It’s a lovely Friday spring afternoon here at VeloVoices Towers and the Giro d’Italia kicks off tomorrow. What’s not to like? To mark the occasion, we’ve rolled out the drinks trolley a bit early today, cracked open a nice bottle of chianti and settled down for a quick chat about what to expect over the next three weeks. (Sadly Jack wasn’t available today.) Here’s a summary of our conversation.
The Giro has provided us with some fantastic evocative images and memories over the years. In our own personal experience of watching the Giro, what one moment or event springs most readily to mind?
Sheree: Paolo Savoldelli, also known as Il Falco (the Falcon). He cemented his win on the penultimate stage in the 2005 Giro with a daring descent off the Colle delle Finestre before the final ascent to Sestriere.
Panache: Ah, Sheree, Il Falco was awesome! I mentioned this in our Giro preview podcast and I know this is way back but it’s got to be the 1988 Giro where we had snow on the Passo di Gavia. On the slopes of the Gavia, Andrew Hampsten and Erik Breukink escaped the field. The conditions were unbelievable with snow piling up and temperatures dropping. Many abandoned. While Breukink won that stage, Hampsten went on to win the race and became the first non-European to win the Giro.
Ant: Not something I saw live, on account of being too young, but when Fiorenzo Magni died last year, I read about his exploits in the Giro, specifically the 1956 edition. The image of him struggling to ride, while biting down on an inner tube that he’d tied to his handlebars – partly to help with the pain, partly to steer – is captivating, even more so when you see the incredible support from the roadside. This, to me, is the essence of the Giro, captured in a few seconds of film archive.
Kathi: One of my favourite memories is from 2010 with Ivan Basso and Cadel Evans battling it out on the Zoncolan. I loved the contrast between Basso’s elegant riding style and the sight of Cadel behind him, all over his machine. Then Basso dropped him and calmly rode to the top. Oh, and I love the name Zoncolan.
Tim: I’m going to throw in another epic day from 2010, stage seven to Montalcino on the strade bianche dirt roads, which became so muddy in the rain that they were basically strade marrone [brown rather than white roads – Ed]. Cadel duking it out with Alexandre Vinokourov and a few others, all of them splattered with mud. Proper old school racing and a fantastic finish to boot. This photo montage gives you a good idea what it was like.
What do we make of this year’s parcours?
Kathi: At first I was worried that the amount of time trial kilometres would nullify the race, like it did in the Tour last year. But now that I’ve done all the previews … they’ll make a difference, but it’s the epic mountain stages that will separate the men from the boys and hopefully they’ll be racing right up to the end.
Tim: The balance is definitely better, with more tough mountain stages to offset the two time trials, one of which is a mountain test anyway which will suit the climbers as much as the time trial specialists. The 2011 route was criticised for being too tough but I think this one’s just about right, although that final sequence of mountain TT/summit finish/summit finish is going to hurt – a lot – with some big descents where we could see someone brave shattering the peloton too.
Ant: There appears to be plenty of variety throughout the race. Most importantly, there are plenty of ‘dangerous’ stages, which I hope will make it difficult for a team to totally dominate the race and should keep the tension high. The opening week could be interesting, with the heavier climbing coming later, the big GC contenders are unlikely to want to commit too much effort to controlling the race and that should give scope for some breakaway excitement as a sort of amuse-bouche before the race explodes in the final third.
Sheree: It looks reasonably balanced but only time will tell. It’s the riders who make the race not the parcours.
Panache: The Giro always has a well-balanced route that provides drama. This year is no different. Stages 18, 19 and 20 are going to likely be where this race gets decided. And where better to decide a race than on the slopes of climbs like the Stelvio, Gavia, Giau and the Tre Cime di Laveredo? Bravo to RCS Sport for always choosing great parcours!
Outside of the big-name GC men, climbers and sprinters, who do you really want to see put in a good performance?
Sheree: No one rider in particular although I’d like to see the Colombians ride well and justify their wild-card. Plus I’m a sucker for someone who’s been a professional for a while taking a maiden win.
Panache: I would like to see the German John Degenkolb fly past Cav during the sprint stages. That’s right, Tim, you’re reading this right!
Panache: The Argos team and Degenkolb deserve wins because they seem to be an example of good character, high ethical standards, and good teamwork. I would also like to see Iljo Keisse do well, just so Kitty will have a winning pick. 😉
Ant: I’m going to sit on the fence and say that I just want to see some adventure and endeavour, and don’t really mind where it comes from. That said, I’d like to see Degenkolb hit form, just for the Argo-love of it.
Tim: There are two guys I particularly want to see do well. First there’s Sammy Sanchez, who’s racing in only his second Giro but has made this race his priority for this year. And secondly I’m hoping for a good showing by Orica-GreenEDGE’s Luke Durbridge. He’s the youngest rider in this year’s race – he only turned 22 last month – and yet he’s the reigning Australian champion in both road race and time trial, and you may remember he won the prologue at last year’s Criterium du Dauphine, beating Bradley Wiggins and Tony Martin in the process. Durbo the Turbo could be to Australian cycling what Taylor Phinney is to the US.
Kathi: Marco Pinotti. He’s coming back after his terrible crash and hopefully he’ll be able to win one of the TT stages. I just think he’s grand. I want him to do well. What do you mean, he’s not racing the Giro?!? Rats. Rats. Rats.
And finally, name the three riders who you think will stand on the final GC podium three weeks from now.
Tim: Let’s be controversial. In no particular order: Wiggins, Sanchez and Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini). I’m not joking. You know I like my long-shots.
Kathi: Also in no particular order: Vincenzo Nibali, Bradley Wiggins, a Garmin rider.
Panache: In an intentional order: Ryder Hesjedal, Vincenzo Nibali, Bradley Wiggins.
Sheree: In no particular order: Bradley Wiggins, Vincenzo Nibali, Samuel Sanchez.
Ant: Vincenzo Nibali, Bradley Wiggins, Ryder Hesjedal.
Tim: So, basically, when Nibali wins the drinks are on me, right? Uh oh. Someone pass me another bottle of chianti, please.
Thanks to @meowclank for the wonderful image of Mark Cavendish.. (Tim is thrilled!)