The Giro, never again.
So says Alberto Contador. You can probably hear the prosecco corks popping in the Nibali household. Despite winning the Italian tour this year, the Spaniard says he’s never going back to the race. But “never say never” is valuable advice for those making statements in public and we’ll see what the future brings.
It’s the future of the race that is due to change with the race organiser Angelo Zomegnan getting ejected from the role following behind-the-scenes issues with cancelled stages and more, although Zomegnan is staying on to advise. Michele Acquarone is the new boss. The 2011 race was something many riders don’t want to repeat. Stage 15 of this year’s race featured more vertical metres than Switzerland’s week-long Tour of Romandie. Several riders admitted to being scared of the race.
I’ve worried about the phenomenon of “stage race inflation” before, the way each year’s race has to be bigger and better than the previous edition. But this just leads to stages that are so long as to force riders on the defensive… avoid the race altogether. Certainly non-Italian riders with objectives beyond the Giro don’t want the fatigue. Many sprinters bail out after two weeks too.
The Giro d’Italia is one of my favourite races, one of several highlights of the sporting calendar. But too many marathon stages are scaring the best riders away. If the race wants to avoid becoming an Italo-Italian contest then it needs to ensure many teams and riders are only too happy to take part instead of scaring them away. There are plenty of good Italian riders and in many ways the race just needs some competitive riders to create some great racing and all the stories that go with this. Are 250km mountain stages necessary to achieve this?
One lesson from the Tour de France is that short stages work very well. Stage 19’s 109.5 “sprint” over the Galibier was more intense than any eight hour slog, when riders have fresh legs they can show feisty riding. After eight hours everyone becomes diesel, their legs blunted by the mileage. For sure we get a spectacle but at what price? It’s a personal view but I don’t think the final week of a grand tour should have stages longer than 200km. Maybe the round figure is arbitrary, feel free to disagree.
The route for the 2012 Giro d’Italia will be presented in October. The start is known already, it will begin… in Denmark.
- A footnote to say if riders think twice about the race, bloggers probably don’t. One thing the Giro excels in is its online presence. Video streaming, twitter accounts and a user-friendly website, it is years ahead of letour.fr.