In the first part of our post-Giro round-table we focussed on the race and the riders. In this second part we touch on a few of the key talking points which have had us debating over the past three weeks.
Panache and Tim talked on last week’s podcast about the criticism Bradley Wiggins received from some quarters for withdrawing through illness, while others such as Ryder Hesjedal, John Degenkolb and Nacer Bouhanni effectively got a free pass. Thoughts on this?
Sheree: It did strike me as being rather unfair but then the biggest stars are always the most newsworthy. Plenty of fawning column inches on the way up and thrown to the wolves on the way down. But that’s cycling, one day you’re on top of the world, the next day you’re ill or you fall off your bike and you’re down and out of the race.
Panache: Like I said on the podcast, it was a bit surprising Hesjedal, as defending champion, seemed to get off more lightly than Wiggins.
Ant: I would have had a lot more sympathy with Wiggins if he hadn’t started stirring things up about the Tour and Froome again. It suggested that he had other objectives from the off. I generally find riders talking about a grand tour as ‘training’ for another race is disrespectful to the race and the other riders in it. He wasn’t the only one to do this either. That said, the conspiracy theorists, most of whom wouldn’t go to work with a cold, speculating as to whether the illness was a front were just bang out of order.
Kitty: I think he got criticised because he’d been talking all big and bad about doing the double before the Giro even started and, to be honest, once the first time trial was over and he didn’t put time into his rivals, it didn’t look like he wanted to be in the race. Maybe that’s why people got snarky about it.
Tim: If you’re ill, you’re ill – I don’t see how you can criticise anyone for that. Criticise his descending, sure, but to persevere with a chest infection for half the race and risk catching pneumonia or something else isn’t macho – it’s madness. Wiggo’s attitude was off all race, but his illness was a completely separate matter.
Mark Cavendish won five stages en route to capturing the points jersey. Given OPQS’ difficulties early in the season, were you surprised by how dominant he was?
Panache: Yes. I was very impressed by the work guys like Steegmans and Keisse did. Not only did the team perform well, but Cav was on his game. I am more convinced than ever that we really are witnessing a living legend in Mark Cavendish who will become known (if he’s not already) as the best sprinter ever.
Sheree: No, I wasn’t surprised. These things take time to gel. And L’Equipe crowned Mark Cavendish the best sprinter of all time last year.
Ant: Haha! I think Panache was channelling Tim there! I think Cav can compete with or without a big team lead-out, so I’m not surprised really. The OPQS lead-out has perhaps improved faster than I would have expected though.
Kitty: No. With Iljo Keisse on his team, it was inevitable.
Tim: I’m not surprised that he was dominant, only by how much he was. I thought it would take a week or so for the new train to gel, but they seemed to click straight away. Of course, it helped that the hoped-for head-to-head with Degenkolb never materialised, but Panache is spot on to highlight the contributions of Steegmans and Keisse – I’d also pick out Matteo Trentin. He’ll face much tougher opposition at the Tour – Greipel and Sagan, obviously, Kittel too – but equally he’ll have a stronger sprint train too, probably including Tony Martin and Niki Terpstra. Those sprints are going to be brilliant to watch.
We lost part or all of some epic climbs due to bad weather and safety concerns. Some fans complained this was ‘health & safety’ gone mad. Do they have a point?
Ant: It’s all well and good wanting the drama and the legendary stories of these extremes, but anybody bemoaning the race alterations really needs to consider if they would be prepared to face the same risks. I crashed on ice last winter and broke three ribs, nothing too serious, but I wasn’t heading down a mountain at 60kph, and I wouldn’t want to see anybody risk their lives in that way for me to be entertained for a few hours.
Tim: No, they don’t. Two words: Wouter Weylandt.
Panache: Tim, exactly.
Kitty: No. It’s a dangerous sport but add ice and snow on tricky descents? The organisers made the right decision.
Sheree: Chapeau to the Giro organisers for putting rider safety first and foremost.
Let’s focus on the four wild-card teams (Androni, Bardiani, Colombia and Vini Fantini) for a minute. Which one(s) will be most satisfied coming out of the Giro?
Kitty: Colombia. They made their presence known. Fabio Duarte, who looks about 12, dug so deep he projectile vomited at the end of the uphill TT. That got people’s attention!
Tim: And, of course he was runner-up to Nibali on stage 20. I think Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox – try saying that three times fast! – will be most pleased. A stage win via Enrico Battaglin – box ticked. And the mountains jersey for Stefano Pirazzi – box ticked. It doesn’t get much better than that, although Sacha Modolo tried by giving Cav a run for his money on the final stage.
Panache: Got to be Bardiani for me too. Incredible for such a young team.
Sheree: Sadly, Di Luca’s positive will wipe the glow from Vini Fantini’s high GC position with Mauro Santambrogio but all four teams worked hard to justify their wild card picks.
Ant: Given Di Luca’s positive I would have to rule out the glows, sadly, and say Colombia.
And which wild-card rider impressed you the most?
Panache: Stefano Pirazzi. He was like a dog on a bone for those mountain points. Always attacking!
Sheree: Santambrogio – ninth on GC.
Ant: Santambrogio, who had me cursing for the last three weeks for not putting him in my Fantasy Giro team!
Tim: It was a shame Santambrogio faded in the final week, so I’ll go with Pirazzi – a rider with a clear objective who got in the right moves at the right times and capitalised almost perfectly wherever he needed to scoop up points.
Kitty: Duarte. Because he looks 12 but rides with a lot of style.
On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate this Giro?
Sheree: We were anticipating that it would be less of a one-horse race, so for that reason alone it gets 7/10.
Panache: 7 /10. If Hesjedal and Wiggins hadn’t got sick I think it would be even better.
Ant: 7/10. The organisers had prepared an incredible race, and adapted brilliantly to changing circumstances.
Kitty: 7/10. For all the reasons above.
Tim: Oh, go on, I’ll be a bit different. I say 9/10. Not because the GC battle was tense – it wasn’t – but because I loved how many new winners we saw (11 of 13 stage victors had never won at the Giro before), how many attacks actually succeeded and because the young rider and points classifications were impossible to predict right up until the end. The overall was just a footnote for me in all that.
Finally, sum up this year’s Giro in five words.
Sheree: Wonderful, wild, wet and wicked.
Tim: Cavendish. Cavendish. Cavendish. Cavendish. Cavendish. (You were expecting something different from me?!?)
Panache: Here comes the rain again. (Yep, that song will be in your head all day now.)
Sheree: Not forgetting the fog, the snow and the cold! And yes, I now keep humming that blasted song.
Kitty: Brutal, elegant, cold, wet, majestic.
Ant: Race of the falling water.
Tim: Oh, I love that. Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have a winner! Right-o, Dauphiné, anyone?