Enjoyed the first week? Vincenzo Nibali’s had a great time but everyone else watching as well should have found this a great start to the race. Sometimes rest days are impatient moments but this time it feels like it’s worth having a break before the race starts again tomorrow with a severe summit finish.
No rest: there’s no racing but there’s not much rest either. The race has moved north-east across the country to the foot of the Alps. Most riders will have ridden today. The temptation might be to put the feet up but a gentle ride is always needed. It helps with circulation and prevents water-retention and the feeling of wooden legs the next day. Eating is also important, yes to refuel but no to overdoing it. It’s a good day for a heavier meal with some extra protein as there’s more time to digest it. Some riders don’t cope well with rest days finding they feel blocked the next day only tomorrow’s vicious mountain stage means there’s no easing back into the race.
Rest days are mandatory under the UCI rules and sensible because they also allow for transfers although the same rules state that a rest day has to offer rest and riders cannot spend the day travelling by bus, train or plane, there has to be a chance for recovery and riding. The rest day will do little to stop the body’s fatigue but everything helps. It’s also welcomed by everyone else on the race as journalists get a chance to find the laundrette, TV commentators rest their voices and others can recover from working and travelling for nine straight days.
Cadel Evans and Robert Gesink are right where they need to be. Evans has been visible sprinting for time bonuses already and now wears the red points jersey. Gesink is having a great Giro only his performance is by stealth. No big attacks, just consistent riding and he’s sitting third overall, 1.15 down on Nibali.
Britain: Bradley Wiggins fortune’s have fluctuated this week much to the anxiety of the British media discovering the race. But they need not fret because Britons have taken nearly half the stages since the race started. Ok, double-stage winner Cavendish is from the Isle of Man and Team Sky’s cosmopolitan but both are Brit-registered and with the exiled Alex Dowsett it means Her Majesty can take satisfaction in the performance even if Sir Bradley has had a knight-mare at times.
Weather: One factor in the race has been the rain. There’s the obvious tale of Wiggins but it’s caused plenty of problems for others. Several riders have crashed out of the race completely and the rain is a factor in some cases. It’s also contributing to the fatigue, whether from the cold or the stress. Plus there’s more work for the team mechanics who wash all the bikes and team vehicles. They do it every day anyway but it means additional work is needed compared to a sunny day. So a rest day is good for the staff too.
Weather Forecast: The bad news is that the forecast says the second week will be wet. Given the race is now in the north of Italy it will be cold as well with the thermometer struggling to pass 20°C all week. The good news is that this forecast has proved consistently wrong this week, predicting dry weather on several days only for the ensuing stage to be defined by the deluge.
Katusha have been the success of the first week with Luca Paolini’s reign in pink and then Maxim Belkov’s stage win. They weren’t even supposed to be in the race until the Court of Arbitration ruled them back in. Giro organisers RCS were not happy with the late inconvenience of having suddenly to find room for an extra team. But they should be thanking the CAS now given they’ve had an Italian in the race lead for days to encourage home interest.
Business: I don’t know how profitable the Giro is for RCS but the Italian sports and media company is expanding its operations around the world. Success breeds success as the more the Giro becomes famous, the greater its brand value. This explains recent gran fondo rides in the US and also the move to launch the Dubai Tour for next year although note it’s tour and not giro of course. It means the season will have long section in the Arabian peninsula, with Qatar, Dubai and then Oman. More info on the deal over at the Italian Cycling Journal.
You wonder about old Euro races but if teams are in the Middle-East already for Qatar and Oman then Dubai makes little difference. It’ll be interesting to see if the route extends into the UAE because there are hills or whether it somehow sticks to the city because the Hajar mountains are not far away. Dubai is famous as a air transport, conference and retail hub but he’s the chance to show the world what lies beyond the poured concrete.
Page Turner: Italian newspaper La Gazzetta is part of RCS. It is to the Giro what L’Equipe is to the Tour de France as both newspapers created the race they now report on. Only the Italian race has to compete with the Calcio, the Italian soccer league for column inches. It’s a real pleasure to read La Gazzetta every morning but it comes with the risk of Repetitive Strain Injury as you leaf through the pages to find the cycling. The race did make the front pages over the weekend but take today an example and cycling starts on page 36. It’s no big deal but does highlight how football is massive in Italy and even the newspaper that sits in the same corporate stable as the race isn’t going wild promoting its own race. The good news though is that it’s worth the read with a range of daily coverage, insight and analysis.
Blog: another way to get insight into the race is to read Cameron Wurf’s blog. It’s impressive for the dexterity of being typed on a Blackberry from the team bus but you’ll read for the daily info on what it’s like to be in the race. The Cannondale rider’s having a good Giro so far with the notable breakaway on the opening day.
Another Australian having a great Giro is Adam Hansen. Much has been made of his shoes and rightly so. The artisanal look something but apparently they weigh 105 grams each. By comparison Mavic’s lightweight Huez, amongst the lightest on the market claim 380g a pair, so 190g each. I’m not here to promote Hansen’s shoes but find it fascinating to see a rider design their own shoes and come up with such fundamental improvements in weight. Comfort remains to be seen but Hansen’s tested them in the heat of the Tour of Turkey and the rain of the Giro. Most interesting you can buy them, or as least they will be for sale later this summer from Hansen’s new website: hanseeno.com
Crowds: One question from a reader was why there aren’t any crowds on the climbs? We’ve seen big crowds in town but it’s true that the climbs are often empty. Only the roads in the Apennines wind up the hill with little real estate for spectators to occupy. You have the road cut into the mountain with plenty of vegetation growing wild then often on the other side there’s a big crash barrier and a vertiginous drop. Simply put there’s no room to stand, the road is the only level place. Plus remember the Giro is taking place during May and many are at work. By contrast the Tour de France takes place during July when the country is packed with tourists.
Out: Argos-Shimano’s John Degenkolb is out of the race. “After a very long and intensive block of racing from the beginning of February onward, I feel that it’s getting really hard to recover… I am simply not fit anymore” he says in a press release. With Cadel Evans probably only more likely to extend his lead in the points competition in the mountains you wonder how many more sprinters will remain in the race.
Last but not least, let’s salute Mattia Gavazzi of Androni Giocattoli is the maglia nera of the race, the black jersey or last rider. He’s soldiering on after crashes but also found time to tangle with Garmin-Sharp’s Robbie Hunter on the stage to Magherita di Savoia.