Lee’s Lowdown: The Finale
In the end, Italy got what it wanted and perhaps, more critically, what it needed. An Italian winner of the nation’s greatest race. The press grumbled and mumbled about the possibility of a GC win but no stage victory a la Hesjedal, but in the end Nibali silenced those churlish rumblings with not just one but two stage wins.
The Astana man fashioned a victory so dominant that by the end there was no one even close to him, a fact that was very much understood amongst his peers.
“Unbeatable,” was the adjective chosen by the 2nd placed Rigoberto Uran at the end of the penultimate stage, just after the Italian had ridden the race off his wheel and with it all but secured the coveted Maglia Rosa.
“You saw what he did again today, he was really very good,” said Uran. There comes a time in every race when everyone behind the winner finally accepts their fate. For those chasing closest to the leader it generally comes at the last moment, but not in this Giro. If either Uran or Evans truly believed they could beat Nibali after the second rest day they were kidding no one but themselves.
“Stupendous,” said Nibali, aware that he needs only one more for the Holy Trinity. Just one more little race, just the Tour de France. Can he do it? The cards are in his favor, he certainly looks the part now.
Nibali, known as The Shark, proved himself equal to his nickname. He’s taken his time but what presence he displayed over these three weeks, what calmness. There was no bluff and no bluster, no theatrics, no drama at all. It was a ruthless display from a man who has come into himself of late, establishing himself very much as a rival to Alberto Contador – perhaps, in all honesty, the only one around.
The original race favorite Bradley Wiggins made anything but a quiet entrance and went about his business like a musician who’d suddenly lost his sense of rhythm. He cited illness but there was something more than that going on, some sort of mini-implosion that had his critics – and they are a growing band – nodding their heads sagely. The beat was definitely off.
This was not the march to greatness that Sky had planned, and my lasting impression is one of some sadness for Uran, who rode a very good race amidst all the noise and claimed 2nd, and yet his achievement feels like a disappointment, at least on Sky’s terms.
If the Colombian is leaving because he feels undervalued then it is clear to see why. He is very talented and strong enough for a team to be built around him, but the team is very much a one-man show, whether or not Brailsford or anyone else will admit to that.
Sky may have swept all before them last year but their model is clearly unsustainable, and that may well be a good thing for the sport. Sky still have not backed up their drug-free claims enough for most of us at a time when the sport needs that transparency from its most successful team, and whilst it will annoy the heck out of everyone at the British team, if they remain unwilling or unable to address those worries then people will continue to wonder. It is just the way it is, the way it has to be.
Which brings us to Danilo the self-styled ‘Killer’ Di Luca. What I think of this guy can’t be printed on such a respectable site as this, but suffice to say that the fact that he was in the race in the first place tells you just what a shambles this sport has become. Third strike fella, over and out. That he was still allowed to ride in an event like this is in itself scandalous.
Dear UCI, please, sort this mess out. It cannot be business as usual, and we can’t have our president standing before us and saying all is well (as he did just last week) when just behind him we can see the flames on the roof. And what do we do? We take it like the chumps we are because we love this sport so much. We need accountability, criminal charges, huge fines for the teams and individual managers as well as doctors or it will go on and on and on. And yes, it is worth fighting for, annoying as it may be, because it just is.
One last thing on this – why were Farnese allowed to remain in the race? They should have withdrawn themselves at the very least. The manager ‘expressed reservations’ when Di Luca was brought in but that was not enough, quite obviously. The riders may not have wanted him on but they too did nothing.
‘Just doing my job’ is never a valid excuse.
And the man who brought him in? This is what he said:
“What can I say? I believed in man and in the athlete and it is right that I take all the blame because I made a mistake,” said Valentino Sciotti. “Maybe I was wrong to believe that after a mistake you can redeem yourself and learn not to repeat the mistakes, maybe I’m wrong to want to help a person I saw in trouble, maybe I was wrong to follow the religious values that my family gave me, maybe I’m wrong in believing that when you talk to a person looking into his eyes, you can also read his heart. “
That, by the way, was all accompanied by a doe-eyed child playing the violin and a Hollywood scriptwriter. Give me, if you please, a break.
Di Luca? He said “I wasn’t expecting this. It was a surprise for me. I’m disappointed.” Funny that, I felt the same when I saw him on the start line.
And so I will end the doping news with what I think is on many peoples’ minds but they daren’t say: please, Vincenzo, be clean. To his very great credit, he is viewed as being of the ‘new’ generation of riders, and said after his win that “…there are a lot of other young riders coming up with a strong set of ethics too, and we can feel proud about that.”
“I’ve always been myself, and I’ve looked to better myself as a rider and a man over the years too,” Nibali continued. “But maybe what you’re saying could also have an influence.”
Highlights of the Giro? The battle for the White jersey of Best Young Rider was really very good, with Betancur finally triumphing. The resurrection of the previously deceased Cadel Evans was also great to see, as was just about every single stage. In fact, I cannot think of a single stage that was dull. Cavendish, well, you read it here first, 5 wins in the Giro and the Points Jersey and the same in the Tour in July. I’m off to the bookies to put a bet on that right after this.
The greatest thing about this Giro? The Giro. Seriously, once again it did more then live up to its billing, it whupped it. Arguably its most potentially exciting stage was cancelled but it was hardly missed. A race full of iconic images of amazing scenery, scintillating attacks, more ups and downs than Di Luca’s blood levels and a raft of exciting new talent on show, and some from Pro Continental teams.
And didn’t it all just make you want to ride your bike? Exactly as it should be.
Lee Rodgers leads a double life as a pro racer on the UCI race circuit with the Lapierre Asia Cycling Team, competing in the UCI Asia Tour as well as some European events and the likes of the Tour of Qatar and Oman, rubbing shoulders with the best the WorldTour has to offer, whilst keeping up a day job as a cycling journalist. The highlight of his cycling career so far was winning the Singapore National Champs – road race and ITT – as well as claiming the Green Jersey at the 2.1 Tour de Taiwan in 2012, and naturally, writing for PEZ. His writing appears in several magazines and websites and you can catch up with him regularly on his blog, https://crankpunk.com/