heroes. But if tales of battle long ago is the origin of an epic, this is indeed the word for this day in May. Because we saw the riders scrapping with each other. For me, the best thing was the way the dust tracks recreated scenes from cycling 50 or 100 years ago. No tarmac. Riders caked in dirt. Mano a mano. Even the riders’ kit was so dirty that you couldn’t see the bright colours, they went from being rolling billboards to combatants.
In a technical sense the stage is worth noting. The race organiser has upped the stakes, not being afraid to take the race off road and livening up the race even more. If the images of riders caked in dirt looked retro, the idea of racing day in day out is not so. Gone are the days of piano, piano where the riders rolled along waiting for the TV coverage to start. Today’s Giro is a frantic three week race with some of Europe’s toughest roads and the organisers deliberately seek out as many obstacles as possible.
In the end, Cadel Evans came into the finish with Cunego and Vinokourov. Vino perhaps knew the pink jersey was his and Evans put in a powerful finish to see off Cunego.
1 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 5:13:37
2 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini 0:00:02
3 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana
4 Marco Pinotti (Ita) Team HTC – Columbia 0:00:06
5 David Arroyo Duran (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 0:00:12
6 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone 0:00:27
7 John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:29
8 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli 0:01:01
9 Cayetano Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) Acqua & Sapone 0:01:07
10 Jan Bakelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:01:10
11 David Millar (GBr) Garmin – Transitions 0:01:11
12 Thomas Rohregger (Aut) Team Milram 0:01:13
13 Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Team Milram
14 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Team Katusha 0:01:18
15 Gustav Erik Larsson (Swe) Team Saxo Bank 0:01:42
16 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Saxo Bank
17 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo 0:02:00
18 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo 0:02:05
19 Markus Eibegger (Aut) Footon-Servetto 0:02:24
20 Laurent Didier (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:02:53
191 John Murphy (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:26:03