In part one of our post-Giro round-table, we looked back on out favourite riders and stages, and broadly agreed that it had been a great race contested in fine sporting spirit, with a worthy new champion. In the second instalment of our round-table, with the chablis by now flowing freely – although, given that this was the Giro, it should really have been a chianti or a barolo, now I think about it – we turned our attention to some of the more contentious issues of the race.
Yet again, most of the top sprinters dropped out before the big mountains. Does this devalue the maglia rosso?
Sheree: No way, because the maglia rosso rewards consistency and shouldn’t be regarded as the pure preserve of the sprinters.
Kathi: Well, that depends on if you think it should only go to a sprinter. The fact that they give points in the mountains means it’s not really a sprinter’s jersey like the maillot vert in the Tour (although I see on Michele Acquarone’s Twitter feed that he’s thinking of changing the rules). I have to say, I was kind of sick of some fans whining about Mark Cavendish losing it by a point, as if he was entitled to it. It’s a race, shit happens. Rodriguez worked hard.
Jack: No. It’s not a sprinters’ classification, it’s a points classification. Joaquim Rodriguez got more points than anyone else in the race, and fully deserves the jersey. They’re the rules, and therefore however many sprinters arrive in Milan is irrelevant to the value of the jersey, as long as the rules stay as they are.
Tim: Now I know you’re all expecting me to leap to my man-crush’s defence and disagree with you, but actually I don’t. Everyone starts out knowing there are the same points available in the mountains as on the flats, so it’s fair game. And I 100% agree that J-Rod was a worthy winner of the jersey – he was aggressive and was the only man other than Cav who won more than one stage. The maglia rosso is fine as is, although I would personally remove the intermediate sprints from this classification and make it a competition focussed solely on finishing positions. What I do disagree with is the fact there is no sprinters’ jersey at all. Any balanced three-week race has its fair share of flat stages – you can’t have big climbs every day – and it seems wrong to not have a prize for the sprinters. Why not dangle the carrot of a sprint-focussed classification (in addition to the points jersey) and give the sprinters a reason not to climb off their bikes before the high mountains? After all, the climbers have the mountains classification to aim for. We – okay, I – demand equal rights for sprinters. What do we want? Jersey for sprinters! When do we want it? Now!
Roberto Ferrari’s aggressive move caused quite a pile-up on stage three. He was relegated to the back but many thought he should have been thrown off the race altogether. Did the punishment fit the crime?
Jack: Ferrari undoubtedly made a big mistake, but I feel the overreaction was incredible, no doubt due to the fact it was Mark Cavendish on the receiving end of the swerve. In my view he didn’t deserve to be kicked out of the Giro, with a firm dressing-down and fine sufficient. It was a racing incident rather than a deliberate attempt to take out Cavendish.
Tim: Seriously, anyone who thought Ferrari was deliberately trying to take out Cav needs their head examining. He didn’t know Cav was there. He didn’t know anyone was there!
Sheree: The rules were applied fairly and squarely. I, for one, have no complaints.
Kathi: Listening to Velocast’s podcast about this, it was noted that Ferrari was going to Farrar’s wheel, as was Cav, and though it was a wild swing, it was not intentional or malicious, which is different from Mark Renshaw’s head-butting incident in the Tour that got him sent home. His fine should have been higher probably and he really didn’t do himself any favours with his interview afterwards. For me, it wasn’t unlike what Cav did in the Tour de Suisse a few years ago that put Haussler out for a season and he didn’t get kicked out of the peloton.
Tim: Again, I know you’re expecting me to disagree. But actually I don’t, for the most part. I saw no malice, but it was a reckless and dangerous move that needed to be punished with more than mere relegation and a token fine. I don’t think he should have been thrown out of the race, but I wish cycling had some kind of intermediate punishment – the equivalent of a yellow card or a three strikes rule. Make a dangerous move like that once and you get a slap on the wrist. Do it again in the same season and you get thrown out of the race and hit with a serious fine. As for his post-stage comments, well, he’s a sprinter and sprinters often say things like that in the heat of the moment – God knows Cavendish does often enough. Where he erred was in not backing down afterwards, and although he later said he would apologise I don’t believe he actually did in the end. That’s the reason I dislike him, not for causing the crash per se.
Frank Schleck has had a quite public dressing-down from Johan Bruyneel after withdrawing from the race with a shoulder injury. What do we think about that, and how many Schlecks do we think will still be at RadioShack at the start of 2013?
Tim: Ultimately it will all come down to money but this marriage of convenience is heading for divorce – it’s just a matter of when. Sometimes a relationship that looks great on paper is an absolute disaster in reality. No matter how angry Bruyneel was at Frank, the way he talked about him was immature and could only have had one result: a bad one.
Sheree: I’m not a fan of public dressing downs under any circumstance. I believe carrots work better than sticks – just ask any donkey.
Tim: Exactly. Maybe Frank could have carried on, and maybe Bruyneel’s public criticism was just in response to Frank throwing the first punch in private. It doesn’t really matter. I’ve seen better behaviour in football – and that’s saying something. I think both will be gone by the end of the year, but it doesn’t really matter. And, to be honest, I don’t really care.
Jack: Given that the Schlecks are like conjoined twins then it’s almost certain that neither of them will be at RadioShack next season. It was possibly doomed from the start, with both parties seemingly only satisfied with complete control. They’ve had an awful season on and off the bike, and only a yellow jersey win could give the relationship any chance of a happy ending.
Sheree: How many Schlecks remain at RadioShack rather depends on their contractual obligations and/or whether they’d be prepared to pay the penalty for severing them early. However, if we’re to believe what we read, it hasn’t been the touted marriage made in heaven – more of a Nightmare on Elm Street. I suspect that Bruyneel doesn’t have the depth of management skills to deal with Frandy. He’s better with more driven, focussed individuals, like Lance and Bertie.
Kathi: All I hope is that Fabian Cancellara is not anywhere near that team in 2013. The Schlecks and Bruyneel are acting as badly as each other and I think the breach is fairly irreparable now. What a mess that team is. All the toys out of the pram from both sides and they’re just laughing stocks.
Other than weirdos in orange floral underpants, what else caught your eye during the race for being a bit out of the ordinary?
Sheree: Yes, what is it with men in underpants? Why do they feel the need to expose themselves in this fashion and why is it rarely ones with bodies worth showing off? Boys, if you’ve got it by all means flaunt it but, if you haven’t, please keep it covered up. Personally, I was rather touched by the number of members of the equine family, both real and fake, wearing maglia rosa and pondered the significance of the homage. Any ideas?
Kathi: Maybe not out of the ordinary, but I was much more aware of the excitement around the Giro this year – not sure if it’s because everyone was more excited about it or I’m just noticing it, but it seemed like I was in a great alternative universe for the month of May. [We often tell Kitty she's on a different planet, especially when live-tweeting races - Ed.]
Jack: A difficult question. Probably Joaquim Rodriguez’s final time trial. A hackneyed phrase, but he really did ride like two men with the maglia rosa on his back.
Tim: Better than riding like the maglia rosa with two men on his back, for sure! Being the stats wonk that I am, I loved the fact that Rodriguez won Spain’s 100th Giro stage on the anniversary of Xavier Tondo‘s death. They’d raced together since they were kids. It seemed fitting. As for the blokes in underpants and Borat-style mankinis, let’s just say the less said about them the better. Give me Didi the Devil any day.
Finally, sum up your thoughts on the Giro in three words.
Kathi: Elegant. Heroic. Brilliant.
Sheree: Entertaining, surprising, gripping.
Tim: Thomas De Gendt.
Jack: Best Grand Tour.
Link: Official website