Quit When You’re Winning

Andre Greipel maglia rossa

What are you doing this evening? André Greipel is packing his bags and leaving the Giro with exit manoeuvre that’s been so well planned his flight home was probably booked weeks ago. It’s shocking as he leads the Giro’s red jersey points contest and is perfectly healthy. But there’s a refreshing honesty to it all too.

Greipel’s taken three stages and a commanding lead in the points competition, he’s on 169 points with Giacomo Nizzolo on 138 and Arnaud Démare on 111, almost a stage win margin for Greipel ahead of and a comfortable position to defend the jersey. Now he’s going home. There’s nothing wrong with him, he just wants to rest, recover and build for the Tour de France. Marcel Kittel also bailed out the race; he began to look stale at times until he chose to leave. Like Greipel though he flew out saying he had bigger fish to fry this year.

The abandons look transactional. André Greipel and Marcel Kittel got what they wanted and now they’ve gone. Fabian Cancellara’s done the same too, just without getting what he wanted. Greipel’s exit in particular is openly pre-meditated and this shocks many because it’s rare, unconventional and even taboo.

But perhaps we should celebrate the sheer honesty here? There’s no conspiracy for Greipel and Lotto-Soudal, they haven’t concocted a fake fable about a saddle sore or a niggling knee. No pre-planned farce of starting tomorrow’s stage only pull over in the feedzone next to a waiting team ready to ferry him to the nearest airport. In a sport where conspiracy theories go far Greipel’s made an honest exit.

Not that such honesty will be cheered, to exit a race like this is taboo, quitting is culturally unacceptable in a sport where the bloody crash victim is expected to hop on their bike and finish. The sport is full of riders trying to outride the boom wagon, the cult of stoicism and suffering was enough to make a whole cartoon film and every year this is reinforced by fresh efforts often captured on TV. See Tom Dumoulin trying despite that saddle sore and only this morning Astana workhorse Valerio Agnoli described his exit, thanks to a broken wrist, as the “great humiliation of my career“. There’s even a UCI rule that says riders who quit a race cannot start another event until the race they quit has finished, at least unless they get permission from the UCI and they race they bailed on.

The Giro could try means to persuade riders to stay on, for example a bigger cash prize or the UCI could give precious ranking points. But by now we’re looking into what could be done rather than the present situation faced by Greipel and others.

Good or bad for the Giro?
Both. Greipel will probably go home, rest and resume training but the rule is designed to protect the race and Giro director Mauro Vegni face this evening could be as red as Greipel’s jersey. Once the embarrassment fades though surely the overall the balance is positive? For RCS it’s commercially superior to have star sprinters in the race for 10 days and the attendant global media attention rather than to have people say “meh” at the prospect of a bunch of secondo piano sprinters none of whom abandon. Still, it wounds when riders bail saying they need to prepare for the Tour de France. It’s like hosting a party only to find your guests walking out early in the evening saying they need to rest because they’ve got dinner the next day with wealthier friends.

So who’s next?
The 2016 Giro has the air of a handicap contest, a giant elimination race where the best sprinter gets removed in order to give the others a chance. No sooner was Marcel Kittel head, shoulders and even ankles above everyone else than he flew home. André Greipel became the alpha sprinter and now he’s bailed. Will the sprinter who wins in Cassano d’Adda on Stage 17 quit in order to give a chance to someone else for the final stage in Turin? This might sound sarcastic but maybe there’s an element of truth. It’d been said that Caleb Ewan is going to quit the race, this was aired by Orica’s Matt White before the Giro started. You’d expect him to quit today too. But what chance he stays on? Perversely his second place today means he’s now in with a big chance of the win next week if only he can get over the mountains… at which point he could collect the stage win and go home. Easier said than done.

These abandons and their seemingly elective nature do undermine those who ride on. Anyone who wins the next sprint gets a stage which is great, but it’s bound to come with mutterings that they’re not The Fastest, merely the residual. More power to their elbows for staying on we’d all say but examine the situation and it’s not great: the only reason they’re staying on is because they don’t have bigger plans. Caleb Ewan isn’t going to the Tour de France yet, Arnaud Démare’s riding the Giro because FDJ are going all in for Thibaut Pinot, Giacomo Nizzolo and Sacha Modolo are peaking for their home race and their teams could well leave them behind in July. Good on them all for riding on as far as they can but there’s an obligation on them to win a stage if they can. They have to ride on.

The silver lining
It’s not all bad for the surviving sprinters. In the 2014 Giro Marcel Kittel won the opening Irish stages with humiliating ease, then fell ill and quit the race before it reached Italy. The result was that Nacer Bouhanni went from being second fiddle in Kittel’s shadow to taking three stages in the race: three World Tour, Grand Tour wins just at the time when his contract with FDJ was up. It gave him bargaining power and resulted in him becoming a millionaire, the highest paid French cyclist in history. There’s no doubting Bouhanni’s talent and promise but surely this was a “Sliding Doors” story, had Kittel avoided that stomach bug would Bouhanni have landed such a big contract? Maybe not.

Kittel, Greipel, Cancellara. Ewan could be next but maybe he stays now his chances of a stage win rise in the absence of these names. It shocks when someone walks out on the race citing bigger goals. It devalues the red jersey and the Giro. But the more we examine it perhaps the more we should accept it? Ideally the red jersey wearer would ride on and, to coin a phrase, fight for red. But we’re not there and if the likes of Kittel and Greipel have gone, at least we can salute their blunt honesty, openly admitting they’ve left the race with new goals in mind rather than faking injury or fatigue, a polite excuse but also a deceit that could equally implode if they’re spotted on social media riding hard within days. Similarly it might look bad for the race if they leave but it’d look worse if they didn’t bother starting. Ideally the Giro would be worth continuing for its own sake but we’re not there this evening and short of reforming everything in the sport to achieve that Greipel’s exit shocks but on reflection can be explained.

62 thoughts on “Quit When You’re Winning”

  1. Timely and well balanced. Your final sentence encapsulates the issue: his premature departure is a symptom of how the sport is run and where the money is(n’t). I accept it for what it is.

  2. I may accept it for what it is but I think much less of each rider now. If they don’t want to ride a grand tour, work on being a classics rider. There are plenty of one day races: let’s see them aim for a classic instead of going through a huge amount of hoopla at winning pink or red and then abandoning. They may be being honest in telling us their reasons for abandoning but they weren’t honest when they entered the race. I’d have preferred it if they’d been honest from the start.

    • but they weren’t honest when they entered the race.

      They are being honest. There is definitely some kind of genetic gift to being able to turn out a solid sprint 10+ days into these events. But, you aren’t going to see a sprinter top-5 an average grand tour.

    • Remember, these guys are looking at a full season of goals, not just May. Additionally, with physical abilities being very close between top sprinters, losing critical rest now means they may be 3-5% down on top end power later. If they’re 200w short, that’s the difference between first and 12th. Even more so with TT and GC riders.

      Sports science is dictating a lot of these decisions, guys can’t just smash a grand tour all the way through and still be ready to race later. The sport’s just too sophisticated these days.

  3. Let’s not get too sentimental here.
    RCS front-loaded the race with most of the sprint stages and have either invited / played along / given in to this scenario.

    Greipel provided 40% of his team’s total wins in 2015 and, simply put, he’s too valuable to over-use struggling over mountains in poor weather and risking illness or injury.

    If the race organisers don’t like it, don’t arrange your route to accommodate deliberate DNF’s.

  4. FWIW, I’d much rather have them plainly state the reason for leaving. We all know the sprinters are busy minding the broom wagon unless the stage suits them.

    This grand tour has been far better than ASO’s show for a long time now. So far this edition has not disappointed.

  5. I’ve been wanting to post this question for a while and looking for a suitable time, this is not ideal but at least semi-relevant.

    Which GT is the hardest to win? So for an example if SKY changed their major goal and brought their A team to the Giro would they win or at least have a similar chance that they do in the TdF?

    It seems to me that the Giro offers more unpredictable stages that don’t follow a stricter script than the TdF. After reading a post by the Secret Pro he slammed the crazy racing at last years Giro and praised the order and predictability of the TdF. It also seems from reading the responses on this blog that’s the exact reason we love watching the Giro, but as a cycling fan I almost feel obliged to watch the Tour. So for me, after the cobbled classics comes the Giro and Vuelta before the TdF.

    • Physically? Seems to be the Tour, everyone is just flying fast in July. The Giro seems to take a greater level of actual riding skill–tough descents, technical courses, poor weather, etc.

    • The tour is harder mentally, there is so much pressure to do well. Also the competition at the Tour is stronger.
      The Giro is more unpredictable, just look at yesterday: a day for the sprinters with Nibali and co attacking.
      The Vuelta is more or less just short steep climbs with nothing happening until the last 5/10 km and then the legs do the talking.

      Each one is different and each one is hard in its own way.

    • I think the Tour is the most difficult purely because it has more of the best riders in it.
      The Giro, as may have said, is much more unpredictable and better for it.
      The Vuelta, of late, has had too many set-piece summit finishes and has become a series of uphill sprints, so is now the least interesting for me (but still hugely interesting).
      You don’t need the very best riders to have the best race. That’s why the ideas of shortening grand tours and/or Tinkov’s ‘forcing’ riders to do all three are rubbish.
      As for these sprinters quitting, I’m pretty much with the Inner Ring on this – it’s going to happen and it’s better that they’re here. The only thing that suffers is the points competition, which is unfortunate.

    • They’re different, so each might be harder or easier depending on what kind of rider you are.

      For quite a long time, the variance in the variable “body weight” was incredibly more reduced among the Tour winners in comparison with the other two GTs. Which essentially means that only one physical type could win it, excluding the rest. How do you translate this fact in terms of “harder” or “easier”?

      And, statistically speaking, the mere fact that multiple victories by the same person were occurring more often in the Tour than in the Giro could mean that winning the Tour was someway *easier* if you… “had got the power”. How do we interpret this?

      That said, the points made by Anon and J Evans are worthy: the pressure is incredibly higher in the Tour and the French race tends to have the best riders in the best form
      …with some interesting exceptions in the last ten years or so. Accordingly, one could note that the difference in speeds which sam refers to was systematic until 2005, than the difference became smaller and some Giros were even faster or as fast (in terms of average speeds, VAMs etc.). Imagine that!, especially when you think that the Giro normally has got a course which forces smaller average speeds (more climbing, more complicated roads, more hilly stages), hence in “normal conditions” going “equally fast” (in terms of watts) would produce an inferior average stage speed.
      That trend had its ups and downs, but I think that the last two editions, for example, had relatively comparable average speeds, when you consider different factors (especially 2015).

      • ‘… multiple victories by the same person were occurring more often in the Tour than in the Giro…’
        Gabriele, I reckon this is probably because there has often been one dominant rider and those riders usually focused on the Tour.
        But generally I don’t think one can really compare grand tours. For instance, would a grand tour with fewer high mountains and more medium mountain stages (or cobbled stages or whatever) be ‘less worthy’?
        You can’t compare by speeds either, nor by how difficult the tour is, nor by who is in the race (a lot of good riders in last year’s Vuelta, but they weren’t on form).
        My question would be: why is the Tour so predictable compared with the other two?

        • In general terms, I’d stress my first line above.

          That said, the question of the “dominant rider” is a bit more complicated in historical terms. Anquetil, Bobet, Merckx himself, even Fignon… many riders (among the multiple winners) followed a very different logic, not that sort of one-sided priority. It could depend on the season and so, it was a multifactorial question for them. Which didn’t mean that they could easily win the Giro when they tried to. Bobet never make it, I think. (interesting: note the French presence!).
          I’m not speaking of the Fifties because the Giro, until then, was the most important stage race, so the discourse you’re suggesting wouldn’t make sense at all, then.
          Lemond was the first to change the perspective, perhaps as a consequence of the limitations he felt the accident produced.
          Indurain gave clear priority to the Tour, but he struggled more in the Giro also because the Giro wasn’t as suited to his charcateristics.
          Armstrong was the first rider to really produce a deep cultural shift in the approach to the GTs, but even in his case it never was a mistery that he felt – and declared – he could find too hard to cope with the Giro’s kind of climbs (the Mortirolo was the main culprit).

          The predictability of a race, IMHO, depends on different factors, among which the quantity of ITT kms, the presence of a long TTT, the prevalence of climbs where the slipstream matters, the political pressures etc.

          • I suppose I’ve always just considered the Tour’s dominance to have been for ages/ever – having started watching in the late-80s – i.e. when Lemond was winning.
            But yes, people like Fignon and Hinault definitely went for the Giro. However, you always hear people say it was ‘in preparation for the Tour’ – is that the case or would a rider go as hard as possible in the Giro and risk losing the Tour? I guess Hinault did because he won the Giro three times, if memory serves.

    • The Tour is harder because of the reasons the other posters said.

      But if the giro would have the same riders that the Tour has, and was the big GT (instead of the Tour), it think it would be harder to win than the Tour is currently, because of the terrain and unpredictability of the stages.

    • An interesting question! I think Gabriele already wrote an almost complete answer to this but I would like to add the following. If you are a rider who has the capabilities needed to win the TdF than the TdF is certainly “easier” as the racing is much more predictable than at the Giro. A TdF stage almost always follows the script which is heavily influenced by the character of the stage’s route. And I can’t help but think that this is what the organization wants although there has been a cultural change in recent years. So if you have a team with great rouleurs who can keep you at the front of the peloton there are only a few days during the TdF when you really have to be and perform up to your best. Most of the days while being still very intense and mentally stressful are not too hard with regards to their physical demands if you’re the protected rider of your team.
      This is very different to the Giro where the GC aspirants can get tested on roughly 2/3 of the stages. And with teams like Astana bringing such a strong squad determined to rip the race apart whenever possible as shown in last year’s Giro it not only can happen but it will.
      That said and considering all the other reasons mentioned in the other replies I don’t believe that Chris Froome can win the Giro. At least not if Team Sky applied the same tactic / approach as they have done so successfully at the TdF.
      And as much as I restpect him but Bradley Wiggins never even had the slightest chance when he tried in 2013 IMHO.

  6. Thanks for the laugh,
    “It’s like hosting a party only to find your guests walking out early in the evening saying they need to rest because they’ve got dinner the next day with wealthier friends.”

    Lets remember we are generally talking of racers who should be in velodromes, not GC stage racers.
    Agree with Ecky, They can always put the flatter stages later in the stage race . Our WT landscape has
    and will continue to morph into a race of specialist being the norm, not generalist.

    Were is Larry T when we need him?

  7. They’re free to go and honesty is highly appreciated – even if the Tour didn’t appreciate very much when Cipollini or Petacchi went home (apparently the latter was *really* ill).

    The narrative inrng suggest above is nearly fine… if it wasn’t for Kittel trying to do something in slightly harder stages and failing in the process (yeah, one time he had a flat or whatever, but his face spoke for him even before that). Which leads us to another question: would these guys be able to get to the finish if they wanted to? And would they still be winning stages?
    Perhaps Greipel would. Other guys… well, I don’t know. And even Greipel… it’s hard to say, if we remember that other sprinters who were able to take home a Green Jersey from the Tour (which Greipel couldn’t do) failed sometimes to finish the Giro, however hard were they trying, so I’m not that sure about the Gorilla, either.
    Let’s be frank: there are, in the best case, two sprinters’ stage left. The spectacle will be diminished, perhaps, just in those *two* stages. Out of seven sprints!
    And I’m speaking of the best case for the sprinters, that is, giving for granted that nobody goes Keisse this year, too (that final circuit isn’t super-easy).
    Note, for example, that the only stage were Kittel might be missed was… today! (he was in the race during the other victories by Greipel, and there’s no way he could cross the Alps).

    Despite the emotive effect of the news, the Giro was hardly hit by any terrible blow. It gained five high quality stage sprints, and lost at most (!) a couple of them in the process (which could even be fine for the Italian’s promotion, since Italy has clearly a phase of “resistant sprinters” who tend to fail to deliver victories). From now on, the interest barely lies in sprinting… thanks God.

    If it’s true that the remaining athletes might not be considered as “the fastest men in the race”, the assumed *brutal honesty* of those who go away might be not that honest, and just PR… I mean, going away like this they leave the impression that yeah, they were the fastest men, whereas if they stayed and – who knows? – they started to lose stages out of exhaustion, that image factor would have been spoilt.
    Look at what happened to Kittel with his Irish-only experience: inrng gives for granted that probably Bouhanni would have gone on being second, even if this year’s experience has shown us a suffering Kittel whenever things started to be a little, just a little, more complicated.
    People tend to thing to cycling as a sort of videogame, the cyclists have scores in sprinting and so on which don’t change or don’t change much, but the third week is a big game changer for sprints, too.
    And the points jersey is about that, too.
    To know who’s winning more stages… hey, you can count the stages they’ve won!… 1, 2, 3… it’s not that hard, is it?

    While you’re in the heat of racing only winning stages counts, but when careers are over and start to be weighed with some historical perspective, well, the jerseys or even the GTs you were at least able to finish *do* matter quite a lot, too, to place you among the all-time greats… or not. And the greatest sprinters of the last decade (and more than that) have won all the three points jersey. That makes a difference.
    Obviously, some riders do indeed race thinking about their place in history, others just do plan about contracts and sponsors. Neither is right or wrong, but the long-term impact on fans’ memory ends up being different.

    • I noticed that Cipollini, in this month’s Rouleur interview, said that not finishing the Tour de France was the one thing he regrets from his career.

      I think you’re right that finishing makes a real difference after they’ve retired.

  8. I think this year is a little different in that the World Championship is almost certainly going to be one for the sprinters. It’s a long way off and far more valuable than Giro stage wins or the red jersey.

  9. Is there a difference between a sprinter like Greipel or Kittel pulling out for goals later in the season and a young rider being pulled out as part of their development, like Yates at the Tour a couple of years ago or Ewan at the Vuelta last year?

  10. I miss the days when the Giro was ridden in preparation for the Tour. The Giro as a stand alone race has lost some of its luster. The usual line in La Gazzetta circa ’85 was the best preparation for a Gran Tour was to ride a Gran Tour. Those days are clearly over, and I miss them. Now the Gran Tour contenders must decide between the Tour and the Giro, and for non Italians, the Tour always wins. But to to now see sprinters opting for an early excit makes me sad.

    • The Eighties (1977-1988, more or less) were one of the worst periods in the history of the Giro, in terms of courses and of average level of the top contenders (despite the presence of Hinault).
      There’s a very interesting statistical work you can find out there in the internet, “weighing” the relative importance of the three GTs out of rolling averages and the level of the top runners (calculated from their victories).
      That sort of strategy by Gazzetta didn’t work, even if *the press* was enthusiastic: though, it was only because two Italian cyclists, without being at all proper GT riders, were fighting for the Giro :-S …something makes me suspect you may appreciate one of them 😉
      The logical consequence of that moment was the subsequent decline, partly – but only partly – delayed only by the emerging of a couple of Italian athletes who were absolute-level, like Bugno or Pantani.
      The last decade has been a good one in terms of relative level of Giro and Tour (whereas the previous one was possibly an all-time low), with a progressive recovery of technical contents and decent participation. Due to different factors, the Tour hasn’t been having the most selected participation for some years (2006, 2008, 2010 were far from being *great*), while the Giro has stepped up.

  11. If the organisers of the Giro would like all the sprinters to stay for the full 3 weeks, then they will have to refrain from making the last 7-10 days so hard. With so much time spent in the high mountains between now and Turin its hardly a surprise.

    I mean if the first week was all high mountains, and the last two weeks all sprint stages then I bet a few climbers would pull out.

    • If the first week was all high mountain…
      The climbers would defend their placement in GC anyway. And you’d get few sprinter in the last week since a lot of them wouldn’t make the time limit 😉

  12. Perhaps the lack of a fixed final marquee stage for sprinters such as the Tour’s Champs-Élysées event would be a major draw? Instead of ending in some northern Italian city with either a sprint or sometimes even a time trial, what if every Giro ended up with a mass gallop and big presentation ceremony on the Piazza del Colosseo in Rome? You’d still have the TDF looming over everything, but it might make it worthwhile enduring the mountains to finish for some of the quick men.

  13. I think it’s rather tacky for Greipel to toss the Maglia Rossa aside and go off to prepare for his next challenge, but Cipollini bailed out of LeTour plenty of times once the course no longer suited him and RCS has no trouble celebrating The Lion King’s palmares at La Corsa Rosa. Perhaps it’s the red color – they should go back to the ciclamino and the climber’s jersey should go back to being green? W Il Giro!

  14. So it’s circus and marketing?

    I would opt for a downhill prologue. Every team has a fat guy with gravity on its side who takes a lot of risks downhill. It gives us sensations of crashes, we can laugh at the fat guys and cheer on the fastest (as this sports)…
    Of course the they after they quit.

    It’s Giro, Tour, Vuelta, what’s in a name? Not much apparently when cherry picking stages and taking the train home…

  15. Giro has similar problems with the GC contenders. In the last few years always only one of the great four came (and usually won): Nibali, Quintana, Contador, Nibali (this year, must not win). Alberto’s trial of a double failed and thus only Italian (Nibali, Aru) or rising young GC stars like Quintana come to get their first GT win. Without shortening the race this scenario will remain valid – but I understand RCS that they do not want to shorten the race, it would make it a “second class” GT, even below Vuelta.

    • No, it would make it a no-GT. Two week races aren’t GTs, they are a different exercise within the sport. As I said above, it’s the riders’ choice. If they just obey to the team, they’ll soon discover that the team just cares for short-time exposure, not for their career as sportsmen or their “place in cycling history”. But what stays is the latter.

      • Honestly, without wanting to devalue the Giro or the Vuelta, I don’t think any rider besides italian or spanish riders sees them as a passionate goal nowadays. This is different with the monuments and the Tour de France and some of the spring classics. Those races still make the WT-riders of today dream. A bit. The rest is a nice career move. At least that is what I gather from interviews, tweets and blogs of riders. And yes, the Giro often lacked depth. Last year 2 teams were committed to the race and they made the podium.

        The WT crushes cycling. Crushes the life out of it. One reason for that is the nonsensical World-Tour idea of 18 teams. If the 1. league of cycling would consist of fewer teams, say 12 teams or less, we would have a real quality 2. tier, real competition between them, a real threat to the 1.league to lose their spot and we would have teams from the 2.tier, for whom winning a Giro really would be a dream and they would really get that opportunity.

        Give the meaning back to professional cycling.

        Sadly everything goes in the opposite direction. Away from competition, towards granted spots. This way it becomes a job for the teams and riders. They grind away races and hours. All a blur. The same teams doing the same races with the same riders over and over again. It is like those nonstop commercial shows selling stuff. And I don’t watch those.

        • Perhaps you’re partially right, but IMHO your vision looks like a little one-sided.

          To start with, Italian and Spanish riders still are… well, the most relevant part of the top GT riders. Have a look to the top-tens of the last few years. If we then include Latin-American riders who are often Spain-based and tend to acquire a similar perspective (Amador or Urán expressed – and showed – their interest for the Giro), there’s simply no match with “the rest of the world”.

          Contador always declared his love for the Giro, and no need to speak about Nibali or Aru. Contador and Nibali even made choices which hindered their option for the Tour, in order to include the Giro in a broader perspective, not just short-term make-your-sponsor-happy (and, on a lesser level, same goes for Purito). But, ok, that’s what you were saying: they’re Italian or Spanish, indeed.
          Pinot said several times that he’d prefer to ride the Giro, hence he’s being driven by raison d’état but you can’t say he isn’t interested in the Italian race.
          Cadel Evans, too, has expressed a strong personal passion towards the Giro and, well, he tried hard to win it. He’s got some three top-ten and that famous pink jersey spell back in 2002.

          If you boil down your point to its core, you’re probably speaking of Froome (I won’t consider his declaration prompted by the 2015 Tour design) and perhaps Wiggins – well, he tried, but I guess he wasn’t that passionate – plus… dunno, Tejay Van Garderen?!? o__O
          Nobody else in terms of relevant GC riders. Valverde could belong to the list of Giro-snubbers, but now here he is, old enough, indeed, still his last season was his best at the Tour, and now he’s apparently trying his luck in the Italian race.

          • When i first saw the race profile, nothing too ridiculous in the mountains plus 3 time trial i though it was perfect for Van Garderen it seemed a good fit , With as many people have eluded above the limited big GC boys meant he was, with luck a good shout for a podium.
            Bmc look rudderless this Giro, i know the double punch of Van Garderen & Porte is what they want for the Tour but surely Van Garderen would have had a maybe podium, maybe top 5’s worth of ever valuable UCI Points?

          • I think both teams and riders are wrong to snub the Giro: far better to win the Giro, possibly, than have no chance in the Tour – for both rider and team.
            Riders like S. Sanchez and Valverde would have had chances in years gone by (AV still does, of course). And now, as mentioned, you have riders like Pinot and TVG.
            But there are and have been many more.

      • Agreed – it would no longer be a grand tour.
        And the Giro is just fine as it is – if some of the very best riders aren’t there, that’s fine: it doesn’t diminish the racing. And it’s fine to be the second most prestigious grand tour – if that’s how it is seen.
        Personally, I’m far more impressed with someone who can win all three GTs than someone who can win the TDF three times. It shows a greater variety in their cycling ability.

    • The Giro is the second grand tour and we have to live with that but it’s ok, hopefully the quality of the racing is compelling so we’re interested in seeing how Nibali, Amador, Majka, Kruijswijk fare in the mountains rather than worrying about what Froome or Contador would do.

  16. Caleb Ewan is leaving too, which ends the speculation of whether he might have stayed on given the increased chance of a stage win. Nizzolo and Modolo will cheer (at least inside the team bus), especially as Démare is sore from a crash and has stomach problems.

  17. Caleb Ewan is in his first long tour and is 21, last year he was a neo pro. with GreenEdge. He may/maynot go on; that is up to Caleb and team management, not anyone else. Many young riders have been flogged over 3 week tours far too early in their careers and it’s done them no good. Careers last long these days. BTW some of you need to read a bit of history of the Giro and also the Vuelta. It was nothing for the big name riders to go off half way through the race. We’ve seen what riding two big tours have done to the “stars: in recent years; let’s just quit whining and watch the damn race. Also it is an Olympic year: that makes a diffence too.

  18. Make them complete the race as condition of keeping their prize money. Then see how many leave early, dishonouring both the race and, in Kittel and Greipel’s cases, a jersey.

    • Agreed in a small way. I feel sorry for the remaining sprinters who could have otherwise won if those who bailed (I think we can let Viviani off the hook here) were not competing.

  19. Simple way to deal with this – comes with its own problems of course – run the mountain stages in the first week of the race. Sort the wheat from the chafe, set the race leader and let the sprinters who can make it over the mountains contest the sprint stages in the second half of the race.

    If it was done is isolation it would be difficult (sprinters would probably just avoid the race) but if all the large tours used this approach then they’d have to finish the race for their sprinting glory.

  20. Do you honestly believe that Kittel was sick in Ireland? Always seemed a bit convenient to me, he didn’t even have to get on the plane to Italy… yet walked away as a winner of stages in every Grand Tour…

  21. Perhaps hold back prize money or UCI points to the winners until they finish. But then they’ll just feign illness to get out of it! It’s a difficult one. 3 weeks is a long time to race and if they want to compete in all 3 grand tours then I can’t see a way around it. Didn’t Cipo start this trend in the 90s?!

  22. I don’t mind Ewan quiting seen as he’s about 13 and Cancellara seen as he was off colour, as well as it being his last season and he wants to fit everything in. Kittel as well can’t climb for toffee and his withdrawal is in a way no different to Cipo doing the first week of the Tour and then getting on the beach. But Greipel had the points jersey on a plate. He’s not going to out gun Kittel at the tour, he’s not going to win a classic and he’s not going to out do Sagan for the Green Jersey. He could have won something major and beefed out his Palmares but his binned it to be st his best to come 2nd to Kittel in France.

    • Mostly, I think this is a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth (stopping prize money and suchlike – this has always gone on and how would you prove they had no legitimate reason for stopping?) about very little, but yours is a good point about Greipel. He could win a few stages in the TDF, as he did last year (or he could be first in the queue behind Kittel), but the points jersey in the Giro was there for the taking and would look a lot better on his palmares.

      • Though he might well think that the WC would look even better than that. Plus extending his streak of stage wins in consecutive GTs: 11 would put him 4th equal with Charly Gaul, with only Merckx, Hinault and Coppi ahead of them.

  23. From a rational financial perspective it would not make sense to complete the Giro as a high end sprinter.

    Especially if you are trying to appease fans – that talk the talk but as a mortal can not do two climbing days in a row even if they trained for it.

  24. Well written and timely article but it’s hardly a new practice. One Mario Cipollini rarely (never?) finished a grand tour. More often than not he’d quit with multiple stage wins and the sprint leader’s jersey after week 1 or so. At the time it was Erik Zabel or Robbie McEwan who used to profit as they suffered through the mountains.

  25. Having scrolled through these comments, I’m surprised that no one has recognized the golden pot of gold at the end of the TDF rainbow for sprinters – the Champs Elysées sprint.

    Kitten, Cavendish et al talk about it as the most prestigious sprint in the calendar, and forces them to stick out the mountain stages in order to get the chance to compete.

    None of the other grand tours have a blue riband sprinters’ stage to compare, hence once they have won a couple of stages why bother putting yourself through the pain and fatigue for a non-consequential sprint in Turin / Milan / Santiago or wherever the other 2 GTs decide to finish each year?

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