Giro 2018: A to Z part 1 – from Arrivederci to Man’s best friend

From Jerusalem to Rome via some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable. The Giro has made us cheer, scream, cry and laugh. Let’s relive La Vie en Rose in Part 1 of our A to Z of #Giro101.

Give your heart and soul to me
And life will always be
La vie en rose

A  is for Arrivederci

Jeremy Roy and Marc Madiot’s FDJ team go together like croque and monsieur – since he turned professional in 2003, he’s never plied his trade for anyone else. With fourteen Grand Tours in his legs, he bade farewell to his fifteenth, and last, in style.

There must be something about Sicilian roads he loves. He was in the break of the day at his first Giro in 2008 and repeated the feat on the Stage 10 finish at Mount Etna for #Giro101

Fans, journalists, and teammates alike will miss his calm, measured presence and his unfailing generosity with his time.

Grand Tour tally

“I let out a little tear this morning because it’s my last Grand Tour, I have 15 to my credit, I’m pretty proud of myself.”

B  is for a Brace of Bennetts

They may share the same surname but George and Sam Bennett couldn’t be more different as bike racers. Sam’s the Irish speedster blessed with fast-twitch muscles and lightening reflexes; George is a laid-back Kiwi with a whippet frame and the capacity to suffer on a climb. What they do have in common is a damn fine #Giro101, a series of firsts for their country, and a certain way with words.

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Ireland had to wait since 1987 to get another rider to the top step of the podium. After a 2017 Giro full of so-so-close finishes, Sam finally took his maiden Grand Tour win at Praia a Mare. He made it two at a rain-soaked Imola and delivered BORA-hansgrohe three in total after ripping it up in the heart of Rome’s Centro Storico – the first Irishman with a trio of Giro victories.

He had a word or two to say about the neutralisation of stage 21 “Sky got their way too easily, in that they got the race neutralised just to suit them. At the end of the day, we still had to race. So why do they get to go easy? It was equally as dangerous for us.”

His twitter account is a joy

Jumbo Bee George Bennett is not your typical GC rider.

And let’s be clear: his Giro SHOULD be remembered for a LOT MORE than this wonderful soundbite.

A fourth place on the first summit finish atop Mount Etna propelled the Kiwi to eighth overall, climbing to sixth by Stage 13. He climbed Monte Zoncolan among the fastest to finish 12th on the day, but a disastrous mechanical meant he finished 1:55 mins adrift and slipped to 8th. More bike trouble on the time trial and his hopes for a top 5 finish were gone. As he said himself, that’s bike racing. Oh, what might have been.

He may have wanted more,

Top-10 doesn’t really excite me much anymore, the prospect of that. Top-five would be nice but a stage win would be a lot nicer.

but he created history for New Zealand cycling.

… all while riding in some pretty special kicks too. LOVE

C  is for Celebrate

Thirteen riders of 11 different nationalities got their hand in the air as they crossed the finish line. Fifteen of the 21 victories were shared between just four teams.

Add in the multitude of other jerseys and awards that are presented and that’s a heck of a lot of prosecco popped, confetti canons and sheer joy. Here’s a few images that capture the emotions…

Nico Portal, the DS at the helm of Sky’s Giro win

Mitchelton-Scott with the biggest smiles after their raid to grab maglia e tappa on stage 6 – none bigger than stage victor Esteban Chaves – we LOVE him.

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Team joy for the BORA boys and Sam Bennett at Imola

The Wolfpack in full clamour after Max Schachmann took their 5th victory at this Giro, their 36th for this year, the 80th time they have claimed the top step of a Grand Tour podium and the first team in modern era to win five stages in four consecutive Grand Tours.

You can see the relief and YES! on Enrico Battaglin‘s face as he takes his first victory since 2014. Such a contrast to the quiet reflective moment in Rome.

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Goals acheived

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D is for Dumoulin, Tom Dumoulin

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D is is also for defending champion, Dutch, dogged determination and darkly dashing. All of which describe Big Tom’s Giro. He wore the pink jersey just once after his victory in the opening time trial in Jerusalem, surrendering it on stage two, but not once did he give up the dream of reclaiming it in Rome. Only a champion knows what it takes to win and he fought at every opportunity until the finish on stage 20. It wasn’t to be. He laid it all on the line and has no regrets about his second place.

E is Energy

The Giro was raced FULL GAS every day.

Here’s the details of what it took to keep Ben King pedalling for three weeks.

Forget your gels, rice cakes and ham paninis. All any cyclist needs in his back pocket is curved, yellow and comes complete with its own biodegradable wrapper.

A banana you say? Why certainly, Carlos!

Seb Reichenbach is never seen without one

I mean if it’s good enough for the race leader…

They’re not for Ben Hermans though. Or perhaps it was bruised, no one likes a squishy banana

They’re also handy for those quirky photographs Le Petit is so fond of…

Whatever your thoughts on bananas, this was a hard Giro.

And you just know this is true

F is for Firsts

There were a lot of first times at #Giro101. A Grand Departeza outside of mainland Europe. Israel Cycling Academy in their Grand Tour debut. Bahrain-Merida’s Matej Mohoric took his first Giro victory, descending on the top tube in his trademark style and outsprinting Nico Denz (AG2R La Mondiale) to the line on a frantic stage 10.

Movistar’s Ecuadorian revelation Richard Carapaz garnered a fistful of first times. A grand tour victory in apocalyptic conditions on stage eight and eight days in the best young rider’s jersey. Both first time events for him and his country.

Love this photograph of Richard with the Little Kangaroo.

Nineteen Giro newbies took the start in Jerusalem and all, bar two, made it to Rome (Guy Niv from Israel Cycling Academy and Alessandro Tonelli from Bardiani-CSF in case you were wondering). However, only one took his first Grand Tour victory on his debut Grand Tour. Let’s hear it for Quick-Step Floors’ Max Schachmann.

Already an old hand at podium presentations after five days as best young rider

…  young Maximilian got himself into the break on Stage 18 – one of the very few breaks that made it all the way to the finish line at this Giro. From there he played it cool and used raw power to take the win.

Here he is with fellow Quickstepper debutant Remi Cavagna

G is for Grand Slams

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Aussie time trial ace Rohan Dennis only needed the maglia rosa to complete his triptych of Grand Tour leader’s jerseys. He missed out by just two seconds in the opening time trial and must have thought the chance was gone. No. BMC’s cunning plan to grab three bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint on Stage 2 meant it was mission completed. Yellow from the Tour de France 2015, red from Vuelta 2017 are now joined by pink from #Giro101.

BMC’s leader came to the Giro with every intention to ride for GC. He took his first Giro victory on stage 16 and held on in the top 10 until the final two mountain stages. We think he’s one to watch in three-week stage racing.

Rohan wasn’t the only rider on a mission to seek a Grand Tour triple. Despite the polemica whirling around himself and his team, Chris Froome took the start in Israel seeking to add the the most beautiful trophy in cycling to his Vuelta and four Tour de France titles.

In the first two weeks of the Giro, it looked like Sky’s unfortunate history with this race was about to be repeated. The closest Chris Froome came to a pink jersey was passing the Mitchelton-Scott team bus at the end of the stage. His trademark spin-it-up-and-kick was missing in action. The bruises he received after his TT recon crash in Jerusalem were deepened by another fall eight days later on the road to Montevergine di Mercogliano.

The wheels were off the Sky train and no one knew why. He even missed the special helicopter ride from Mount Etna to the mainland when a late call of nature meant a delay in producing a urine sample.

He was shipping time to his rivals and languishing in unfamiliar territory – 12th at end of stage 11.

Victory atop Monte Zoncolan while fending off dinosaurs and carrying an extra kilo of blue tape on his knee looked more familiar

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A 5th place at the time trial propelled him into 4th but still with a deficit of 3:22 mins and only three stages to go. Which brings us to the Queen stage and THAT attack on the Colle della Finestre (see A to Z part two). An 80km solo raid and several staff in hi-viz jackets later, the deficit was overturned. Sky’s leader slipped the maglia rosa around his shoulders for the first time in his career.

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Three times he climbed to the top step of the podium, the final time in Rome as champion by 46 seconds. The Giro is never over until the final finish is crossed.

The first Brit to win the Giro. His sixth Grand Tour victory. A Grand Tour grand slam, with the added kudos of owning all three at the same time.

It’s fair to say this didn’t sit well with a lot of people. Should he have been riding with an unresolved Salbutamol adverse finding hanging over his head? Which titles might he lose when the case eventually comes to judgement, and exactly how long might that process take? Personally, I don’t think he should have ridden and he’ll almost certainly lose the Vuelta. However, there was nothing in the rules to stop him riding in Italy, and he’s determined to keep rolling for a fifth Tour de France title in July.

H is for Home roads

Riding the Giro must give Italian riders an extra frisson of excitement and put a little more zip in the legs. Multiply that by ten if the route goes through towns they grew up in and on roads they know well. It’s no wonder the betting pundits look for home riders and back them to get in the break.

Being allowed to ride off the front of the bunch for special occasions used to be quite a common occurrence. Just look at the joy on Paolo Simeon‘s face as he soaks up the love from his home town of Martellago on stage 13. I defy you not to smile with him and I vote for more of this sort of thing.

Bardiani-CSF’s captain Giulio Ciccone had a special ice cream created for him. The tweet translates as: “At the Pino Pinguí ice cream parlor in Manoppello, my friend Felice created for the Giro the taste “Giulio Ciccone” . That’s  a good omen!” It doesn’t say what flavour it is – answers on a postcard please.

The route for stage 10 took the peloton past the remains of the Hotel Rigopiano, which was destroyed by an avalanche in January 2017 killing 29 people. Giulio, who is local to this area, attended a memorial service on the rest day at the site of the tragedy.

He made the break of the day after signing on at the start of the stage wearing the names of the victims.

I is for Incredible

That’s Lotto Fix-All’s Mr Incredible Adam Hansen who completed his 20th consecutive Grand Tour in Rome.

From the Vuelta in 2011 to #Giro101, Adam racked up 419 race days, 44 rest days and two stage wins – Giro 2013 Stage 7 and Vuelta 2014 Stage 19, both in trademark solo from the front of the bunch, of course. #TheMan #TheLegend.

Such a feat deserves a special bike

And was marked by the Giro organisers – quite right too.

For the rider who’s given us so much to cheer and smile about (hands up who remembers him joining in with the Alpe d’Huez party vibe), it was good to see he still has that sense of fun while climbing.

Word is that he’ll be bringing his knowledge and passion to the Eurosport team for the Tour de France this summer [yeah baby! – ed]. He also hasn’t ruled out another three weeks in Spain.

J is for Jesters

This tweet instantly caught my attention.

The game of hide-and-seek played by Tim Wellens and Adam Hansen on Stage 6 might be one of my favourite stories from the Giro. With a couple of riders up the road trying to form a break, the Lotto Fix-All duo tried to bridge up to them. Unable to catch them, but with the peloton out of sight they thought …

‘Let’s go hide and see what happens.’ We took a sharp left into a caravan parking lot and hid around the corner, then the peloton passed. As soon as it did, we jumped on the back of the line of cars and rejoined the group.

Now, Wellens and Hansen are not the sort of riders you let off the leash and the chase behind by Mitchelton-Scott and Katusha Alpecin was fierce.

I said, ‘Tim, let’s go to the front and see their faces when they see us.’ We got up there, Mitchelton-Scott was pulling. They looked forward, looked to us, looked forward and looked to us. They said, ‘Where did you guys come from!?’”

K is for Kings of the Breakaway

It was a very tough gig for the breakaway at #Giro101. The pace was frantic and with sprint teams and Mitchelton-Scott in particular wanting to keep things together, the breaks were chased down day after day.

That’s not to say there weren’t breaks. The Italian Pro-Conti team Androni-Sidermec-Bottecchia placed a rider in the breakaway for just about every one of the 19 road stages. Imagine the full gas effort required to make one breakaway work, add in the multiple failed attempts, and then repeat it day after day.  I really dislike it when larger teams make fun of this. Sure, it might not make sense for their grand-scheme game plan. But, small teams getting their sponsor’s names seen is a huge deal and there’s no larger audience than a home Grand Tour – and hardly a team with more to satisfy than Androni.

Androni’s efforts were well rewarded with trips to the podium ceremony in Rome. Marco Frapporti won the Fuga Pinarello for the most kilometres (640km) spent as part of a breakaway, while Davide Ballerini walked away with both the Traguardi Volanti (hot spot sprints) and the title for the most combative rider

All in all, Gianni Savio’s team had a successful three weeks in Italy. In addition to the breakaway, Mattia Cattaneo finished third on Stage 18 and who could forget Fausto Masnada‘s courageous ride on the Gran Sasso.

I am proud of the results of the guys at this Giro. Once again we have honoured the race. In addition we set a small record, but still a record, becoming the only team with at least one runner fleeing at each stage – Gianni Savio

L is for Lieutenants

Every GC contender needs a right-hand man to ride by his side in the mountains. Someone to set the pace, to bridge the unbridgeable, to encourage, to give up his bike if the need arises. Chris Froome had Wout Poels, Thibaut Pinot, the ever-reliable Seb Reichenbach  – seasoned campaigners who know precisely what it takes. We’ve seen some new names emerge, young mountain goats who’ve been in the thick of the action when it counted.

Let’s start with Mitchelton- Scott’s Jack Haig 

I don’t think I could sum up Jack’s contribution better than this.

Jack’s work rate was phenomenal for the whole Giro, but he was an absolute BEAST on stage 9 to Gran Sasso. Digging in to hunt down the last of the break in that stunning false flat valley between the climbs to set up Simon Yates’ first win

Here he is post race.

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This video from Tom Dumoulin explains exactly how important Sam Oomen was to him on the final stages

If I had to choose a stand-out performance it would be the Cervinia ascent, the final climb of the Giro, where Tom needed 40 seconds to take the maglia rosa. Watching Sam drive the pace to set up the quartet of attacks. Seeing him dropped only to claw his way back and give his all again.

When the battle for seconds was lost, his captain repaid the work by going to the front to make sure Sam finished in the top 10 on GC. That’s class.

Aussie young gun Ben O’Connor was slated to help Louis Mentjes. However, with Dimension Data’s captain not firing on all cylinders, Ben stepped up to deliver a captain’s ride of his own. In flying form after his stage win at the Tour of the Alps, Ben finished with the favourites.

Tragedy struck on Stage 19. A crash on the descent of Sestriere, a broken collarbone and a high finish in his first Grand Tour was snatched away.

M is for Man’s best friend

A selection of canines spotted at the Giro – I think Atilla with Elia Viviani might just be my favourite

 

To go to part 2, N to Z, click here 

Header image: © Tim de Waele/Getty Images 

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