Giro d’Italia 2023 Review

Primož Roglič rides up Monte Lussari on his way to the stage win and the maglia rosa. If you’d been away for three weeks and glanced at the final results you’d spot Evenepoel didn’t finish and see the other pre-race pick won. Only it wasn’t so simple…

The start on the Adriatic coast brought warm sunshine and Remco Evenepoel in sparking form, both proved to be a mirage. The Belgian prodigy was 22 seconds clear of Filippo Ganna, a surprise margin but otherwise this was expected with Evenepoel in pink and rivals hoping to get ahead in the mountains.

Jonathan Milan won in San Salvo, a breakthrough result for the team pursuit rider who is now bidding to become a top sprinter. With a stronger leadout he’d have won more, but he could be a supreme leadout himself, a human battering ram and either way he’d win the points competition. The next day Michael Matthews won in Melfi, ahead of Mads Pedersen and Kaden Groves who’d each get a stage win in the coming days.

One of the themes of this year’s Giro is that none of the GC contenders wanted the race lead too soon, it was a Saint Augustinian fight for pink: “give me the maglia rosa, just not yet”. Evenepoel said before the race if he was in pink he’d be happy to loan it to someone else and by Stage 4 he was almost using a loudhailer on the start line. Lago Laceno saw the first of ten early breakaways stay away – almost half the stages – and Aurélien Paret-Peintre took the stage while the overall lead went to Andreas Leknessund, and the white jersey too meaning Evenepoel was free from all podium protocols for a while. Leknessund went on to have an excellent Giro with an eighth place finish overall. Evenepoel might have unloaded the lead but not his troubles as he crashed twice on Stage 5, first an errant dog and then a careless mistake in the finish.

The Gran Sasso was the first mountain rendez-vous for the GC but stage proved the equivalent of a cancelled appointment, unless your name was Davide Bais. A small breakaway got away without much fuss and stayed clear, Bais winning the stage and taking the mountains jersey, a boost for the endangered Eolo-Kometa team. The Gran Sasso finish has featured before, in 2018 it was the perfect finish with a win by Simon Yates with small time gaps among the other contenders, it didn’t decide the race but gave us action and told us a bit about rider form. This time a headwind blocked any ambitions and the riders came in together.

The stage to Fossombrone might be the best day of the race, end to end action and battle for the stage win and scrap between the GC contenders. The breakaway needed two hours to get away. Ben Healy could have been cooked from trying but with 50km he jumped and took a fine solo win. Behind Roglič attacked on the last time up the climb of i Cappucini and Evenepoel couldn’t close the gap as the Ineos tandem of Tao Geoghegan Hart and Geraint Thomas bridged across to the Slovenian. Panic stations for Evenepoel? Not ideal, yet this was exactly how the race was supposed to unfold with Evenepoel managing his lead and a 14 second loss was tolerable, especially with the time trial coming the next day where he was expected to take back molto time.

The Cesena stage was where Evenepoel’s Giro ended. He was one second faster than Thomas, with Geoghegan Hart a further second back, then the Groupama-FDJ pair of Küng and Armirail, with Roglič next at 16 seconds. At this rate Filippo Ganna should have won but he’d left the race with Covid, a clue as to what was coming. With everyone extrapolating Evenepoel’s gains per kilometre from Stage 1 to this stage, to win only by one second was really a loss for Evenepoel. He was back in pink but had less than a minute on his rivals, hardly the cushion he wanted and something was up. Indeed his cushion turned to car seat or the drive home to Belgium given he tested positive for Covid and was out of the race.

It was a shock because of who was involved. All season riders have been thwarted by Covid. There was a cluster in the Tour de Romandie, Jumbo-Visma kept making switches to their roster on the eve of the race. But suddenly the virus stole the limelight, here was the race leader going home among others. For all the virology chat, just remember public health and the performance of elite athletes are not the same. You might not sport a mask in the supermarket nor take a rapid antigen test if you have a sore throat, but pro cyclists certainly will behave differently for some time to come, just as they have long tested for other viruses at the first sign of symptoms too. Evenepoel’s departure was a loss to the race with a superstar out, but also a blow for his ambitions. He’s won the Vuelta, the Worlds and plenty more but the Giro, just finishing it, would have been an important lesson given he’s targetting the Tour de France next year.

With many getting Covid, others were just ill and the stage to Viareggio compounded things, it was “raining basins” as they say in Italian. A “Medicane” was approaching Italy and while this was uncomfortable for the riders, the flooding proved devastating for several regions in Italy and to watch the Giro on Italian TV was to see the disaster relief appeal messages. Some riders wanted to skip the start of the stage but the compromise was team buses would follow the race route in case things forced the race to stop and everyone needed transport. Magnus Cort won from the breakaway as the sprinters’ teams tried to chase but ran out of riders. Cort got the better of Derek Gee, who made a name for himself in the race, in a textbook finish, he knew the others knew he was the fastest. And trust me, the picture above is really from a beach resort in Italy and not Koksijde in February.

Pascal Ackermann took the stage win in Tortona but the stage was defined by a crash on the descent of the Colle di Boasi which took out several riders. One minute Tao Geoghegan Hart was third overall, the next he was being loaded into an ambulance.

Another day, another German win as Nico Denz won in Rivoli from the breakaway where he just held on over the Colle Braida so he could contest the sprint, beating Toms Skujiņš. Denz would win again too Cassano Magnago , saving Bora-hansgrohe’s Giro after their leader Vlasov left with Covid and Lennard Kämna rode to a discreet 9th overall.

The Alps were looming, the Alps were lopped. The first of the big mountain stages was abbreviated after rider protest about the descent of the Col de la Croix-de-Coeur, a course safety matter. After hasty negotiations a compromise was reached and the organisers invoked the Extreme Weather Protocol (EWP) to skip the first ascent, the Grand Saint Bernard via its tunnel. Only the weather wasn’t extreme on the climb, the Giro had raced through worse during the week and would do so the following day too. It was a bit like a Woody Allen stand-up routine about kidnappers:

The FBI surround the house, “Throw the kid out,”, they say, “give us your guns, and come out with your hands up.”
The kidnappers say “We’ll throw the kid out, but let us keep our guns, and get to our car.”
The FBI says “Throw the kid out, we’ll let you get to your car, but give us your guns.”
The kidnappers say “We’ll throw the kid out, but let us keep our guns – we don’t have to get to our car.”
The FBI says “Keep the kid.”

They kept the Croix-de-Coeur. This was a deal between the rider union and the race organisers rather than the EWP in action where teams, organisers, the race doctor and the UCI are supposed to confer. The rider union statement cited fatigue from so many days of racing in the rain. Now this is a real thing, especially with illnesses going around the peloton but as much as you can sympathise, nowhere in the rulebook does it say you can cite EWP because the weather’s been foul for days. It was a rider strike. If the decision was taken in a rush with the peloton having to think about the race ahead and the organisers the logistics change, nobody seemed to want to explain matters or apologise. Had the riders and the Giro announced their plans accompanied by a message to the waiting fans and a promise to locals to return as soon as possible things might have gone down better. Instead Aosta region’s politicians are calling on RCS to pay them damages.

Italian TV and the media blasted the race and the riders. The quotes from retired riders can make for tasty headlines but they’re imperfect for exploring the topic. Each generation races in its own conditions, road racing is a palimpsest of lived experiences. While yesterday’s riders boast of riding over mountain passes in the snow, in turn their elders could mock them because they didn’t have 350km stages. Previous generations rode through the night, others only had two gears and they were lucky because back in the day you only had one gear, and so on. We’re not going back to the Giro of 1909.

Anyway there was still a race and Einer Rubio won the stage, playing it cool while Thibaut Pinot got enraged by Jeferson Cepeda but took back the mountains jersey. If the race had visited Switzerland, it had to get out and went over the giant Simplon pass in grim weather with many riders frozen to the bone on the long descent, so much that the peloton finished 21 minutes down. Bruno Armirail rode into the maglia rosa, a reward for a luxury domestique whose pulling power ranges to fifth place in the Cesena TT. The sun came out for the Lombardia stage to Bergamo, at least the finish, and Brandon McNulty took a stage win.

Monte Bondone was the first big summit finish and did see the GC change with Thomas back in pink and Almeida climbing up to second place thanks to his attacking that got him the stage win ahead of Thomas. Bondone has seen more epic days but in retrospect this proved to a big GC moment. Aided by a big turn from Jay Vine that shredded what was left of the lead group, Almeida’s attack was arguably the boldest move among the podium finishers, launching with six kilometres to go and with 4.5km to go Thomas got across and the pair worked to distance Roglič. However Roglič limited his losses to 25 seconds as the lead two began to ease up in the finish with thoughts of the stage win. Perhaps Thomas did begin to stew in pink and this fatigue would come with a price; or equally not as it boosted him and the team?

Alberto Dainese won the sprint by the seaside in Caorle on one of those days where you could watch the final two kilometres and not miss anything, but the day had other effects, 200km but an active recovery day, of sorts, for the GC contenders.

Stage 18 was the first of two days in the Dolomites and a great day’s racing with a lively start with Thibaut Pinot able to infiltrate the breakaway and contest the stage win. In a battle of two animal lovers Pinot out to Filippo Zana; Pinot with his herd of animals back home versus Zana who used his prize money as an U23 to buy a horse from Serbia and he likes his chickens, rabbits and more. Behind there were animal spirits with Roglič here as he got away with Thomas, this time it was Almeida in trouble but only losing 11 seconds, again small gaps. Still this was Roglič becoming more provocative, the time losses of Monte Bondone forgotten and now he was making moves.

Stage 19 was the Dolomite tappone. But it was too much, like a feast presented to diners who’d already had their full, riders were tired from the previous day’s racing and concerned indigestion for the coming mountain TT. The GC contenders only moved within sight of the flamme rouge, newspaper Corriere della Sera – the same owner as the race organisers, the CS in RCS and with no axe to grind – described had called the racing il ciclismo dei ragionieri, “bookkeeper’s cycling”. Perhaps the margins were thin but credit was with Roglič even if it was hard to see his finish line sprint for three seconds translate into the thirty seconds he needed the next day.

So it all came down to the Monte Lussari time trial. Even during the stage things looked static with Roglič seeming to be on course for a stage win but Thomas keeping pink. Then Thomas cracked in the final two kilometres and was losing time. Roglič of course had to unship his chain at this point, so often he’s been the victim of misfortune but he unflappably put it back on and eventually got going again to take the stage and the maglia rosa.

Stage 21 was a criterium around Rome and won by Mark Cavendish with an imperial sprint that recalled his best days, launching off Fernando Gaviria’s wheel and finishing lengths ahead, and after Geraint Thomas had taken a long pull on the front to line out the peloton as a gift for his old team mate. Longevity is word often used with Cavendish these days and it’s especially remarkable for a sprinter to be winning at the age of 38.

The chart shows the GC standings for the top-5 overall relative to Roglič and as you can see there’s barely any movement in the lines for the podium finishers across the three weeks. Among the podium placers the lines are so close throughout, seconds in it and yet a good grand tour ought to see more peaks and troughs as fortunes wax and wane, or at least the lines crossing more often. Damiano Caruso finishes fourth without shaping the race but testimony to steady riding.

Thibaut Pinot’s line is more snakes-and-ladders, losing time in splits here and there, ill for the time trial in Cesena and a further time loss on Monte Bondone but this gave him just enough room to attack in search of lost time and stage wins. As much as he’d have liked that stage win he’ll be more than satisfied he could hang out with his peers on the GC, all while collecting the mountains jersey.

The Verdict
A damp, dull Giro. Spanish newspaper Marca – owned by RCS – remarked that Pogačar was trending on Twitter following the insipid stages; L’Equipe’s review this morning calls it “une course fade“, a bland race. The organisers can’t do much about the weather but some of the course design left riders tired and spectators frustrated. This was spoilt further by the intrusion of Covid and the rotten luck that saw other contenders crash out. Now incidents de course happen but when the race leader and a previous winner are taken out it’s worse. However until the Giro started no early breakaway had stayed away in a World Tour race for the win and now several got their rewards, there was a thrill in seeing riders thwart the sprinters some days and Monte Lussari did supply a late flourish.

If the stage wins were chaotic sometimes, alas the GC was more of an attritional contest across three weeks rather than a race of daring attacks or drama, the spark of i Cappucini and the closeness of the Cesena TT were tantalising but the GC contest fell into a hiatus that even Monte Bondone and the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, theatres of so many past battles, struggled to break. Absent Remco Evenepoel and Ineos without the second card of Tao Geoghegan Hart, the surviving riders were on a similar level, with similar styles of racing, especially as Roglič was sore from crashes mid-race. We want dynamic racing but can’t always get it, there’s no action-or-your-money-back guarantee.

If it lacked some spectacular moments Roglič finishes as a satisfying winner, he was tested along the way. Yes he was the pre-race pick for many but absent Evenepoel he didn’t run away with things and for a while was on the back foot and even losing time in the mountains, albeit seconds. He finished just 14 seconds ahead of Thomas – the tightest margin since 1974 when Eddy Merckx pipped Gianbattista Baronchelli by 12 seconds – and both only got six seconds of time bonuses all race. Roglič gets a Giro to go alongside his three Vuelta wins and Jumbo-Visma now get their grand tour grand slam. There are so many other lines on Roglič’s palmarès and yet we can see him two ways. He’s a stage racing cyborg with wins in every week-long race worth winning, bar the Tour de Suisse and that’s just down to calendar clashes given he rode the Dauphiné. Yet he’s also been DNF in the Vuelta and Tour last year, the Tour before that too, and when he did finish the 2020 Tour of course he lost to Pogačar. A year before that he he crashed on the stage to Como in the Giro and his GC bid faded and in all kindness and respect he’s often been an unwitting loser, a victim of events. This Giro win is his triumph and he overcame obstacles, from missing team mates to crash injuries, and even a dropped chain on Monte Lussari didn’t bother him.

For Thomas, he’s the premium runner-up aged 37 whose second place ennobles Roglič’s victory. In last year’s Tour his third place was deserved but as good as he could get. Here he might feel like the race slipped from his grasp and torment himself about what could have been done along the way, but a faster helmet change in Valbruna or towing Almeida to the top of Monte Bondone might have gained seconds but more than the 14 he needed? He had a very strong team but once “TGH” and Sivakov were out it was riding in a defensive manner. He had a slender lead to start with and the Lussari time trial always threatened a reversal of fortune for some.

And a solid result for Almeida with his first podium and still eligible for the white jersey ahead of Arensman and Leknessund. UAE have Tadej Pogačar for the Tour de France for the foreseeable future, Juan Ayuso for the Vuelta and possibly the Tour as well so Almeida’s diary for May could be booked for years to come and with a stage win he’s making constant progress and can hope to swap white for pink one day.

Long live the Giro we might say and the Giro was the race of long lives, or at least long careers. Roglič came to cycling when he was 22 and now wins aged 33, finishing ahead of a 37 year old. In fourth place there’s 35 year old in Caruso and fifth place goes to Thibaut Pinot who turns 33 today and on the verge of retirement. A theme in cycling of late has been how the young generation is sweeping everything aside but the Giro shows experience and persistence can count too.

It was damp and dull at times, but it wasn’t a bad Giro. We’ve had editions where the police have raided the race, the race leader has been evicted, convicted cheats have thrived, and riders have died in competition: that’s bad. This year was just, alas, unremarkable for days on end, much like last year where the hierarchy of the Blockhaus stage remained until the final Saturday and several riders were written out of the script thanks to Covid (Almeida), illness (Bardet) and crashes (Simon Yates). If the 2023 Giro was a wine, nobody would be smashing the bottles in rage, nor sending this year’s vintage to the vinegar factory. No, the worry is this year’s Giro just leaves people indifferent. There sotto voce calls to shrink the Giro to two weeks tour as part of wider calendar reforms. The race and its long format needs all the defenders it can get. You’d like to think that the current Italian government which is big on national pride, to put it gently, would stop this but the Giro is really struggling to cut through into public consciousness, populist politicians don’t show up at the race. Italian cycling needs some home heroes but that can’t be magicked up. But RCS can plot the route and with Made-in-Italy becoming a slogan, logistics permitting, why not sprint up into the belleza of hilltop town rather than the industrial estate below it? Instead of several sprint stages with an early hill, why not the put the climb in late, or add a couple more Fossombrone-style finales because Italy has all geography to supply all of this, it’s a staple of Tirreno-Adriatico after all. All the ingredients are there. And maybe next year Mother Nature will supply some sunshine.

176 thoughts on “Giro d’Italia 2023 Review”

  1. Good review, BRAVO! I was going to write my own until I read this one- (worth translating IMHO)
    These two bits- “The Gran Sasso finish has featured before, in 2018 it was the perfect finish with a win by Simon Yates” and “The stage to Fossombrone might be the best day of the race, Ben Healy could have been cooked from trying but with 50km he jumped and took a fine solo win.” remind me of what I posted earlier about the best stages/courses/races being the ones where your guy (as in UK guy) wins. Yankees would likely cite “The sun came out for the Lombardia stage to Bergamo, at least the finish, and Brandon McNulty took a stage win.” as the best for the same reason?

    • For me, that stage was great not because of Healy (who’s not a “UK guy” btw, but an Irish national) riding away for the win, but because of the action and tension of the GC with Roglic attacking and Remco unexpectedly cracking.
      It wasn’t the best stage I’ve ever seen, for sure, but in a Giro lacking in highlights, it did stick in the memory.

      • I’m fairly sure Healy has both a UK passport (he was on the GB MTB squad) and an Irish one. Don’t know what that makes him!

        • That’s correct, Tovarisch.
          But, ref UCI arts. 1.1.011 & 1.1.009, as he is currently Irish national ITT champion, we must recognise that he is – from a UCI perspective – an Irish rider. That is, at least until his current license expires come the end of 2023, ref art. 1.1.008.

        • It makes him part of the Irish diaspora. A good chunk of the UK has claim to an Irish passport, thanks to Ireland’s “Irish parent or Ireland borne grandparent? Then you can be Irish” citizenship rules.

          He has an Irish auld fella, and he obviously got his Foreign Birth Registration in, so he’s Irish (also, he has a fairly Irish looking head on him 😉 ).

        • Born and raised in England, speaks with an unmistakably English accent but presumably found, like Dan Martin and Matt Brammeier before him, that opportunities are easier to come by in a country with less competition. And post Brexit, an Irish passport makes sense for a rider who wants to spend much of the year in the Schengen area.

          Just as Chris Froome found a British racing licence opened doors that a Kenyan one didn’t.

  2. After stage 18, Irungo and I said that Thomas should have attacked Roglic more when he had a gap on him. The younger riders have shown that riding conservatively – with the dogma of ‘saving energy’ – is not the best way to go. I’ve always said that when you can take time, you should take time, because you never know what will happen later in the race. The energy is there to be used – to take time.
    And yes, this is me telling riders how they should race – and it’s borne of experience (just one example is Froome in the 2018, he was totally on the ropes earlier in the race, and they should have finished him off there)
    Hopefully, Roglic’s chain issues will make another thing clear to riders and teams that we’ve seen time and again: don’t use new technology in a race. (And if Roglic gained more of an advantage because of the technology, then that’s a reason to ban it – races shouldn’t be decided by the bike.)

    • Last year’s TdF – Vingegaard attacks Pogacar when he’s weak, and keeps attacking – he didn’t ride steadily to conserve energy.
      2020 TdF – Roglic and team don’t work purely for Roglic on the windy stage when Pogacar had been dropped, instead making sure van Aert won the stage. Plus, Roglic had a gap on Pogacar on a mountain stage and it seemed to me he could have pressed home his advantage more.

    • By the way, and totally OT (plus, re: another previous OT). I finally could give a look to the article you linked some days ago about that dam discussion, and, indeed, it’s the sort of work well worth being done. Academia at its best.

    • Totally agree.

      In sport, as in politics, the window of opportunity is extremely limited. If you’re not out there taking risks and doing stuff then what are you actually doing?

  3. Roglic’s mental strength – to continue to ride like that after the chain issue – must be immense.

    What was the TV director doing? It was a two-horse race, and instead of watching them (ideally with time updates… as it’s not the 1970s), we saw an equal amount of all the other riders – I think I saw more of Arensman riding than I did of Roglic and Thomas put together.

    Although I kind of wanted Thomas to win, I’m so impressed by Roglic – and a guy losing because of technology would have been just too ridiculous an end to a grand tour.

    • Yeah. This people (TV production) are probably the best of the best available on the market, they’re the TDF (and more) company, but, hey, some things really didn’t work. Just like the continuous image coverage last year even in stages where the weather wasn’t that bad (same company). This year the landscape takes were great, they faced terrible weather with good results, but… TV direction wasn’t great – last edition had issues in this sense, too. Apparently, it’s not that easy even if you’re the best, and some aspects clearly do *not* depend on money. On a very difficult task, on a very top level, maybe it’s also about specific talent of a single person. RAI had had a great director for years (now retired, it’s not like they kicked him off). The new ones have their style and maybe simply need to learn, the Giro isn’t the TDF, either, from the POV of TV production, different situations and generally much more complicated.

      • They had a new director who has done cyclo-cross races but seems a bit challenged by grand tours, they’d often cut away from the action on a climb and we’re still piecing together what happened on Monte Lussari.

        On the plus side as you say all that bad weather with rain and clouds but no lost pictures.

        An interview with the director is here, more about the tech and resources but interesting if people want more:

        • Assuming they always had cameras on each of Roglic and Thomas, the final 4-5 km of their rides seemed the perfect opportunity for a generous amount of split-screen, along with the live time gap. You’d barely have to worry about direction, beyond a few cut-aways to other riders finishing, given that it was obvious by then that Almeida wasn’t going to win the GC.

        • As I understand it, the logistics on Mt Lussari and the 800km transfer distance to Rome precluded having the regular TV production company & equipment do both Stages 20 & 21. So the regular crew went to Rome and an outside production company handled the TT. I’d assume this has a lot to do with the sub-par coverage on the mountain.

      • This makes me laugh – when Italy’s RAI is doing the coverage it’s awful, full of technical glitches and ruined by directors who don’t know what they’re doing. But when EMG takes over the issues are glossed over or explained away with “it’s not easy”. etc. 🙂
        I probably watched RAI and Eurosport (GCN) about equally this time, switching when RAI went to ads or when GCN put some boob on to blather-on about something I didn’t care about. Other than the pretty-much-worthless Ettore Giovanelli on RAI I thought their coverage pretty good though I detest the Processo capo Fabretti almost with a passion. GCN’s Italian team I liked along with Voight – the rest were barely up there with Giovanelli IMHO.

        • The Processo’s a strange thing. It should be there to review the stage, picking out key points with hindsight and using video… but instead they just chat a lot, often after a big stage they don’t even flash up the Top-10 or the new GC. It’s all a bit random. The latest TV ratings show it’s in freefall.

          Wider audience numbers for RAI show 1.7 million a day on average, 18% audience share which is comparable to recent years but pre-pandemic they were 2 million.

          La Gazzetta Dello Sport gets a little carried away today saying “1 in 3 Italians watched the Giro” but that’s based on 29% share for the Tre Cime di Lavaredo stage, rounding up to 33% share, decent. But of course not all Italians are watching TV on a Friday afternoon, far from it as people are at work, in class, in the supermarket etc. The estimated audience number is 2.7 million… or less than one in 20 Italians.

          • Don’t get a little carried away in the opposite direction yourself ^___^, 1/20 albeit “a fact” says nothing, given that, as you yourself say, many just can’t watch, or watch later, no matter how interested in the Giro they are!
            The most effective analysis are comparative ones, of course. That said, there are interesting aspects to note, as I did below, like the fact that the figures for the full broadcast are greatly on the up, which is a surprise of sort, or that people now watch stages which in the past would have been discarded by spectators just because of a flattish route. Same for the first week… which could have lower figures in the past, even if it was actually way more interesting!
            2.6-2.7 for the most watched stage is horrible figures, in the 10s they could be sometimes as high as +50%. Average is mediocre but not terrible, and a step up compared to last year, especially if you consider how RCS went hardcore with their policy of stabilising a supersteady baseline of spectators. Full ITTs in the weekends, each and every mountain stage in working days, no serious mountain stages in the weekends, hilly at most. The idea was also going for big festive Sundays in hotbeds like Abruzzo, Romagna, Bergamo, plus the added finale in Roma, which can also take 100-200 k away from live TV watch every time. Even if you didn’t fully renounce to this strategy but applied it at 80% or so, you would have had higher peaks, and I suspect a better average, too (checking against typical trends of previous years). They went really extreme.

          • Besides, it’s not as if the people watching are always the same ones. You can average 2 M on three stages, and maybe it’s 3 M watching each two stages out of three. This is about measuring (estimating) collective interest, rather than viewing figures as such, which obviously work as they work and mean what they mean!
            In the past I had estimated that at least 5-6 M had been watching at least a handful of stages, and it was more of a generalist public, now it’s rather down to the 3-4 M mainly specific cycling fans

  4. Thank you very much for the fantastic review. It is one of the rare cases where you read a piece that exactly expresses your how you feel about something, and you know you would have never been able to find the right words yourself. Roglič “as a satisfying winner” who “in all kindness and respect [has] often been an unwitting loser”, Thomas as “the premium runner-up […] whose second place ennobles Roglič’s victory” — beautiful!

  5. Can anyone with more insight explain why there were ‘virtually no ‘ spectators for the final stage around Rome? Sunday, beautiful evening , great spectacle as the peleton goes round so often…and there were places where there seemed to be no one watching. Even at the end , you could have got a place in the second line back with ease.

    Was there some sort of rumour of possible trouble?

    • Exaggerated security which besides blocking access to several part of the course (as it happened in the first ITT) probably also turned down the mood of part of the public. In this case, however, there was some reason or it, that is, the presence of the President Mattarella who’d award the prize.
      However, it’s kind of crazy that RCS is designing the route apparently with the manifest intent of maximising roadside public although it may mean hindering TV figures, then they don’t make sure to have as much as possible of it all along the whole route. On Monte Lussari it made more sense, and I found the stark contrast which was created that way even beautiful, in a way, but yesterday or Ortona were just absurd. That said, Roma is a very complicated city, so you just can’t draw the route as you’d please (several changes were forced by authorities). The Giro definitely hasn’t the same political leverage as the TDF, probably never had, but nowadays even less so.

    • “…‘virtually no ‘ spectators for the final stage around Rome?”
      We must have watched different coverage somehow – I joked to the wife “nobody cares about the Giro anymore” as we noted all the spectators in the Eternal City…a place where as much is happening on any given Sunday as there is in Paris. Everyone seemed pretty happy with the finale there and they said it’s contracted to be there for the next few years…so the only ones angry are those in Valle d’Aosta who only got to see the racers pass by in the bus.

      • I agree that we had a good deal of people on the roadside, this year, which is something actively pursued by RCS, even sacrificing TV figures, as I explained many times. Yet it’s kind of absurd that you do that *in order to show roadside public on TV*, but then you often end up showing some parts of the course with little or no people on the roadside because of logistics or “public safety”; MellowVelo is right in that sense, only it wasn’t because any general lack of public. It was more explicit and understandable on Lussari, obviously enough.

  6. Thanks for all the coverage.

    I certainly can’t fault the riders for the way they road. Having the teams get weaker during and before the race even started due to crashes and covid meant really the teams were not strong enough to control the race and set up multiple massive attack stages. The course design also sort of encouraged the way it went. You back load it to keep it tight until the end and by default there’s not a lot the riders can do especially with weaker teams in the first 2 weeks. And when you backload so many hard stages in a just a few days it becomes to hard to overstretch on any one day. Its a catch 22 course design.

    I do wonder about Thomas’s TT. People looking at the time splits indicate the Thomas lost a lot of time in just the last few km’s. It didn’t stop completely but sort of cracked just the last bit. He was somehow covered in salt even before he got to the climb after just 10 km on the flatter part. I read/heard somewhere he took 2.5 for his doping control due to difficulty providing a sample. Did they overdo his warmup.
    We will never know but it was probably one of the best TT ever a discipline i generally avoid watching even on highlights.

    • I am sure it was all about gearing. Thomas was faster than Almeida, who had beaten him on Stage 1, so, it would seem, he rode a par time. Roglic’s gearing allowed him to ride at a 20% higher cadence than Thomas, which meant he was within the optimal range even on the steepest gradients. Drop below the optimum and it takes a lot to drag yourself back up to speed.

      • This! Thank you Tovarish! I also think G underestimated the gradient. 34×34 just wasn’t enough for 5k @ 15%. Mind you G still was the second best on the day.

          • Oh well, second hand information. Should have better sense than trusting them blindly.

            Rest assured, Larry, I am by no means a SRAM fan. Early in my riding life, I was warned by a wise young man that despite it being negligibly lighter than equivalent Shimano offerings, SRAM Red is a pain in the backside in every other aspect.

      • Exactly. He still did the second best time on the day so it wasn’t as if he massively underperformed. Just didn’t quite have the right gearing. But there’s no guarantee that would have kept him in pink either.

    • My first thought at seeing Thomas’ salty shorts was “this guy is dehydrating because he drank as little water as possible for weight-saving reasons”. I might be wrong, but he now has good reasons for drinking. And not just water.

        • “Possibly the bicarbonate rub he uses” WTF? Surely you jest! I thought they put that into gel caps and swallowed them…or is that just the excuse when you test positive for PED’s…the empty caps you bought someone got contaminated at the pharmacy?

          • It can come in a lotion as well where it is applied topically.

            Does it work? Some sports science studies say not but like all of these studies they use very small sample sizes… and trying to rub baking powder into the muscles, well it does sound like snake oil. But teams wouldn’t use it if they didn’t think it wasn’t helping, they’re not really shills/influencers for the product here, pretending to use something in exchange for payment.

            It could certainly explain the white marks on the shorts.

        • Was it a rub or just sodium bicarb in a drink?

          The topical application has no good evidence to it. In a drink, there is evidence of efficacy – but with side effects.

          If you look at the ingredients of lots of sports energy drinks/powder drink mixes, you will often see, after citric acid, “sodium citrate”. That’s the product of citric acid + sodium bicarbonate.

    • Thomas still came 2nd in the TT, beating some pure climbers up a steep hill. I think he must have rode outside himself to achieve that to be honest. The problem is that Roglic was just on another level from everyone else that day. Bags of extra power.

      The salt, GCN commentators were speculating it was due to his extended and intense warmup. He did a long one and had evidently done some efforts in it. And yeah, maybe that was the problem. Intense warmups are needed for short TTs, but the longer the TT the less intense the warmup should be, AFAIK. Maybe Sky got that wrong.

      In a podcast afterwards, Geraint also speculated that sodium bicarbonate was the cause (sodium bicarbonate is speculated to be able to act as a pH buffer in the blood, helping to deal with lactic acid – there is evidence it helps performance, though it is known to cause gastro-intestinal issues too). He’d used it in that TT and felt it had blunted his legs.

  7. I gave up on the Giro and took the opportunity to do some riding of my own when the teams and their Union invoked the ‘Extreme Weather Protocol’, for no apparent reason. It’s a bike race against each other, the terrain and yes even the weather. From what friends tell me I didn’t miss much excitement. Lack of attacking riding from the pre race favorites, endless trundling along flat finishes and a generally uninspiring, wet and dull course.
    Congratulation to Roglic and to Cav for winning the final stage.
    Fingers crossed the organizers can provide something a little better and inspiring next year. The riders race and spend no time sitting in their team buses watching cyclo tourists showing them how it could and should be done..

    • I can see why you dropped it: I found the riders’ behaviour appalling. It was an OK grand tour.
      But they need to sort out this weather nonsense.
      They also need to make the riders use the same type of bike throughout the race.
      The TT bikes are absurd, dangerous in windy conditions, give too great an advantage to some.
      Not only that but this race could have been decided by someone’s gears.
      The fact that the biggest talking point on these pages following the ITT was about bike tech. is a damning indictment.

      • I agree that tech differences should not be a decisive factor in bike racing (they are always a factor, and where to draw the line is the difficult question) and I suspect they often are in TTs, but I have a hard time following complaints about something as simple as riders opting for different gearing. Modern bikes have gears. These days, they have a lot of gears with huge ranges. Choosing the right gear, both on the bike within the range mounted and before the race when deciding what to mount, has been a part of the sport for a long time. It is not as if the technology wouldn’t be available to Thomas if he wanted easier gears.

        I suspect that the focus on tech on these pages primarily relates to (1) cycling fans’ obsession with tech which needs no more than a puncture to erupt into page upon page of discussion and (2) partisan fans’ problems with enjoying an outstanding performance when the performer was not “their guy” but a rival.

        As for the EWP: Yes please, something needs to be done. I have no issues with the wording of the protocol, but its implementation this time provoked me and robbed me of a stage I’d been looking forward to since the presentation. I’m glad to hear that the local politicians of the affected towns and regions give RCS a hard time on this, because that’s exactly what’s needed: Pressure from other interest groups. What about fans? Are we heard? Do race organizers have reasons to listen?

    • How can you blame the organizers when whiny brats threaten strikes? This isn’t the first time, though it does seem they do this at the Giro more than Tour or Vuelta. Is it because they fear ASO more than RCS?
      GT organizers need a united front here…”WE design the race course and run the race, YOU race…or STFU and go home if it’s too cold, wet, long or whatever. We’re not asking you to race through hoops of fire or 300+ kilometer stages through the night. If stage racing is too tough for you, perhaps a local velodrome might be better? See how much $$ you can make racing there, trading on the memories of epic rides from the past. Good luck!”

    • I think that happened because of the combination with the cold & wet weather of the previous days, not just on that day; they probably didn’t want to lose half the riders to sickness in/after that stage…

  8. Highlight was stage 6 into Naples. Not just because the weather played nice as the race ran down to the coast and on through Malfi, it was the run-in to Naples that was in celebration already. The ribbons subtly changed from pink to light blue and white and you finally felt the rain had gone…

    Your comment on stages finishing in hilltop fortified towns is what the Giro always should have been about, with the big mountain stages unimpeded by TT stages on the next day. No question the course design kept the lid on GC battles when the pan should have been on a roiling boil. The supposed need to include sponsor HQs in the route shows RCS is more concerned about the commercial rather than the regional and patrimonial. No wonder it’s not getting traction with the politicians and losing the towns.
    I’m in no position to give a solution for the loss: Business had changed, and advertisers know you can get national coverage in many ways besides what used to be the only national sports event with its panoply of known regional star riders. The Giro has to chase the money.

    • Quite much agreed on lot of the above, and especially loved the pan & lid metaphor. I like to analyse course design, this had a clear intent to favour breaks in order to rack up more chances for Italian teams whose level is clearly not adequate and a break can be a decent lottery, same for sprint stages and how they were structured. But that was a relatively minor flaw, as the position of the final uphill ITT relative to other specific stages.
      Just as the Giro had been thriving in the ’10s, offering better racing than the other GTs more often than not, and sometimes even a way better startlist (especially if you take into account also form and determination to win, besides mere names), well, this decade doesn’t look as promising. Which bids the question if it’s a cycle of sort, as it happened so often in history to, say, Sanremo, or if there are more structural reasons (as in the case of the Italian movement), which would be a valid reason to be worried.

      • The Giro’s comeback from the 2008-09 onwards was, at least in my environment, due to Zomegnan and his “back to (gruelling) roots” approach that appealed both to fans and the gutsier riders. It’s really the riders who are ruining what RCS knows is the Giro’s (potential) winning card: la corsa più impegnativa mai vista.

    • Not much, RCS Sport doesn’t own the race, it just organises it. This company sits within the “publicity and sport” section of RCS Media and this a relatively small part, the accounts for this division don’t show big money. But in general the finances seem stable and ok, it’s not in trouble. Races like Tirreno-Adriatico run by RCS probably run at a loss; while the UAE Tour is probably very lucrative and a few days of this race fill the coffers.

      With the talk of shrinking the Giro to two weeks it’s like asking RCS to take a 33% cut to their Giro income (TV rights, sponsorship, stage hosting fees etc, and more in devaluing the product) but they could be persuaded if there are lucrative races given to them to run elsewhere.

        • I don’t like it either, cycling’s calling card is the slow and long aspect and as much as I enjoy the Tour de France, I’d like to be able to enjoy the Giro just as much.

          One team manager who had a good Giro seems to have deleted a social media posting about wanting the race to be “run over three weekends”, as in going from three to two weeks.

        • 14 days makes perfect sense to me. They are never going to beat Le Tour at their own game because ASO have the plumb spot on the calendar.
          As for crimes against cycling I think that sitting on the bus qualifies for that.

          • They already beat the TDF at a slightly different game… the Tour is the most important race, the Giro – usually – the most beautiful one. Nonsense to make it worse, and for what, by the way?

          • The Giro is usually the best grand tour of the year. Why lessen it? What are the positives of reducing a grand tour to two weeks?

          • 150 watts, neither of those things are in any way guaranteed just because the race is two weeks long. Also, a strong start list doesn’t necessarily lead – at all – to a better race.
            Meanwhile, the Giro is totally devalued, a century of history is thrown away and the most interesting grand tour of the year (usually) is ruined.
            Also, if they do that to the Giro, then they’ll do it to the Vuelta. And then we’ll be left with the TdF, then grand tour that turns into a procession more often than the other two, with its pathetically short stages.

          • The 3-weeks long Giro has had way more intensity and racing than the TDF for more than a decade, if shortening is so good, why didn’t they do it with the TDF? And how would that bring a stronger startlist if many people are already avoiding racing in May after the Spring block, be it one week or three?

            Generally speaking, you can’t positively relate none of the characteristics you name to total race days, in real races, I mean, so it’s like trying random thing.

          • If there is no precedent for a 16 day race it is indeed as you suggest a “random thing”. But it also possible that it is “goldilocks” thing.
            One week races don’t quite satisfy but three week races have too much padding. Three weekends might be the sweetspot … particularly for May.

          • It’s typically the 3rd week which makes a difference, as in one-day racing 200 km are a threshold of sort.

            In fact, Paris-Nice had up to 12 fractions (in less days, thanks to semitappe), and Tour de Suisse also had up to 12 actual stages, but it really added little to nothing and they were duly down to 8-9 again.

            I don’t get the “padding” thing, you’d need it all the same for a broad range of reasons, just look at most one-week stage races…

            However, what makes sense would be if anything trying to have say Suisse or Catalunya at 16 days and see how it goes.

      • All this rubbish about calendar clashes: what, were people desperate to watch the Tour of Hungary while the Giro was on, and would have had there been time? Paris-Nice and Tirenno are the only two relatively big stage races that are on at the same time, and even that’s not really an issue.

      • Well if you don’t want to see 16-day tours, you really have to knock off the criticism of ‘sprinter stages’ which always was a Giro staple. The home broadcaster’s commentators would go into fill-in mode and get on the phone to any Italian speaking DS to ask about all kinds of off-tangential topics while the race rolled through industrial outskirts with all kinds of guerrilla marketing stunts as transport firms parked lorries roadside and factory workers came out in uniform with various banners and suitable product handed over to the convoy. Coverage lasted 2 hours max and had to include a preview, interviews with riders, DSs and pundits. There’d be a sponsored segment for local foods and another for a run through of the final few kms.
        Mountain stages too would come on for the final hour with a break at 11 minutes and the established favourites each at the back of a train that would cut the break’s legs off with 5k to go. Then the favourites would go to work.
        It’s all very different nowadays as even the départ fictif goes out live and it’s on with the the battle of the break. You really should allow the riders some down-time and accept that good commentators don’t only have to tell you what action can be seen on the TV because, simply, it’s impossible for stuff to be that eventful and relevant all the time.

  9. Overall a dull 3 weeks but you wouldn’t be able to sell a script of what happened on stage 20. Here is the “unknown” fan that helped Roglic remount:

    I was very happy that Cavendish won, the last stage of his last Giro (in another Hollywood script moment)!

    Last but not least thank you very much Mr Ring for the great coverage!!!

    • I watched the stage 20 and 21 highlights last night and thought, “what a brilliant race!”, even if much of it (especially the gc battle) was a damp squib. Vegni must be happy that many viewers succumb to recency bias.

      As noted by others, having such a difficult final TT really killed any HC ambitions in earlier stages. It would’ve been better to have that TT mid-week 3, then a flat stage, then finish with a Dolomite epic (once the TT time gaps are known, and GC riders have a better idea of what’s needed for the final mountain stage). Fingers crossed for next year…

  10. Nice summary. This race leaves with a Tour de Romandie or Vuelta a Asturias feeling. Not just because of the rain, but because it’s basically been a one-week race, resolved in one single event.
    Thanks anyway for all the write-up. Since no one mentions it, I’ll say that the little joke whenever you used the picture of Remco with the podium girls (being followed with allusions to the word “bomb”, the first time, and to the word “cushion”, the second time) didn’t go unnoticed. A discreet and smart little mischief, which was successful at making me chuckle.

  11. Wow, great review, indeed ^__^
    The Giro was worth being suffered through to get this beautiful reward.

    Wouter Weylandt was a shock to me, and I’ll always remember those very long minutes in front of the TV waiting in awe for what looked inevitable, as it had already happened, in fact, but his family had of course to be told first.

    Yet, it was under many respects a pure accident, the consequence of the risks intrinsic to the sport, those you could hardly ever take totally away from it, unless you make it something else.
    Part of those risks also come together with just riding a bike, be it as a sport or a means of transportation.

    But, as I already wrote, nowadays in Italy too many people are being killed on their bicycles because of a whole system which simply doesn’t work as it should, or at least as it more or less does in each and every other Western European country. A man was killed while riding his bicycle 2 kms from the Bergamo’s finish line, less than a week before the race. The media showed little to no interest, and, barring local cycling fans, the occasion wasn’t taken to tackle the subject, as instead, say, the riders at the Vuelta did some years ago. 15 persons had been killed while riding a bicycle in Lombardia alone from January to May.

    I suspect that the Giro woes, Italian cycling’s and the above are someway related, in a broader picture.

    OTOH, police raids and the likes don’t necessarily mean you’ll have bad racing, which was the problem this year. Of course, losing for a range of absurd reasons various GC contenders is going to be an issue, yet just think 2002 where Garzelli was out for a possibly made up doping positive, Casagrande was DSQ because he punched someone, Simoni and the cocaine candies… ouch! Belli had issues, too, I think (or was it a different edition?). Yet, it was finally quite a good Giro, I’d say (Evans breakthrough, Savoldelli, Hamilton with some broken bone, Tonkov, Pérez Cuapio, McEwen battling with Cipo…). As the 1998 Tour despite Festina. 2011 had Contador removed from victory because of the absurd burocracy of his sanction, but it was a very good Giro all the same.

    PS The first maglia rosa in 2002 was the father of Estela Domínguez, the 18-years old pro cyclist killed by a truck last February in Spain.

    • “…nowadays in Italy too many people are being killed on their bicycles because of a whole system which simply doesn’t work as it should, or at least as it more or less does in each and every other Western European country.”
      I ask how many of those countries you have ridden your bike in? I can count France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands along with various states in the USA. I won’t apologize for the current situation in Italy but question the fauxtrage based on
      and my personal experiences in “cycling friendly” places like Belgium, etc. where I was shocked at how much “Get on the f–king bike path, where you belong!” sentiment we were subject to while riding around pre-Ronde or L-B-L.
      I certainly wish RCS/RAI would do more to promote sharing the roads but on TV they’re preaching to the choir, no? The bike and tourist industries are the ones who should be making noise IMHO as they’ll be seeing “Italy, the land of cycling” fading from the world’s memory as more and more stuff comes from Asia and cycling on the road becomes less fun because of clueless and angry motorists.

      • Could you please point me out in this fantastic paper pretty much written by the oil & car industry (I’m not jokin’, sadly enough, Q8 and Volvo directly funding Vias which produced this paper, while Belgian government isn’t involved anymore since 2016)… where the fatalities are normalised to bicycle use?

        This is the farthest they get: “These observations are at least partly related to the number of bicycle trips and bicycle kilometers traveled in the respective countries, though…”. No figures provided. “Partly related”. ROTFL.

        Check the above against this:

        But, yes, you’re right about Belgium, not the best place to ride a bicycle, according to my graph too. (Yet, Italy, heck…)

        Unsurprisingly, with such an approach, they sort of imply that riding a bicycle is more dangerous in summer rather than in winter, a nonsense whose only function could be telling the “safety crew” that they’d better race when it’s freezing and raining.
        (TBH, later they add: “Surface conditions were dry in the case of 85% of cyclist fatalities. For 12% of fatalities the surface was wet or damp; and for only 1% of fatalities was snow, frost, and ice reported. Cyclist fatalities may be occurring more often on dry road surfaces since cyclists can choose alternative modes of transport when the weather is bad”. But, jokes apart, how does it make sense to work on comparative data without normalising them?)

        I won’t delve deeper into debunking these “facts and figures” because it’s the sort of insults to people’s intelligence that just requires a short travel to the bin, but I loved how they wrote down this turn of phrase:
        “Other transport modes involved – The fatalities in crashes involving cyclists are virtually always the cyclists themselves (98%)”.

        • Are you claiming this study makes Italy look worse than reality because it was “pretty much written by the oil & car industry”? Do Q8 and Volvo have a vendetta against Italia? Otherwise, what does it matter? My point was that you beat the drum about cyclist fatalities in Italy as if there is wholesale slaughter going on vs other EU countries, which I don’t think is the case.
          OTOH I’ll admit that studies, surveys and proclamations are not always accurate: the scariest place I ever rode my bike was in Tucson, AZ, a place cited as “bike friendly” perhaps even in BICYCLING Magazine? I feared for my life the entire time! HTF this place got onto any sort of “bike friendly” list is beyond me!

          • Larry, Italy’s situation is a terrible outlier in Western Europe, as the graph I posted above makes clear. The report *you* linked, written by a Belgian foundation funded by Volvo and Q8, shows cycling fatalities without specifying how many people are cycling and how much in each country, so Italy looks *better* in *your* link than it really is, while the graph I added shows something more sensible.
            It’s as if I said that I’m so much better riding a motorbike than Valentino Rossi because I only crash once whereas he did loads of times.
            I don’t think that people at Vias are totally stupid, so most likely they are implicitly relating fatalities to the mere fact of riding a bike. You died? Well, you knew cycling is dangerous. Didn’t you notice how they avoid to name the sheer fact that nearly all cycling fatalities depend on being hit by a motorvehicle?

            Outside cycling hotbeds, and despite a couple of bubbles, cycling as a whole is on a downward trend in Italy, while deaths stay the same.
            If you look closely at the same data you linked, you’ll notice that Italy has got +67% fatalities/population compared to France and +167% compared to Spain, both with a similar bike use. Of course Germany, Denmark or the Netherlands have more fatalities but only because they have *way* more cyclists, if you adjust to that you discover that Italy is cycling hell of sort… of course, if you know the territory, you can have a safe and very pleasant ride in Italy, too, no doubt, but the likes of Van Aert or Contador (who loves Italy) publicly expressed their absolute shock in the last couple of months.

            I’m sure that Australia or the USA can be worse, but I’m speaking of Western Europe. And what’s shocking in Italy’s case when compared to, say, Romania is that it’s not only that road safety poor, it’s especially poor for cyclists…

          • OK, so Q8 and Volvo juked the stats to make Italy look better? Why? Reminds of the old “There are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics.”
            Don’t get me wrong, I totally agree that something should be done to make Italian road users not-in-cars less prone to injury and death for a lot of reasons, but I question whether “The sky is falling!” will have any real, positive effects. I still think both the Italian bike and tour industry representatives should be lobbying much harder than they are for reforms of the traffic laws and enforcement of the ones that already exist. We half-heartedly joke here in Sicily – “Has anyone ever seen someone getting a traffic ticket?” Sure, they have the roadside checks where they pull over drivers at random but a motorist actually pulled-over and cited for something? Nobody I know says they’ve witnessed such a thing. I haven’t.

          • They used badly elaborated figures in order to show that “the problem” of cycling fatalities is… cycling countries, where people use bikes a lot, in order to blame that model. Italy apparently looking well (if you don’t look closely at the figures) just shows how bad the report is, i.e., it isn’t adequate to tackle or even to focus the matter they pretend to analyse. That said, I agree on the rest of your last post, although understanding how serious and out of this world (Western Europe as “this world” 😉 ) Italy’s situation is should be a starting point to prompt a change. But I’m afraid it’s really all connected…

          My point was fatalities per hundred million kms cycled (I think that’s what this graph illustrates) in Italy is just over 5 while France is just under 3.
          That’s not good but IMHO it’s not “the sky is falling”, rather it’s 2 more people killed per hundred million kms cycled in Italy vs France, unless I’m reading the thing incorrectly.
          And while I’m far less likely to be killed on my bike in the Netherlands vs Italy, I’d rather take my chances vs enduring the “get back on the bike path where you belong” ranting from motorists every day.

          • I suspect the great majority of people would just like to be safe and thus have the wonderful amount of bike paths that the Netherlands and Belgium have, and would be more than happy to use them rather than being on the road having to mix with cars.
            You can see why drivers would be angry when you’re holding them up instead of just using the bike path that is there (also, there seems to be a law in Belgium that you must use bike paths if they’re there). Why were you not using the bike paths?

          • I also got shouted at and honked by motorists for not using the bike path, in NL. Turns out (although I didn’t know it at the time) that was because by law I had to use the path not the road. Fair enough.

            Italy didn’t strike me as particularly dangerous when I rode there but the roads (on the Adriatic coast) were terrible, except where the Giro had been through recently.

          • Larry, last try from me.

            Uuuh… for every *hundred millions kms*… But a solid bicycle user will quite easily get half a million through his or her life, summing up sport, commuting and other daily uses. Which means that in Italy 1 out of every 40 solid bicycle users will get killed on the road. I don’t have the figures at hand, but it’s probably worse than getting the first “bad” versions of covid. Compare the reactions (including yours).

            If you prefer, just think going out for a ride with one of those small cycling club in Italy, you often have one for every small 5,000 inh. village, three or four dozens riders each. Or wait on the Ponte di Paderno any given Sunday around 8 o’clock and tens of clubs will pass by with the name of their diminute town on the jersey.

            One of those people you meet on that given day, *one for each and every club*, will eventually end his or her life killed by a car or truck.

            In France, one out of every three clubs will be spared. Not bad from my POV. Could be better, of course. In Spain, two out of every three clubs would be spared.

            However, that said, and it’s a lot to say, especially if you’re an acquaintance or family of the extra persons killed in a Italy just because, hey, it’s Italy, that said, the comparison among countries with a similar cycling profile and other general social conditions is mainly meant as a check to better understand the variables. Is it possible to do better? Is this the best that can be done? Are the figures normal or are we seeing an outlier situation?

            Not only that, of course. Fatalities are just the tip of an iceberg made of serious injuries, scare at the very least, and a context of systematic innecessary risk and frequent aggression. Fatalities are a proxy for “how worse” is it to ride a bicycle in Italy under the POV of incolumity. This situation has been reducing the overall bike use in Italy to an extent which is hard to imagine (the graph gives a hint about that, too), which on turn made things even worse, once again.

            The fact, on which I’d pretty much agree, that there are vast oasis of peaceful riding, just means that the situation is even much worse where the level of conflict is high, on many “provinciali” roads or near cities. And, unlike the tourists, many people just can’t choose where they’ll pedal around.

            As a reaction for the 15 people killed in Lombardia only until May, local police in Milan… started to chase (by motorbike)… the cyclists who weren’t on the bike path and “giving them traffic tickets”, as you say above. I witnessed a case (and shoot a photo), but you can find more photos and protests on the internet. As a side note to better grasp the absurdity of it all, it must be said that the vast majority of bike lanes in Italy, especially in Milan, are bear traps for cyclists, inadequate at best and often more dangerous than the road itself.

            To me, cycling (every kind of cycling) parting ways with Italy, and the other way around, is indeed “sky is falling”, or sort of.

            To give you a measure of sort, in Italy the yearly number of cycling fatalities is comparable to that of homicides. Quite a problem, I’d say.
            In Spain the former it’s the fifth part of the latter, in France it’s similarly a fifth or sixth part. Even in cycling-intensive countries like Denmark or Germany it’s 60% at the very most.

          • “Which means that in Italy 1 out of every 40 solid bicycle users will get killed on the road.”
            OK Chicken Little, “The SKY is FALLING!”
            You mentioned visiting Italy so where do you live these daze? I’m gonna take a scientific wild-ass guess and say SPAIN where everything is so much better for cycling these daze according to various reports from Italian ex-pats?

          • Larry, riding a bicycle in Italy on common open roads makes you a more probable victim of a fatal crash than being a motorcycle pro racer at every level of the Grand Prix circuit in the last 75 years or so.

            The main difference is that more often than not in the former situation you’re being killed without any option on your part, and that going around by bicycle should be a prime choice for your mobility and access in current societies, not a peculiar profession you’ve chosen.

            General perception is simply terribly distorted by the adaptation of your mind which *stops perceiving adequately* what is implied by a 1,5 to 3 (or 30) tons of metal moving at, say, 50 km/h (or 70). While the driver is texting on Facebook about cyclists causing the huge traffic jam he just came away from after spending there some 10% of his or her lifetime.
            If it was a cow or a horse running alone that close, most people would be much more afraid if not directly scared (not you, I mean, I know you’re a daredevil 😉 ), while probably having even less reason to do so, although it’s something to be worried and take care about, of course. People in cars, too!, I’ve seen several going in terror mode because of a horse on the road or a cow staring them through the screenwindow.

            That said, your wild guess, which knowingly or not is widely based on the abundant information I’ve been disclosing on these pages, is in this case as wrong as it could have been right, given that I’ve spent the last couple of years living a complicated shrödingerian life more or less equally split across the two countries.
            I’m not enthusiast about the cycling situation where I locally live in Spain, and generally speaking I find Italy way more rewarding to be a cycloturist or a sport cyclist, but the way they changed things for better during the last 20 years has no term of comparison in Italy, where they’ve been on a crazy backward race as long as cycling is concerned. A couple of things you learn when researching human societies and history is that, quite unexpectedly, things can change, for ill or better; and also, of course, that some things don’t change!
            As for personal choices, my only requirement as a cyclist about where I end up living is having close enough to my doorstep a handful of roads up hills or mountains with little human presence and some woodland. Not much rain (due to an health issue, not pro-level supposed safety!) and commonly available good quality food. So Italy and Spain are both fine. I’m aware I could die – or worse – because I love cycling, and I have assumed it, unlike other possible causes of premature death – but, know what?, we’re not alone in this world, so maybe it’s also fair to fight against injustice and horrors you personally can live with.

          • If there is a cycle-path beside the road, marked with a blue, round sign with a cyclist in it, then that cycle-path is _mandatory_ and you _must_ use it – you are _not_ permitted to use the road (bar a few exceptions on specialist, outsize pedalled vehicles). This is true in both the Netherlands and Belgium.

            Belgium has an exception for “pelotons” of cyclists (I think that’s something like a group of 16+ cyclists – forget the exact number). They may use the road way. The Netherlands does not have such an exception – though, there was a cyclists org lobbying to bring in the Belgian peloton exception.

          • Gabriele, those are mad figures. I worked out once that a 10Mm/year cyclist (i.e. a veryserious one) in the UK who managed to do that had about a 1 in 100 chance of lifetime death by cycling – which feels *really* high.

            That said, I’m not sure ever kilometre is equal. I suspect there is a slight skew, and that less “serious” cyclists have a slightly higher chance per km, as serious cyclists have more knowledge on how to protect themselves – and they ride faster (so their exposure time per km is lower – they encounter slightly fewer motor vehicles per km, but.. if they have an accident it is likely at higher energy). That said, lifetime, the “serious” cyclists have much higher absolute risk.

            The risk of covid in a population like the UK is around 1 in 300. However, that risk is skewed /heavily/ towards elderly people – 70+ and particularly 80+. A young person is at no real risk, nor is a healthy working age person. To counter this, the fatality rate of life is already high when you’re old – looking at CDC figures a 75 to 84yo has a very high risk of death of 5% per annum, and at 85+ it’s 15%. An American 85. The median age of a covid death in Ireland was about 82, and IFR of covid in 80yos in Ireland was about 5% – not dissimilar to the general risk of death per annum at that age.

          • A factor to consider with the Netherlands, because cycling is _so common_ and a normal part of so many lives across all demographics, cycling fatalities in the NL are quite unlike other countries where cycling is a more “sporty” activity. In the Netherlands, a sizeable proportion of cycling fatalities are no-other-vehicle-involved incidents – and the reason for this is elderly people having health episodes (heart attacks, etc.) while cycling. Close to half of cycling fatalities in NL are this mode.

            I.e., their cycling makes them healthier into old age, so they are fitter and able to still cycle, so they have a higher chance of “popping their clogs” while on a bike than in other countries.

    • I’ve cycled in many places across the world, and Italy has some of the craziest drivers. A minority, but crazy. I have the sense that it’s not the like the UK, where a subset of drivers actively hate cyclists, but just sheer recklessness and a tolerance in Italy for fast and mad driving.

        • That was my vague sense. In Italy, you just seem to have some kind of culture of crazy driving. No malice, it just is. In the UK there is just incompetence, and then a sizable amount of active malice – fuelled by the Clarkson types in the media.

          tl;dr: UK and Italy are the worst for cyclists, but (based on just a very shallow understanding of Italy) for different reasons.

          • That said, it was still lovely cycling in Italy. Especially away from cities, up in the Apennines, very nice. And the cafe keeper in Abetone was very nice to a weary and sugar-depleted cyclist. 😉

            Much steeper mountain roads than in France though.

          • I’ll answer below about cycling fatalities and I’m just posting here so you get a notification in case you receive them 😉

      • I guess how you define crazy is the point. Crazy as they try to hit you just for some homicidal thrills? Or crazy in the sense the only laws that really apply are those of physics? I used to explain it this way to clients along with the idea (maybe not so true these days?) “Everyone’s mother or grandmother hops on her bike to zip down to the store for the daily bread and every town has a local pro or team.” Who wants to be the one who ran over nonna or the local pro? They might come closer than you’d like, but they won’t deliberately run over you or swerve into you.”
        Plenty of times I’d be in the car behind on a straight stretch of road and watch cars and trucks pass my clients. Truckers usually gave more room than car drivers but I never saw anyone try to see how close they could get just for fun. Oddly enough, the cyclists who’d scream “JFC! Did you see that guy try to hit me?” were the ones with rear-view mirrors. I could see from behind they were passed no closer than those without mirrors so…

        • Oh, now I got it, I guess that Van Aert (who’s, guess what?, from Belgium, by the way) was so scared because he must have mounted some rear-view mirror before the Sanremo, you know, Jumbo Visma and their technical gizmos…

          Now, seriously, you can easily see how your description has changed through the last couple of decades (and you had sometimes more fatalities, but also a huge lot of more kms ridden). Pros are being run over and grannies too. On several occasions, cyclists were hit it on purpose. And I myself during the last year while in Italy could see how a couple of drivers (on separate occasions) were deliberately swerving to well, dunno how to call that, force me out of the way? Intimidate? A friend who dared to make the gesture of asking for more lateral space (not any middle finger or “ombrello”) was punched by a van driver last month.

          Of course, it’s a complex matter and extreme situations may happen anywhere, in Spain Valverde was hit by a car on purpose under similar circumstances. Italy is just worse. How many foreign teams are left having their service course and training camps in Tosacana, Varese or Liguria? Right now that Spain has become more expensive, even…!

          • The 1 in 40 stat you quote doesn’t surprise me.

            I know personally I’ve become more sensitised to the risks lately and am acutely aware it’s a numbers game.

            Mountaineers talk about objective risk in relation to threats that are random and/or can’t be effectively mitigated.

            I feel the risk of being hit from behind is in the same category.

  12. Thanks for the review – nicely done as always.
    3 Gc guys with similar abilities but different ages – the youngest went home ill, the oldest ran out of steam on stage 20 and the middle man produced one super TT to win. Almeida has also similar atributes and came in a deserved third. The number of attacks by all 4 could, I think, be counted on the fingers of one hand.
    If this year’s Giro was to entice Remco, then maybe next year’s can entice Pogacar, or at least the Italian champion Zana, with some stages where the hilly parts come after 100 km of flat instead of before. Also, stages don’t have to go over 2.000 m above sea level to be exciting.

    • This was made to possibly entice Pogi, too – for him to have a go at a Giro-TDF double. Nice try.

      You don’t need many stages over 2.000 m, but a couple of them (or three) are more than welcome. It’s a fundamental feature of the sport, in Giro’s case. Three just in case you expect one of them to be shortened, changed or cancelled. RCS has long been trying to have the Giro postponed a couple of week or ten days as it once was (until 2001) in order to have better probabilities with weather in the last week, but the UCI isn’t apparently allowing any room for that.

      That said, this year there was no real weather issue in the high mountains. Oh wait, in 2021 there wasn’t any, either.

      Totally agreed about some more hilly stages with a spicy finale.

      • The Giro could be a week later on the calendar next year. There’s a compromise as later can mean better weather but the closer it gets to the Tour, the less chance anyone will be tempted by the double.

        A pro-Pogačar route could be front loaded so he can back off a bit later on but UAE as the sponsor just need him to win the Tour, the sponsors/owners are all about this big trophy asset, everything else is nice but not essential.

        • Different theories among fans concerning the “right distance” for the double… It used to be a lot less, rather than more days, when it was a relatively more common thing. Not only in the infamous 90s but also before, and not “golden age” only, either: Hinault won with mere 3 weeks between the two, same as Roche. OTOH, Froome and Dumoulin had a good try, although they ultimately failed, when there were some 40 days between the two races. Hard to say.

          • If the Giro can do a couple of stages in or very near Slovenia the fans will come if Pogacar is there. I think Pogacar’s biggest problem at attempting the double would be his team rather then his own ability.
            If Pogacar can drop the UAE tour then I think he has the power to decide to attempt the double if he wants.

  13. Thanks for all the excellent reviews this Giro. My take on what makes Cav great, is not just his technical ability in sprints, but his ability to galvanise a team much greater than the sum of its parts… He has done this with many different teams and that’s what has given him longevity, and is a lesson for all of us in our day to day lives.

    • He’d make a good team manager because of his attention to detail but I can’t see him on the road, behind the wheel really. Yesterday’s win came about with a bit of help from beyond the team, Thomas doing a long lead out and maybe planned or unplanned but Stewart kept things lined out too.

      • Sort of planned – according to Watts Occurring, early on Cavendish, jokingly, asked Thomas to lead him out on the right so Thomas obliged.

    • All credit to Cav’s careeer, but “his ability to galvanise a team much greater than the sum of its parts” seems a bit rich. This was his first win with this team who seemed completely disinterested in leading him out the entire three weeks. Sanchez’s effort in Rome seemed the most of it and that was likely going to have been for naught if not for G’s and Gaviria’s help. He had two wins in four years at DD and Bahrain. Not much galvanizing there. His success at QS was more him being given a highly effective pre-existing sprint train than him whipping up the team spirit. Even early in his career he had world class lead out men. Also it’s worth remembering he just left Richieze high and dry this year after recruiting him to B&B. He’s been a great sprinter, but some of the romanticizing about him the past few years has been a bit much.

  14. Thank you once again to our host for a wonderful three weeks of previews, that for the most part outshone the racing!

    In a race of limited highlights, my own personal highlights were as follows:
    – Derek Gee. He brought a real sense of joy to the race with his indefatigable efforts and surprise at his own performance.
    – Roglic winning the race by putting in a commanding performance in the final day MTT, as a perfect contrast to the way he lost the TdF in 2020 to somebody else putting in a commanding performance in the final day MTT.
    – Thomas leading out his old friend Cavendish for a Hollywood ending to his final Giro. While he’s hotheaded at times, the way Cav wears his heart so firmly on his sleeve is very endearing to me, and his post-win interview was a joy – “my teammates were incredible today; my friends were incredible today”

    Not sure what I’ll do in the mornings now without Inrng to wake up to!

  15. “why not sprint up into the belleza of hilltop town rather than the industrial estate below it?”
    Yup, this Giro was definitely in need of some Vuelta-style hockeystick stages. I don’t understand why RCS didn’t see the success of last year’s great Turin stage and decided to put more stages like that in the race.
    It would maybe also work to make the second last climb hard and then put the finish on a relatively easy climb, so the GC contenders that have to gain time, can’t wait until the final uphill km.

    • But it was always a Giro thing to have hockey stick finishes with the twist that quite often the stage profile was a work of fiction, with some wicked little climbs that only the locals would know about. Many times you saw sprinters disappointed to find an unannounced climb which gave them no chance whilst minor teams would launch late attacks to stay away. These of course only came after the first week when Cippolini had gone home.

    • Even more so given that both concept you hint at are sort of RCS trademark, the latter being actually known as “Mortirolo-Aprica finale”.

    • Remember if RCS saw Turin and liked it, the 2023 course was probably 80% done already. The piece was very long above but on course design I did want to say that as well as the Fossombrone-style stage they could have more of the Turin/Superga and Italy has roads like this all over the place, you could almost overdo this.

    • They’ll get the hang of it eventually. This was only their 106th try. Gawd-forbid they start aping La Vuelta to attract viewers with attention spans measured in minutes. The RAI boyz were crowing about the great viewing stats for the race so either they’re all liars or people watched the thing despite IMHO (and plenty of others) opinion it was a rather dull and forgettable edition. W Il Giro!

      • Yes, they are liars of sort. Journos. Chiedi all’oste se il suo vino è buono. Third week was awful, especially Monte Lussari. Of course a little more analysis is required, as a whole it wasn’t terrible as last year, and the first week was rather good, as a couple of surprise stage (Romagna and Simplon), but nothing to go boasting around. As a curious note, more people than ever are watching longer hours of full broadcast (but much less than before watch the last 60-90 minutes), and flat stages are more appreciated. However, people are generally watching less TV, so the figures are expected to go down for every broadcast, normally.

        • Thank you Gabriele, helpful comment here.

          I honestly don’t think we should ever label or look down on audiences for their presumed short attention spans or similar.

          Every single older generation for the history of time has thought the younger generation are too quick, rash or have shorter attention spans – and it’s regularly false/an erroneous assumption – I think we should grow out of this thinking, and in cycling’s case rather than blaming audiences, the onus should be on organisers and empowering them to be innovative while protecting the soul of their races.

          Things change and develop with every generation in ways that are good, bad or surprising but if you restrict this development the only ever outcome will be a slow death – I’ve been hugely in favour of many changes all the Grand Tours have made in recent years, from the Zoncolan or similar at the Giro, to steeper inclines and bike paths and cobbles at the Tour to the obvious changes at the Vuelta. All and more are necessary to continue progress and relevance.

          And when things fail they can just change back the next year no problem – see the grid start at the tour a few years ago… a bad idea and nearly forgotten already.

          • “…continue progress and relevance.” is too often confused with improvement when it’s just change.
            I’m sure old-farts like me railed against what those young whippersnappers were doing with those cans and string and later the telephone and TV, but none of that had algorithms engineered to do what today’s gizmos do to people’s brains, ie attention-spans.
            Those who rail against us old farts quite often overlook a race like the Giro ran it’s 106th edition in 2023, so what’s in such dire need of “fixing”?
            Racers make the race and the racers (with a few exceptions) made a mostly forgettable one this year as they have many times in the past,
            But it didn’t cause RCS to throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bath-water then and shouldn’t now.

          • The very funny thing in this Giro is that what viewing figures apparently mirrored was people going for the veeery long attention span and the boring stages!

            …while giving up to the thrilling uphill ITT.

            The Salerno and Gran Sasso stage were very good, with well over 1 M over the *full stage* (this is shocking, the total viewers are divided for the full lenght of a whole broadcast!), same for Viareggio or Tortona, which all were better than Fossombrone, the most entertaining road stage of the first part of the Giro…

            Cassano Magnago (!!!) and Bergamo were shockingly good, over 2 M watched the last hour and some, but 1,5 M did watch the whole f***ing stage o___O (I did it with Bergamo, I must admit). Instead Crans Montana and Bondone disappointed a lot in terms of audience, as did Val di Zoldo.

            Now if anybody tries to make sense of it to create a show “for TV viewers”, well, good luck, I just can’t understand anything.

            Surely this people don’t like anything short or quick or action packed!

          • Let me add that 2022 had worse figures on average (the worst ever recorded), whereas 2021 had been good. But 2020 was also worse than 2023! (always speaking of average viewing figures in Italy). The Froome Giro in 2018 had been the worst in years, and now it sits halfway between 2023, of which it was slightly better, and Bernal’s 2021.

        • Where do you get the TV viewer stats you refer to? I assume RAI collects their own and there’s an independent body as well…one not bankrolled by Q8 or Volvo 🙂
          Streaming via Eurosport, etc. is something totally different, right?

  16. Thanks for the excellent blogging. The world is better place for having inrng in it.

    Certainly not a classic edition, but i think the finalé will live long in the memory.

    Quite the win for Mark Cavendish at the end – had the feeling of the swansong of a golden generation of British cycling with Thomas pulling him to the line a la Wiggins in the 2012 tour.

    W il Giro.

    • The only thing for Cavendish, and it’s something that goes back a decade or more, is that he wins when he’s written off. Now his win in Rome means nobody writes him off, he’ll be expected in the Tour and that’s going to be a lot harder. Astana need to think more about the lead out, they did sign Cees Bol but he’s also a sprinter/classics rider in his own right and the pair have hardly raced together this year when it can take a while to get the instincts and reflexes and Bol, as much as he’s a hulking human windshield, isn’t an automatic leadout rider, a skill in its own right.

    • I think Thomas alludes to it briefly in an interview after the last stage, but he mentioned the problem of Cavendish’s leadout in one of his podcast episodes – “no-one to guide between 2-1 km to go” or similar, then wondered why Moscon wasn’t doing it. To then rectify it at the next possible opportunity added a lovely layer to a perfect end to the Giro for Cavendish.

      Have there been many riders who’ve had such a rich and lengthy series of ups and downs (form, illness, injury) as Cavendish? Perhaps Lemond? I guess Armstrong if he counts…? Cav’s ability and desire to bounce back and remain competitive against multiple generations of sprinters seems remarkable, especially as he never comes across as the most physically impressive sprinter.

      • And Thomas proved it isn’t the result of hours of training together. Although it does require someone strong enough and experienced enough to handle that run in.

  17. Thanks again Inrng for the usual great coverage. Though it wasn’t a vintage Giro, it went to the last day and even had an emotional payoff on the final stage. Next year they might even get some twenty somethings to compete

  18. I’ll echo the kudos for our host and wizard Inrng. This is the only cycling blog/website I read and I really appreciate the insight and details in every single post. I also appreciate the great depth of knowledge both of our host and of so many of the commenters, thank you.

    With regard to the Giro-Tour double, I think it’s a pipe dream anymore. The extreme levels of preparation and tight level of competition mean it’s simply not realistic anymore, so I think the Giro and Tour need to stand on their own and not try to lure riders into trying for the double. Different riders and teams have to focus and as much as I’d love to have riders try for the double, that time passed long ago.

    • Well, I suspect that the 90s also had extreme levels of preparation, and a tighter level of competition. Or that’s what data say.

      With a less gruelling Giro, Froome or even more probably Dumo would have made it in 2018. Just imagine they had attacked hard to leave Froome well behind when he was weaker on form, then Tom might have cruised through a boring third week and get to the finish less than totally destroyed (remember Pinot?).

  19. Thank you, Inrng, for your superb blogging.

    In terms of those who failed to make the finish, I really wonder how Evenepoel would have coped with that final week – he’s still not been tested in long, grinding climbs deep into a grand tour. TGH, on the other, I can well imagine beating Roglic; he seemed in sparkling form, now with added TT capabilities, and I think that he might well have put time into Roglic when the latter was struggling to recover from his crashes.

  20. Does anyone know why Evenepoel is supposedly not doing the TdF or the Vuelta?
    Seems more than a little odd: he could either defend his title or, if they think the pressure of the TdF (or the fact that he’s unlikely to win) is too much, they could announce that he’s only going for stages, lose a load of time early, deliberately, and then bag a few, gaining plenty of publicity and still being able to say that he wasn’t beaten on GC.

  21. This is an excellent review. Thank you.

    Question – how much do people feel like time trials are a problem or solution to some of the weaknesses of modern grand tour routes?

    I personally really like time trials especially mountain ones and even more so on the last day of a tour but Gabriele made the reasonable point that late mountainous time trials can also encourage defensive riding beforehand – I had thought about this but felt in the third week we’d seen plenty of attacks this time so for me it wasn’t the TT at fault for a dry second week, in this race at least.

    I also hear some on the Cycling Podcast in favour of dumping time trials completely and think it’s a reasonable opinion.

    I just feel that variety is key to a great Tour and if Time Trials are well thought out with a great route and well placed in a Tour, then they can enhance the spectacle rather than diminish but too often they feel like an afterthought with boring routes or at a point in a Tour that ruins everything before or after.

    I would love to see more imagination with time trials – one with cobbles, one with gravel, more using hills or steep gradients… people will criticise as gimmicky but everything innovative gets criticised as gimmicky to start with – personally though I’d be in favour of keeping time trials and even increasing their length especially prologues or first week time trials and then pushing for more imaginative TTs later in the race to spice things up.

    Basically I’m in favour of Time Trials but want them to be treated with more care.

    • I’m a firm believer in the long flat (or at least not basically a hill climb with a run up) time trial. I will lay may case out as follows…! Imagine you had 3 really good, potentially great, cyclists in the peloton. One was fantastic at more or less everything but especially climbing. If it helps imagine that he’s from a small former Yugoslav republic in the eastern alps. Another is also a very strong climber but also a decent enough time trialist and is on a very strong team packed with luxury domestiques. He could be Scandinavian for arguments sake. Your third rider is a good climber but probably more of a diesel than the other two, he’s also probably on the weaker of the 3 teams. But our third rider is a very very strong time trialist. Again, if it helps try and imagine that he’s blonde, from the low countries and apparently a decent footballer. Now imagine that its July, its the Tour de France and Christian Prud’homme has been demoted to just organising the route of the Vuelta. The first week has a long flat 40km time trial in the north of France. Van Aert wins the stage but only by a couple of seconds from our ex footballer, who it’s said he doesn’t like very much. But more importantly he’s put 2 minutes into our other two protagonists. There’s another time trial at the end of the second week, this time near Carcassone between the stages in the Alps and the Pyrenees. Odds are our strong time trialist will take another couple of minutes there. So with that in mind our talented allrounder and our good climber on the strong team probably need to do what in the mountains?

      • Ride along with his team at a pedestrian pace so he can save energy for that chrono at the end of the second week? Save for tomorrow…tomorrow….tomorrow…it’s only a day away…
        IMHO the course doesn’t make the race – the racers do.

        • If they are behind they have to attack though and waiting for tomorrow won’t work.
          If there were no TT’s it would be a case of saving yourself for the last climb and then backing yourself to nudge away in the last km and pick up 10-20 seconds each time and win by a minute. Then people would look at the results and say ‘wow the top 10 is covered by 2 minutes, that must have been a great race’ when in reality nothing has happened 99% of the time. You yourself commented the other day how great Chiapucci was when attacking Indurain. If there had been no time trials and Indurain wasn’t 5 minutes ahead would Chiapucci or Pantani have needed to bother with their attacks, or would they have been in the lead courtesy of a couple of punchy finishes and defended?

          • The racers make the race. Did El Diablo only try when the course somehow suited him? Not that I recall and I watched every one he was in. It was all instinctive. Pantani was similar, Jose-Manuel Fuentes before them. It was sad when other Italians would chase Chiappucci down in the race to be “first Italian” but again it was RACERS making (or not making) the race.
            Now in modern times too many of ’em don’t even get a chance when the DS, watching on the video screen in the car, screams in their earpiece to do this or don’t do that…all in the few seconds where a Diablo might have gotten-the-gap that let him get away in the “fog of war” that was pre-Motorola’s awful innovation, made worse by in-car video screens with live images.

    • When it comes to time trialing, I am both a traditionalist (believing that grand tours regularly should feature the +/- 50 k flat time trial just because “just because”) and a radical (believing that time trials are a possibility for innovation and pushing boundaries of what road cycling “is”, such as having ridiculously steep mountain TTs).

      I also think that fans should be more understanding of the fact that everything cannot be planned in course design. Any kind of TT anywhere in the order of stages can be either dull or spectacular, depending on a lot of other factors. Not that course design does not matter, only that it matters less than what discussions among educated cycling fans typically indicate.

      That said, I also think that time trials should be treated with more care and have a couple of points in mind. First, the importance of tech should be reduced to a minimum, at least to the level of regular road bikes. Second, the discipline should not alienate the ordinary viewer with alien helmets and spaceship bikes but more accurately resemble the everyday phenomenon of cycling. Third, TV production must be greatly improved.

      It would take a full post or more to elaborate my views on the latter. On the first two there is a simple solution: Have them use road bikes.

      • +1 on the first two. I’ll wait for you to elaborate on TV production. I watch MOTOGP where I guess it’s state-of-the-art, blah, blah, blah…but I get tired of the cute on-board images the directors seem to love. I guess this panders to those who want to play like they’re in the race rather than watch it unfold? I’d hate to see cycling end up here too, but with the Zwift-ification of cycling I fear we’ll get more of this than I want, especially on-board video, which without a gizmo to eliminate the swaying from pedaling is really awful! And useless.

  22. In a couple of years we will just remember first meeting Derek Gee and Jonathan Milan here, Roglic’ dropped chain, Cav’s victory in Rome, Pinot’s last feat and the final overall time gap. And it will have been a great Giro.

  23. I don’t think the route is to blame. Plus in the Giro, the 3rd week tends always to be the most difficult (the country geography also leads to that), and we have had beautiful Giri with more extreme last weeks. This said, the very steep final TT on the last Saturday was maybe too much I must admit.
    The issue here comes more from the riders and team tactics.
    G only pull was on the last stage. His team was very strong with 3 riders in the top10 and they made no attempts to crack Roglic, when he did not look very sharp and when the last TT was more a Roglic thing than an exercise for « en force » climbers.
    As far as Roglic is concerned, he made the only significant move of the race when he attacked Evenepoel in the muri (I suspect they knew something was not right with him and that they would try to take the opportunity). He tried some moves in the dolomiti, but probably he was not able to do much more these days.
    Almeida tried, as he always does, but he was not strong enough.

    From the other side, I must admit that we have also had Giri where riders riding well in the 1st 2 weeks end up with difficulties in the last week. (The very Roglic, Yates, and even Bernal or Kontador when they won). But this makes the GT livelier.

    • Quite much agreed. Funny Ineos wanted to kill Crans Montana where they could probably leave Roglic a good half a minute behind at least.

  24. Somewhere in one of the middle stages I heard the commentator say, “And G has attacked the break…”. Now Thomas who is not quite from Gwent was about five minutes back in the peleton. Has Thomas of Ghent been reincarnated as Derek Gee just to confuse me more?

  25. Larry, what are they doing at Campagnolo? Let’s go scream them something ugly.

    No more alu Shamal? I.e., you’ve got as a product line the most legendary mid-profile alu wheel ever and a constant best seller, so you throw that brand to the bin like that?

    (You can now buy a “carbo Shamal” of sort, of course, but it’s disc brake only – and weighs as a old alu middle-range Eurus).

    You are able to build alu wheels that are lighter and faster and more rigid than most carbo wheels out of there (not to speak of price tage), and you just put it all to bed for good?

    They still build’em… under the Fulcrum brand. Nonsense. And, by the way, as Fulcrum, their very absurdly very top alu wheel, the Zero CMPTZN, is now *disk brake only*. I wouldn’t buy that all the same, unless I found some offer, but why exactly a top alu wheel for disk brake, given that disk brake more or less make sense only to have carbon wheels? Rainy muddy bumpy places, I guess. Where of course your priority is a superlight full ceramic-bearings wheelset.

    The brand new Super Record is dangerously SRamming, wireless, funky gearing, no more separate levers for separate actions, no more mouse ear, disk brake only… boooooo!

    I hope I have got it all wrong through the Spanish tech news websites…

    • Gabriele – I think what Campagnolo is doing is called “trying to stay in business.” What would you have them do in a world where old-farts like me are buying next-to-nothing (maybe a vintage brake-set for an epoca bike, but otherwise nothing-much? In a world where the OEM-spec competition’s stuff is wireless and operated by pushing on buttons/levers with their index fingers? In a world where almost nobody buys a frame, then builds it up with the best component group like back-in-the-day? In a world where twiddly gears are king but only if it’s a “vanity triple” – you know, like a “slammed stem” on a bike with a head tube 5 cm taller than normal? In a world where running hydraulic brake hoses hither and yon through frame/stem/bar is no-big-deal but wires to make electronic stuff shift isn’t? Get the picture? What would YOU have them do? I’m happy to see Davide Campagnolo taking a larger role in the company – the grandson of Tullio seems to have grown up in the biz, unlike his father, poor Valentino who seemed thrust-in at the deep-end when his father suddenly passed away.
      While the only sort-of current (for how much longer?) Campagnolo groupset I might spend on would be a rim-braked Chorus groupset for a custom-made Favaloro e-bike for my wife, if current S-brand component owners can buy a groupset that they are sort of familiar with the operation of, one that’s made in a place with passion for cycling rather than people doing just another (low-paid in Asia) job, that’s electronic like the stuff they’re familiar with but screams (or maybe just seduces quietly?) Made-in-Italy-to-be-ridden and (though I find it looks way too “Shimagnolo) looks better than what the others offer – they just might buy it!!!
      What other choice do the folks in Vicenza have than this? Making vintage parts in smaller and smaller quantities until the go belly-up? What would YOU have them do?

      • I’m no business man at all, and I feel that each and every successful business, especially those which aren’t huge, is unique in a way (sort of the contrary of happy and unhappy families in Anna Karenina’s incipit) – which makes it quite complicated for me to provide a valid opinion, whereas what I expressed were obviously just my feelings as a disappointed customer.

        I’d agree that the market is being forced toward some unpleasant (for customers) changes by forces way greater than Campagnolo. Yet, I’d have tried to defend a solid brand like Shamal and kept some high quality alu production under the Campagnolo name. We’re not speaking of any good wheel. We’re speaking of the absolute best. It’s even beyond, say, Cannondale one day dropping the CAAD alu series, or turning it into middle to low quality carbo. Cannondale was obviously sold to bigger and bigger owners, so even if they as such weren’t much bigger than Campy, now they have Dorel and Pon behind them with a ten-fold economic power to support any sort of project and risk-taking.
        And, at the end of the day, generally speaking aluminium has *not* disappeared from the cycling market as just a few years ago some were saying it would happen, not from frames, not from components.
        Reinforcing the idea that the best is what’s best… for the rest, uhm, not sure it’s a great strategy, but as I said, I’m no expert, far from, and no doubt way less than you are, AFAIK.

        My focus was mainly on wheels precisely because I’ve got no clear perspective on the groupset matter. I’d go for a mechanical Chorus, too – I happen to have a Super Record for random reasons, and I think that the set of circumstances which brought it to me won’t occur again.

        But you’re right. One would need many more details to understand what’s going on. 2020-2022 was a turn in speed for better in terms of financiary figures at Campy, so long live ’em anyway.
        And long live Fulcrum and their alu wheelsets, the paradox being that Campy created the brand to sell also to Shimanists, now it’s where the faithful Campy alu believer needs to look.

        • Rim brakes pretty much need aluminum rims for decent braking performance. As they recede into history why bother when sales dwindle to the point they’re no longer profitable, no matter how many old-farts say they want ’em…but don’t buy any? I noted Vicenza could choose to be a vintage or soon-to-be-vintage parts maker…but for how long? They say they take backorders for old stuff that distributors stocks have been deplete- of and when backorders are high enough to justify (I assume a profitable) production-run, they make ’em. My guess is aluminum wheels/rims will be the same?
          You claim to be ” disappointed customer” .but what (and how many) would you be buying at present that is no longer available from Campagnolo? For better or worse, the first rule of business is “staying in business” Will they sell their souls and make disposable (SRAM-like) junk in Asia? I hope not, so as much as I dislike the current “Shimagnolo” direction they’re going in I can understand their dilemma, what else can they do? They tried to get into the OEM “bike-in-a-box” biz with Potenza but not enough product managers wanted to take a chance with something different I guess? Something a potential client might actually have to take a few seconds to learn how to use before realizing it might actually be better? VHS vs Beta IMHO and just like those the inferior product won-out with marketing rather than engineering. When the masters of this chicanery (SRAM) come after you, what would YOU do?

          • Yeah, anyway I gave up on a Shamal *or* CMPTZN purchase (well, programmed for my next 5-years Soviet-like plan, at least… ROTFL, alu Shamal could well be back meanwhile!).
            I’ll stick with F-Zeros anyway, if they actually survive “the market”.
            And I’ll downgrade my Super Record to Chorus when substitution is needed.
            Not buying a whole brand new bicycle in nearly 20 years favours this sort of Japanese-temple approach, like a top range new component every 5 years instead of a new bike 😉

  26. @ Paul J re: cycling fatalities

    UK’s got normally slightly above 100 cycling deaths / year, Italy sits around 250. UK’s general population is some +14% higher than Italy’s. Cycling in UK went 62% up in the last couple of decades, while Italy, besides a couple of bubbles, was on the down. So what you report above is consistent with my expectations.

    In Italy you have a decent number of “mixed cyclists” so it isn’t easy to figure out the exact risk, but if you use the source I posted above, it’s easy to calculate that sort of risk for a cyclist who, say, rides 5,000 km/year as a sport, 3,000 km/year commuting and some other 2,000 km/year in daily life or other recreational cycling. And I kept all the figures pretty much on the low side.

    As I said, it’s shocking – as is denial, being the figures as mad as they are.

    I totally agree with you about covid, of course, it was just a clear example of active and massive social reaction against a perceived risk (perceived as such due to institutional action by media, public subjects, companies etc.). The failure (?) to understand risk distribution and risk magnitude in the case of covid generated so many issues that it’s not even worth tackling the question. Not on a cycling blog, at least.

    • I couldn’t believe the stat you posted. Then I looked at the tweet you posted and I was shocked that Italy was several times worse than the UK – and the UK is pretty bad for cycling. Though, as above, the driving in Italy is just nuts – compared to anywhere else I’ve cycled.

      On risks, yes, people suck at looking at risk rationally. E.g. “5% of people who get X will die!” caused a severe emotional reaction in populaces around the world. And just pointing out the quite factual “But that’s 5% only in a subset of the population that already has a 5% risk of death or higher each year…. Even the common cold has a high IFR at that age… it’s not unusual….” caused aggressive and irrational reactions.

      People suck at risk. People suck at statistics. People have emotional reactions to things. And once they have developed an emotional reaction, they do not want to hear facts that go against their emotions.

      • Just yesterday we had another cyclist killed on a bike path, not hugely surprising given that serious crashes of cars against bicycles on bike paths or bike lanes in Italy is a relatively common (!) event, i.e., way more common than you’d expect when compared to other countries.

        Which is why, among other heaps of safety-related reasons, most expert cyclists tend to *avoid* most bike paths (note that some are actually very good – but *not* the vast majority, sadly enough).
        They’re dangerous, often more than the road itself which is dangerous enough…!
        Which doesn’t mean that bike path should be discarded as a social option, they’re much needed for several categories of bike users and can also be really useful in a lot of situations. Only, you need them not to be bear traps. At the end of the day, bike users which tend to prefer bike paths because they don’t feel safe on a bike… may not have the skills to manage the actual reality they must face there, so to say. We often smile about some gravel races in Italy being no more than “countryside bike paths riding”… while roadside bike lanes are being authentic gravel championships!
        Though, in Italy, too, using a bike path is *mandatory*, if a bike-only lane of sort is actually available, which normally implies that the cyclist ends up being at fault even in the case of a classic hit-from-behind if they were on the road and there’s one of those tricky bike lanes around.
        As Larry explained many times, laws aren’t generally enforced in Italy. Yet, as I pointed out in the past, it may not be that pleasant to discover that after being hit from behind by a rushing car – in case you survive – you also have to pay for the damage you yourself suffered, your bike… and the car plus driver. And the traffic ticket, of course. Besides, as I also wrote here recently, in Milan local police started to chase and sanction cyclists who weren’t using the bike path, as a reaction to the high number of cycling fatalities which happened in Lombardia in the first few months of 2023.

        The cyclist killed yesterday is also considered at fault because the bike path he was using supposedly required him to cross an intersection walking in order to cross a 30 km/h speed limit road. But if you look at that road, you’ll immediately know that no car will be complying with the speed limit. I’d bet that not even a single one. There had been already a victim some years ago.
        The only available witness which defended that the cyclist didn’t climb down his bike was the car driver, by the way, but let’s not focus on this “detail”. Let’s say that the cyclist crossed on his bike – my guess it’s that it’s irrelevant, the car was probably speeding at a very unexpected speed, even for a local as the cyclist was. Mine is a wild guess, of course. À la Nicky Hayden. We’ll know more after the police reports something. Or not. The newspaper was all about the cyclist being at fault, no word about the institutions doing nothing on a deadly black spot.
        And the journalist was even able to wrote that “the cyclist and his bike bouncing on the asphalt could even break the windscreen and reach to the driver, hitting him and sending him right to the hospital, although with only a couple of bruises”. Seriously. Corriere della Sera.

        My point is that the whole picture responds to a general definition of “social hate” towards cycling in Italy:
        1) as a cyclist, your health and safety are often under unrelenting threat – and *unnecesarily* so – only because you decided to ride a bicycle, a choice which is actually positive for the society as a whole, and whose intrinsic risks (existing, of course) are well below the actual level of risk you end up facing mainly due to social reasons
        2) the legal context and the infrastructures are built up to make life harder for you, again with no clear benefit fot the collectivity
        3) as far as media, social media and policies are concerned, your life is worth less than others’ (when you’re seen as a cyclist)

        Of course part of the above is true wherever or nearly so in Italy (point 2), while other aspects apply mainly in specific areas of the country (point 1), and, finally, point 3 is made manifest only under given conditions (yet, more often than you’d expect).

        • Mille graze, Sig. Piccolo Pollo. What do you really KNOW about Nicky Hayden’s death on a bicycle? I read the other day about a guy in an induced coma from a collision with a motorist and another young racer who is now dead from the same, but neither was in Italia so why bother noting those? If it doesn’t fit your narrative…
          Continually shouting “The Sky is Falling!” in Italy (where I guess you don’t live) on this blog is doing what exactly? Getting the attention of our current neo-fascist government here in Italy? Helping organizations like FIAB (I’m a member) work towards making cycling safer? Or just ranting…something I get called-out for plenty of times?

          • Larry, in my case examples are examples, but the point is made through general figures. Which are astonishing. And Italy is an absolute outlier.

            As I already told you recently, I’m currently living in Italy more or less as in Spain, so your point on that – nonsense as it it – is anyway quite moot. And, in case you hadn’t imagined that, yes, I’m also an activist. And, yes again, visibilise instead of denying usually helps towards change.

            People not being fully aware, and I mean both people living in the country like you, *and* people not living there but being interested in the subject of cycling safety, is part of the problem. Not people’s fault, of course. Not until they’re given the occasion to know, at least.

            As for specific nations, well, I’ve brought up the general point of pro cyclists safety during training on several occasions, and in that case the focus wasn’t necessarily on Italy.

            Re: Hayden, I know that unlike what was being told on media for a lot of time (they were just writing that Hayden had a stop sign and should have yielded priority), it came out in court that the driver was speeding quite much over the limit, which made harder even for a very experienced person (as Hayden supposedly was) to judge if it was possible or not to safely enter the main road. Make me know if you have different information on the subject. I still don’t believe much the “suicidal cyclists” theories (and I have lots of data on that, too).

            I feel that on this subject you aren’t frankly adding much to the debate, and I had already spent my last attempt on you, so I’ll try to allow you to go your way on this, even if it’s a moral challenge of sort.

          • Gabriele, why are you bothering? You can come up with all the statistics, backed by research, it will make no difference. Larry’s only POV is nobody should be allowed to criticize anything Italian.

        • What does an “activist” do in this case? Screaming “The Sky is Falling” (as I already wrote) just doesn’t seem all that effective, but what do I know? What else do you do to improve road safety in Italy for non-motorists?
          As to whether anybody should be able to criticize anything Italian…they should…and they should be ready for someone to challenge that (quite often unfounded Anglo-Saxon stereotyping) criticism, NO? As an ex-pat from the USA you wouldn’t believe all the screwball criticism I get, whether it’s “those crazy drivers” organized crime or having to eat pasta with red sauce every day. Should I just give up and not bother trying to correct the ignorance/xenophobia or simple hatred? THAT’s a good question!

        • Wow, Italy sounds quite bad. It sounds like I was wrong above, and Italy also has the UK’s problem of active malice against cyclists. Along with reactions to the high rates with “safety” measures that are more about victim-blaming and deflecting blame from motorists onto the cyclist.

          E.g., helmets (sorry, but while helmets provide a small level of protection against certain classes of head injuries, they simply do nothing at a societal level to improve cyclist safety – indeed, by providing a blame-shifting function – along with risk compensation – they appear to make things worse), campaigns to make cyclists wear hi-viz (see Ireland, indeed even pedestrians wear them now – hasn’t done anything to stop motorists running over people!), shitty unusable infrastructure, etc.. These are all part of sick cultures where everything is done to absolve motorists from blame, and heap more and more responsibility on the victims.

          It doesn’t work. There is only one thing that works to achieve mass, safe cycling – as is obvious to anyone who visits the Netherlands. Unfortunately it requires significant political will. And doubly unfortunately the societies that are most in need of it have the least desire to achieve it.

          I am surprised by France being worse than the UK in that tweet of stats above btw. That’s incredible.

          • Oh, and the interesting thing about the Netherlands is that drivers are not magically better they’re. They’re as bad as anywhere else in Europe. Indeed, they’re incredibly impatient. As a cyclist will quickly find out if they find a road without a path.

            Yet NL manages to achieve safe cycling, despite the awful drivers.

  27. Excellent review and thanks for a very thorough and enjoyable coverage of my favourite GT. Notwithstanding this edition, nor the 2022 one, was memorable for an attacking GC showdown.

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