Having watched Il Lombardia on Sunday, our friend Nathalie Novembrini headed to the Giro d’Italia presentation on Monday. Here are her thoughts on the occasion.
Just like every year, many rumours preceded Monday’s Giro presentation. Some of the host towns were already known but the only certainty was the 98th edition of Giro d’Italia would start in San Remo and finish in Milan. Maybe the RCS management did it on purpose, maybe it’s only a coincidence, but the start and finish remind me of an inverted Classicissima (Milan-San Remo).
This time I had the opportunity to attend the presentation in person. Beforehand, I studied the route to Palazzo del Ghiaccio, dressed smartly and drove to Milan. I was almost late. There was no car parking nearby, so I had to walk a few minutes to get to the presentation.
A pink carpet greeted the crowd filling the hall where everybody was waiting for the show to start. Small white sofas and stools were placed around the area which is a skating rink in winter. Cameras surrounded the sports arena and two TV screens showed highlights of previous Giros. Most of the participants were journalists or guests and, of course, there were also some riders, many team managers and directors, as well as politicians, UCI members and representatives from the Italian Cycling Federation.
The lights slowly faded and anyone who hadn’t found a seat had to stand around the rink. A young girl appeared on the stage to sing two songs while scenes of this year’s Giro d’Italia were shown on the giant screen behind her. La Gazzetta dello Sport’s director Andrea Monti introduced her as British singer Jasmine Thompson. Hard to believe she’s only 13!
Italian actress Chiara Francini, patroness of previous Giros, presented some of the riders in the audience and the RCS management, who praised the efforts of the Giro organisation. They also introduced a video called Giro in Numbers: revealing how many broadcasting hours, spectators, web users, press and photography agencies followed the previous edition.
Tribute was paid to Cadel Evans who was invited on stage and asked to recall the best and worst moments of his career. He chose the disbelief and joy he felt in crossing the finish line in Mendrisio 2009 when he won the World Championship’s not far from where he now lives. His worst moment was the 16th stage of the last Giro d’Italia, from Ponte di Legno to Val Martello. The Gavia descent was very cold and slippery, he just kept thinking about how dangerous it was and how he feared crashing and not being able to see his son again. I bet that was a terrible feeling.
Andrea Monti took to the floor to explain the route. He still didn’t say much, except to confirm rumours about the race’s arrival in Madonna di Campiglio or its passage of the Mortirolo climb. Honestly, I found it quite out of place that the Gazzetta’s director remembered Marco Pantani while talking about that climb. He also invoked memories of Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali, introduced by Italian songs dedicated to them.
After showing us the 2015 official promo, with highlights of the last Giro, the ‘never-ending trophy’ made its appearance bathed in light, carried by a lady dressed in pink. It was probably just a copy of the real one, but I find it one of the most beautiful and meaningful cycling trophies. Finally, the route of the 98th Giro d’Italia was unveiled.
The opening stage was already known: a team time trial finishing on a cycle path in San Remo. After three hilly stages in Liguria, the Giro will tackle its first uphill finish on Mount Abetone, to remember Gino Bartali. The route will briefly takes the riders south, only to return north with an interesting stage finishing on the Enzo and Dino Ferrari speedway. The real GC fight should begin with the stage in Madonna di Campiglio and continue on the following Mortirolo stage, where Marco Pantani first unveiled his extraordinary climbing talent. There are two crucial stages in the Alps, featuring the Colle delle Finestre, which should reveal the winner of the 2015 Giro. The final stage from Turin to Milan will certainly be appreciated by the sprinters.
Pier Bergonzi, journalist and assistant director at La Gazzetta dello Sport, introduced Paolo Bellino of RCS and Mauro Vegni, the Giro’s director, to talk about the course. Vegni told us he’d designed next year’s Giro in order to make it possible to race both the Corsa Rosa and the Tour, hoping to see a back-to-back win. It was obviously a reference to Contador’s plan to race and win both.
After UCI President Brian Cookson’s speech about how pleased he was with the route, some of the riders were invited on the stage to share their thoughts: Ivan Basso, Alberto Contador, Fabio Aru, Rigoberto Uran, Nacer Bouhanni, Michał Kwiatkowski, and Julian Arredondo. The podium and all the jerseys from the 2014 Giro were there, except for Nairo Quintana, who had sent a video message from Colombia.
When the show was over, we were offered small appetizers and glasses of wine while the media asked the riders and managers their point of view on the route. Contador even named Chris Froome as one of the possible favourites, because of the long and tough time trial.
As for the dress code, I can say everyone knew what the occasion demanded, save a few. Nacer Bouhanni, with his denim shirt, jeans and black sneakers, almost made Arredondo’s red trainers pale by comparison. Hats off, however, to Basso’s slip-ons without socks, Uran’s stylish pink bowtie and the blue checked shirts worn by the Orica-GreenEDGE riders.
To sum up, the Giro 2015 presentation is more low-key than the Tour’s but the route is going to be really interesting for the riders and hopefully exciting for us to watch. For sure, the locations won’t disappoint. As the slogan says, “the Giro d’Italia is the toughest race in the world’s most beautiful place.” But maybe, just maybe, I’m a bit biased!
(All photographs courtesy of RCS Sport/La Presse)