I feel like a bit of a party-pooper but for all that the Giro promises, what if it doesn’t deliver? There are two main concerns for me: first that 2010 was so good it’ll be hard to beat. The random, ever changing race was thrilling. Second, and maybe it’s my problem and not yours, is the presence of Alberto Contador. He could dominate the race… and there’s also the possibility of the results being rewritten by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Random racing and ever changing circumstances
First, last year’s race was very exciting and unpredictable but this owed itself partly to random events. Let’s take one example, the big breakaway on the road to L’Aquila last year propelled Richie Porte and David Arroyo up the GC and the move turned the race upside down.
But this happened in part thanks to a freak chain of events, with bad weather and weak teams as much to blame as attacking riding. On the day it started to rain. The some riders found themselves at the front. But one rider was struggling with a rain jacket, he was Alexander Vinokourov and in the pink jersey. As he stopped by the road to fiddle with the zip a big group of riders went clear and meanwhile the rest of the bunch looked to Astana to chase but Vinokourov was still at the back of the race and so no chase was organised. Similarly BMC had a light squad and couldn’t chase by themselves from so early in the stage as the were, put bluntly, a weak squad. Thus the “L’Aquila Hold Up” happened. Now we can’t pin this on Vino and his jacket alone but it was a strange chain of events.
The Contador factor
Alberto Contador’s shown he’s a level above the other GC contenders when ever he starts a stage race. He famously won the 2008 Giro after an apparent late call up when lounging on the beach. Now he’s really targeting the race and it could well be that he romps away with the race. Last year’s race was so exciting because the pink jersey was like a butterfly, flitting from the shoulders of one rider to another and back several times. By contrast if Contador takes a minute on Etna then it’ll be hard to haul the time back. We might have to look for excitement elsewhere.
In addition, there’s another element to Contador’s presence, the CAS appeal. The Court of Arbitration for Sport is due to rule the two appeals to the RFEC result delivered earlier this year. As such we could see Contador dance around Italy only for a courtroom to rewrite the result. It’s getting to the point where second place in this race could be crucial.
Now perhaps you can shut this out but for me the appeal is casting a big shadow on the race, I suppose Contador’s just trying to do his job and this is my problem… but it’s far from ideal. Maybe the Zoncolan decides the winner but I fear a court in Lausanne might have the final say.
It could be a magic race but sometimes a word of caution can ensure we don’t expect miracles. This is a three week stage race where, with luck, the story will unfold over time before a conclusion in the Alps and the final time trial.
It’s now up to the riders. For me a grand tour is a bit like a complex soap opera, with plot lines and stories on many levels and you can dip in an out. The Giro promises to be great and I hope to cover plenty during the next three weeks. But the 2010 vintage will be hard to beat.
Auguri to all the riders taking part, to the organisation and all those working on the race from team staff to the media.