Ed’s Opinion: Twelve stages down and nine to go in the 2019 Giro d’Italia before the finish in Verona, so time for Ed to have a ‘Giro Rant’. But it’s not just the Italian Grand Tour that receives our scribes wrath: Dopers, race juries and the printed press, both British and Flemish, are all in the firing line. Not to worry, the 2020 Flanders Classics dates are out.
Nibali and Roglic don’t seem too worried
I checked the Giro medical reports from San Marino; no mention of adverse bowel conditions from the Roglic or Nibali camps; Doctor Simon got that one wrong. I know that; “we’ll take each day as it comes and try to limit our losses to Dumoulin and Roglic in the chronos” isn’t as good a sound bite as the bodily function one which Simon Yates gave us but it gets you into less trouble if you have a ‘giornata no.’ But he’s a wee terrier and will snap at Roglic’s heels when the grades get steep.
Yates snapping at the Roglic heels
But I am reminded of the words of Kyle Reese in The Terminator when I look at Roglic in this race: “Listen, and understand. That Terminator is out there, it can’t be bargained with, it can’t be reasoned with, it doesn’t feel pity or remorse or fear, and it absolutely will not stop…EVER, until you are dead – or, in this case, ten minutes back on GC.”
Didn’t look like a dangerous switch
Joking aside, a decent first week of racing I thought, with even the sprint stages controversial. I’m a Viviani fan, I have been ever since I saw him ride the Grenoble six day way back in 2010 where he was as just about as quick as the best French track sprinters of the day. So maybe I’m biased but a DQ for that move?
Not a happy Elia Viviani and on his way home after stage 11
Maybe; but also a big fine and 50 points deduction – savage. But PEZ sage and mentor, Viktor, thinks it was the right decision. The jury ‘sending a message’ for sure – just a good job they never saw ‘Abdou’ at his best.
‘Abdou’ and ‘Cipo’ – Real sprinters
Legendary Italian sprinter and former Primavera winner, ‘Ale Jet’ Petacchi – who was commentating on the race – has slipped away from the Giro to ‘prepare his defence’ against what he’s alleged to have done/taken, back in the Jurassic Period. Who cares? What does it prove or achieve?
‘Ale Jet’ with the unhappy sprinters face (see Viviani above)
Meanwhile on social media I’m treated to ‘Big George’ Hincapie and his beautiful podium girl missus enjoying a romantic dinner, all smiles. But wasn’t George the ‘enforcer’ for the man who managed to win then lose seven Tours? The same guy – but nobody remembers or cares.
George and Melanie Hincapie – 15th wedding anniversary on FaceBook
And a bad week for another of the coolest men to have graced the peloton in recent years, German former World Team Pursuit Champion and National Road Champion, not to mention big winner of stages from Chile to the Czech Republic, Danilo Hondo – again, who cares, what does it prove? He’s ‘fessed up’ to blood doping; as an ex-Telekom and Gerolsteiner rider, my – that’s a surprise. . .
Hondo – Surprised?
And it’s not just cool guys who get busted, nice guys go down too – Tyler Hamilton was the ‘all American boy next door’ remember? – former Slovenian National Champion, Vuelta stage winner and latterly DS with Bahrain-Merida, Borut Bozic is a lovely man, polite, friendly, helpful but apparently he was ‘at it’. Ciao Borut. But given it’s seven years since he won an individual UCI race, what’s the point and who cares?
Borut – Nice guy, but…
A more relevant withdrawal from the Corsa Rosa is that of another Bahrain-Merida man, coincidentally also Slovenian, former World Military Road Race Champion, Kristijan Koren. We all know guys are still kitting up but it’s still a disappointment when they get rumbled. Ironically, in this week’s British, Cycling Weekly magazine there’s a lovely big image of Koren ‘high fiving’ a tiny Giro fan. Let’s hope the wee chap isn’t a Cyclingnews subscriber. . .
Cycling Weekly image of Koren
Meanwhile, over in Colombia, pro conti outfit Manzana Postobon – who rode the Vuelta t’other year – have been suspended following a second of their riders getting nabbed within two months – steroids this time, EPO the first one. Like I say, unsurprising but still disappointing.
Manzana Postobon – Suspended
I can’t agree with those that say the Giro hasn’t got the early percorso right, this year. I’m not sure what they expect/want; it’s the ‘Tour of Italy’ not the ‘Italian Hill Climb Championships’ to coin a phrase used by aforementioned Viktor.
‘Italian Hill Climb Championships’
But the super-controlled nature of modern stage racing can be a tad tedious and ‘sprinter’ stages are a commentator’s nightmare. Monday’s Giro stage to Modena was a case in point – two guys up the road and an ambling bunch on straight, pan flat roads. Sprinter stages were always thus, with the GC teams not interested in sending men up the road and the sprinters teams keeping the lid on the breakaway and not allowing it to get too far up the road but not catching it too early in case a counter move goes. What’s different these days is that instead of seeing just the last hour of the action, the whole stage is televised and 100 kilometres plus is a long time to sit on the sofa and watch a chatting peloton traverse the plains of Italy.
An ambling bunch on stage 3
Moving back to Northern Europe and the Classics, where there’s no such thing as ‘a boring bit’ a friend of Dave Chapman’s was in Flanders at the same time as De Ronde was on and brought back the newspapers from the day before and the day after the race. On the Saturday, Het Nieuwsblad’s ‘Koers Wereld’ had Stybie as five star favourite from Wout Van Aert and Bob Jungels on four stars – Alberto Bettiol doesn’t get a mention – not like those guys to get it wrong.
The Flemish De Ronde papers
There’s a double page spread on the four Deceuninck – Quick-Step faves, Jungels, Stybie, Gilbert and Lampaert; a full page on Wout Van Aert; a full page on GVA with a time line on his Ronde performances all the way back to his first appearance as a 21 year-old in 2007; Niki Terpstra gets three pages; there’s detailed parcours/timings notes; a full start sheet; Tom Boonen’s take on who’ll do what – he had Jungels as his favourite and colour aplenty.
The Het Laatste Nieuws 2019 Guide
On Monday, Bettiol makes the front page of the main paper and sports section; in the main paper there’s a page devoted to pictures of the more extreme roadside fans whilst the sports section has seven full colour pages devoted to the race with cover photo Bettiol making his winning move on the Oude Kwaremont. Then there’s the ‘Koers Wereld’ with Bettiol and big Sep Vanmarcke beaming out in colour from the front page and another dozen pages of analysis and colour pictures.
Flanders Classics dates for 2020
On Sunday, in the UK, the Giro was given approximately eight column inches in The Observer – bearing in mind Brit Simon Yates is one of the favourites and this was before his disastrous time trial – including a postage stamp size pic of Caleb Ewan winning the stage, about the same size as L’Equipe used to give Greipel on the cover when he won a stage. The Worlds are in Yorkshire this year and the British Media and lots of fans will be there – but please no one tell me; ‘it’ll be just like Flanders.’ Not matter how many people show up, it’ll never be like Flanders.
Yorkshire, not Flanders
It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,700 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.
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