Why Is The Giro So Good?

The DVD of race highlights is going to be a best seller. I rarely watch these things but am already interested getting a copy, the Giro is just past half way but the race has been turned upside down.

The obvious highlight was the Stage 7 from Carrara to Montalcino, a 222km slog across and over the strade bianche which turned into a mudbath. Foul conditions have dogged the race and the climb the following day to Monte Terminillo wasn’t as dramatic as it could have been but the climb still forced a selection. Then came the stage to L’Aquila, the town ravaged by a powerful earthquake. This time nature shook the race again as bad weather helped the race to split from the start and massive group got away and turned the GC upside down. “The Hold Up” said La Gazzetta.

Why is it so good?
I’ve got three suggestions. First, Italian geography means the terrain is always varied, we get a mountain summit one day followed by a flat sprinter’s stage then a hard hilly ride the next. The Tour de France by contrast tends to see a week of flat stages followed by some weekend mountains, then hilly transition stages before some high mountains and then some final flat stages to Paris. Italy’s topology here allows the organiser to thread a route that is always changing.

Second, this is not the Tour de France. If this was July, all the teams in the race would send full strength squads. This hasn’t been the case for the Giro where some teams are noticeably light. So they can’t lock down the race as they might try to in July. Astana and BMC in particular just don’t have the reach to help Vinokourov and Evans, a factor behind the Stage 9 “Hold Up”. So in some ways the race is exciting because it’s got a lower ability of riders there, more things can happen.

Third, Zomegnan. Angelo Zomegnan is the director of the Giro d’Italia. In the past I had feared he was taking the race away from sport and towards a circus, that the Giro could become bicycle Wacky Races. But so far the 2010 vintage is proving excellent and if the riders have had their usual complaints about the foul weather, some have commented on the beauty of it all. Even the final stage looks impressive. You can read a good interview with Zomegnan with cyclingnews.com although I do wonder for the future.

Anyway, here’s hoping the Giro continues, today’s stage is hilly and features a tribute to Marco Pantani.