A rest day in the Giro but really a day of travel with three flights out of Dublin, two with passengers and one loaded with freight, mainly bikes.
The whole of Ireland didn’t turn pink but the crowds along the route were impressive and the lengths people went to for the race were impressive from the pink clothing to even painting electricity pylons – the more you think about it the more it was a huge undertaking. It’s abnormal for the Giro to visit Ireland of course but it’s this oddity that attracts the big crowds, the event is unusual and probably won’t be back for years.
Who’s the bigot?
A confession. I thought the Giro start in Northern Ireland would be miserable with bad weather, dull roads and all held in a place to avoid, given Belfast is a city infamous for terrorism and sectarian divisions. In a word: prejudice. The weather proved me right but the people proved me wrong. Yes the riders rode past grim murals of masked gunmen but the race seemed to get such a huge welcome that even if the weather was dire and divisions remain it was a great welcome for a very foreign event. You might not visit Belfast for the cycling but the race hopefully spread the image of a friendly population to a worldwide audience more accustomed to bad news.
Belfast was still an odd choice for a race that’s supposed to lap Italy. Nobody knows where the 2015 Giro will start but there’s talk of a grande partenza in Dubai for 2016.
Strongly rumoured that the Giro d’Italia will start in Dubai in 2016. Expect an announcement during this year’s race.
— The Cycling Podcast (@cycling_podcast) May 10, 2014
It’s been a logistical challenge to take the race to Ireland, some 2,000km and one time zone away. Dubai is 4,000km from Rome but not impossible especially if Emirates airlines wants to show off and the gulf state wants to put on a show. It’s no surprise given Dubai has been paying RCS to run the Dubai Tour.
I can hear readers howling already but here’s a thought: were Dubai to host the Giro they won’t want the best riders training in Tenerife or racing in California and will pay to ensure some names turn up. The Giro’s paid molto appearance money before. By all means rail against the travelling circus aspect but if you lament the Giro’s lack of stars, this could be the difference.
Talking of Gulf petrodollars, Team Alonso is struggling to get going. The plan is to have a team racing in 2015 and for this to happen all the paperwork has to go to the UCI in the second half of the year. They also have to sign riders and the work involved here has been going on for months. There’s a UCI rule to forbid signing riders before 1 August… but it’s ignored by everyone. Peter Sagan has been tipped, the same for Tony Martin and Niki Terpstra plus many more names to the point of being linked to Alonso has been almost enough to bump up a rider’s salary pretensions. That’s Luca Paolini in conversation with Paolo Bettini, Alonso’s mooted manager. Maybe Bettini’s whispering contract news but he could just be sharing a joke. La Gazzetta Dello Sport pictured Elia Viviani chatting with Bettini too: 2+2 = ?
But Bettini told the paper he’s still waiting for the signal to start and for now the team seems to be on hold. If it’s going to get going it has to get the green light in the next few weeks.
Speculation’s damaging for teams and Cannondale in particular seems to be vulnerable. Should Sagan and Viviani leave who is left? Some likeable riders but not stars nor those with ranking points. It’s like a game of musical chairs, once a rider goes then another has to come in. But the number of chairs can change, particularly if teams merge.
The Tinkov Test
Should Alonso not appear Saxo-Tinkoff seem to be leading the pack to sign Sagan. Team owner Oleg Tinkov has talked about making the team the world’s best but the test here is not merely signing a few star names, it’s whether there’s the infrastructure to back it up: how much will Tinkov spend on coaching and support. As you read this Alberto Contador is being trained on Mont Teide by Steven de Jongh who is an experienced rider and DS but, in all kindness, no sports scientist.
Kittel’s Secret Power
On the subject of sports science Marcel Kittel won’t reveal his power data. It’s not such a big deal or even useful for rivals. Sprinting isn’t just about power because aerodynamics, positioning and more counts. On a climb the speeds are so slow that aerodynamics drops off and performance is reduced to the power to weigh ratio. Plot a rival’s power curve – watts on the y-axis and duration on the x-axis – and you can start to calculate how long they’ll last on a climb at different speeds. In sprinting such calculations aren’t as useful. If Kittel did publish his numbers I suspect they’d be big, we’d wow but there’s nothing much to compare him against.
La Gazzetta Dello Sport has printed Kittel reaches 1,800W but years ago I’d seen 1890W. But the question is for how long, a peak is different from a sustained 10 or even 20 second effort. Either way the number is huge for cycling but only as powerful as a hair dryer or terms of a combustion engine, a garden tool like a hedge cutter.
Kittel was the fastest in Dublin, right? New for 2014 is the Premio Energy, a daily award for the fastest rider during the final three kilometres and sponsored by French energy giant GDF Suez. Cleverly it involves little work because the race has to count the riders across the 3km line for the three kilometre rule and then obviously again at the finish line. The Giro simply times all riders between the 3km to go sign and the finish and the first three get 4-2-1 points with a €5,000 cash prize for the overall winner when the race ends.
The fastest? Yesterday it was Nacer Bouhanni and he leads with six points after being second fastest on Stage 2. As a correspondent quipped on Twitter it’s almost a prize for the worst positioned sprinter, the rider who is forced to surge through the peloton. It could incite wilder riding but the prize isn’t significant enough to make rider think twice about altering their tactics. It’s one of many extra prizes awarded by the Giro and in the coming days I’ll do a review of these because this is just one of many weird classifications.
That’s the UCI rule on rain clothing. It’s ignored by most teams but surely all the people who stood by the road to see the race should have been able to see the pink jersey or at least the giacca rosa, the pink jacket. As it was Svein Tuft and Michael Matthews rode in black tops and the same for other distinctive jerseys with Marcel Kittel’s red jersey hidden and Maarten Tjallingi’s blue jersey under a Belkin jacket. If the UCI won’t bother, surely commercial and broadcast imperatives should force RCS and others to insist on appropriate rain wear?