Monday, 30 May 2011

Giro d'Italia Wrap

The Giro is finally over after three weeks of drama, mountains, sprint controversies, and Contador domination. The Giro is a different beast than the other Grand Tours, it doesn't have the polish and reputation of the Tour de France, it doesn't have the heat of the Vuelta a Espana, but it does have the passion of the Italian fans, difficult stages and an element of danger. This years course was widely criticised for being too long, too mountainous, and having too many difficult descents. Despite this, it wasn't the most interesting of races. The field lacked many of the current stars, and as Aussies, we didn't really have any riders to cheer for. Richie Porte and Cameron Meyer did a great job as domestiques for their respective teams - but they were never let off their leash to have a real crack.

Things got off to a shaky start - with the tragedy of Wouter Weylandt's death on the third stage, then there was the neutralised stage afterward and the subsequent exit of team Leopard Trek out of respect. Then things once again got going in earnest with a few successful break-aways. But after the awesome win by Contador on the top of Mt Etna on stage 9, the race was a foregone conclusion and we were left to just marvel at the domination of one of the world's best cyclists.

There were some great moments though. As already mentioned, Contador's win on Mt Etna was awe-inspiring. He broke away from the other major players effortlessly and no one was able to match his speed on the steep gradients. Stage races are won on the mountains and this is where Contador won the Giro. The perfect organisation and meticulous execution of a race plan by HTC Highroad as their lead out train delivered Mark Cavendish to two brilliant victories, was also a highlight. I loved Igor Anton's brilliant win on Monte Zoncolan and finally, David Millar's speed on the final time trial in Milan was amazing. The time trial specialists, like Millar and the infallible Cancellara (who wasn't competing in the Giro) always blow me away with their inhuman high average speeds (Millar averaged more than 51kph on the 21.5km stage).

So that's it, the Giro done and dusted for another year. I've got to give a mention to SBS before I sign off though (the only station in Australia that gives any airtime to cycling). SBS did a cracking job of presenting 4 live stages of the tour and aired a half an hour update show each day. Hopefully it all rated well so we get the same or better coverage in 2012. The SBS Cycling Central website was brilliant as usual. Most of the time I'd fall asleep on the couch when watching the live stages, so watching the stage updates on the web the morning after is a necessary and enjoyable ritual, and one I'm sure other cycling fanatics can relate to! Thanks SBS!

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