Giro d’Italia 2016: A to Z, Part 2 – From Nieve to Zakarin

Part II of our Giro d’Italia alphabetical round-up. We start with Nieve, move through snowgate and velvety paws to end with the Russian version of Shaggy from Scooby Doo. 

N is for Nieve

Mikel Nieve running with the devils on stage 13 (Image: ©Getty Images/RS/Tim de Waele)

You would be forgiven if you thought that Mikel Nieve was the only Sky rider in the race after Mikel Landa dropped out, as he seemed to be the only one making any noise. A stage 13 win and a lot of breakaway action helped him to wrestle the maglia azzurra from the shoulders of the little prince, Damiano Cunego, on the penultimate stage by taking full points on a solo climb of the Col de la Bonette.

O is for Out!

Of the 198 riders who lined up at the start of stage 1, only 154 finished. Compare this to last year’s Giro, 197 riders started and 163 finished – 10 more riders than this year.

P is for pink

The ArgoSunGod dons the pink (Image: ©Getty Images/Bryn Lennon)

There were eight wearers of the maglia rosa in this year’s Giro: Tom Dumoulin, Marcel Kittel, Gianluca Brambilla, Bob Jungels, Andrey Amador, Steven Kruijswijk, Esteban Chaves and Vincenzo Nibali. In 21 stages, we had 18 winners – only Kittel and Greipel had multiple stage wins.

Q is for (D)Q’ed

Giacomo Nizzolo might have won the maglia rosso for the second year running but he had a face like thunder (and the eyebrows of a diabolical wizard) when he went up for the presentation. Half an hour earlier, he’d thought he’d finally won his first Giro stage to give the day an all-Italian flavour. But after an official complaint by Lampre-Merida that he had impeded Sacha Modolo in the last few metres, the jury decided to disqualify his sprint, strip the Trek-Segafredo rider of his cherished victory and hand it to Giant-Alpecin’s Nikias Arndt.

R is for respect the jersey

This phrase was bandied about a lot when some big names started to climb off their bikes, most notably Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel, both in the maglia rosso at the time of abandonment. However, for all the shouts of ‘Shame, shame’ at the Gorilla, at least he was upfront about his reasons – he had other races to prepare for and hauling his ass over the high mountains when he’d gotten everything he could out of the Giro wasn’t the way he wanted to do it. Some fans find the abandonment issue one that makes their head explode, some don’t – I just wonder if he’d instead feigned injury or illness to leave the race, anyone would have blinked an eye.

S is for Snowgate

If Nibali and Chaves were The Clash, should they stay or should they go when this happened on stage 19? Although it was split down the middle on Twitter – ‘the race is on’ ‘terrible display of manners – where is the gentleman’s agreement!’ – it wasn’t a question in the peloton. Kruijswijk himself said that the race was on, he knew Nibali and Chaves had to carry on (how could you possibly slow down on a descent like that anyway?) and that the mistake was his and he owned it. The soundest explanation of the day’s events (and Nibali subsequent victory) is on the InnerRing blog.

T is for Trentin

Etixx’s Matteo Trentin not only won stage 18 by working with Gianluca Brambilla to give Cannondale’s Moreno Moser the old one-two, but he also won the overall combativity prize. Who said Etixx are just a Classics team (although judging from the Classics this year, it’s lucky they have other strings to their bow…).

U is for #Unclass

Michele Scarponi punching the air as he goes over the line on stage 20 right next to Chaves because he knows his teammate has taken the maglia rosa off the shoulders of the Colombian. There had been some reports of him exchanging high fives with the tifosi on the final few kilometres – again, while riding with Chaves. Dude. Seriously. Class up.

V is for Valverde minis

Finishing third in his first ever Giro d’Italia (the only strange thing about this is why he never participated in the race before), Alejandro Valverde took the podium with a flashmob of children. Suffice it to say, the father looks much more pleased than the son who was holding the consolation trophy. He’s got a face like Nizzolo …

W is for Wolfie

Wolfie in happier times in Italy (©Getty Images/Tim de Waele) 

Who would have thought a podium mascot would cause such controversy, but French farmers along the Alpine route the Giro took into France did not want Wolfie to set one velvety paw in their country and threatened disruption. It may sound silly to those whose livestock (and livelihood) are not torn asunder by real wolves, who might smile like Wolfie but surely are not as even-tempered, but the farmers believed that the presence of the plushie would be showing great insensitivity. Wolfie sat it out on the border.

X is for Xtra

Okay, okay – you try finding a real X …! I’m sticking with this and that is Giro Extra, the Eurosport programme hosted by Ashley House and Juan Antonio Flecha with interviews by Laura Meseguer. All were as enthusiastic as ever, getting the big riders to come over and say hello (sometimes unexpectedly) and just generally giving us all something to smile about at the beginning and ends of the stages. (You didn’t honestly think this A-Z would not have Spartacus in it somewhere, now did you?)

Y is for You’re locked in now …

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Adam Hansen has finished his 14th consecutive Grand Tour. He ruefully mentioned earlier this year that he can’t stop now, he’s pretty much locked in for the Grand Tours now until he climbs off his bike mid-way through the race. Which is highly unlikely – unless it’s some sort of alien abduction. So bring on July for our favourite hard man!

Z is for Zakarin

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Ilnur Zakarin gave us all a scare on stage 19 by ending up lying motionless on a rocky mountainside with his bike several metres away. We are relieved to hear he’s okay, but also have an uncontrollable urge to sing ‘Scooby dooby doo, where are you? We need some help from you now!’

And with that little song in our hearts, we close the book on Giro d’Italia 2016 

Header image: ©KT/Tim De Waele/Corbis via Getty Images 

Giro d’Italia 2016: A to Z, Part I – From Amador to Making do

So many stories have come out of this year’s Giro, some of which we’ve covered in our stage reviews, some of which we didn’t have room for. So this A to Z has been constructed to try to redress the balance a bit. Part 1, we start with Andrey Amador, meet some parents, say a Hail Mary, and finally Make do … Part 2 to follow. 

A is for Amador

His one and only day in pink : Amador signs in (©Getty Images/AFP/Luk Benies)

It was Costa Rica’s first ever maglia rosa and it came courtesy of our favourite Movistarlet, Andrey Amador. He wore it after stage 13 and relinquished it after stage 14 to Steven Kruijswijk. Pink sunnies, helmet, jersey, handlebar tape – I think the nasal strips should have been hot pink as well. Amador ended the Giro in 8th place overall.

B is for Brambilla

Brambilla looking rather pleased with himself – as well he should be (©Getty Images/Tim de Waele/Corbis Images)

Etixx-QuickStep rider Gianluca Brambilla won stage 8, the sterrato stage, taking the pink jersey from Tom Dumoulin, keeping the jersey into the rest day by riding the time trial of his life. His teammate Bob Jungels was a mere second behind him in the GC.

C is for Mr & Mrs Chaves

If you ever wondered where Esteban Chaves gets his down-to-earth disposition, graciousness and generosity of spirit, look no further than his parents. For me, this is the moment of the Giro, when Mr and Mrs Chaves were the first to congratulate Vincenzo Nibali for winning the Giro, which took the maglia rosa from their son. Both their reaction and his are priceless.

D is for Dutch treats

It was an amazing opening weekend of the Giro d’Italia, hosted by the Netherlands. The crowds were massive, the weather was gorgeous, the racing was great. What more could you ask for? Oh, a Dutch rider winning the first stage and donning the maglia rosa? You got it – step right up Tom Dumoulin! They damn near top and tailed the entire race with a Dutch maglia rosa, if not for one badly placed snowbank …

E is for Etixx elan

The remains of Etixx after the finish of this year’s Giro (©Getty Images/ Tim de Waele/Corbis Images)

Contrast the Etixx team performance in the Giro with the underwhelming (some may say disastrous) Classics team and you have to wonder what happened? What indeed! Etixx stormed the Giro, putting the pink jersey on the shoulders of three riders: Marcel Kittel, Gianluca Brambilla and Bob Jungels; winning four stages (Kittel x 2, Brambilla and Matteo Trentin); winning the white jersey (Jungels – who finished an amazing 6th overall) and generally mixing it up every single day. What was different? The esprit de corps of the riders – everyone riding for Kittel, Brambilla working hard in pink to ensure that Jungels would get it at the end of stage 10, Brambilla setting up Trentin’s win – they worked as a team. Something that didn’t seem apparent in the Classics.

F is for the future

Primoz Roglic celebrating his stage 9 ITT win (Image: ©Getty Images/AFP/Luk Benies)

New names, fresh faces – with riders like Primoz Roglic, Guilio Ciccone, Gianluca Brambilla winning stages and Bob Jungels, Tom Dumoulin, Steven Kruijswijk and Esteban Chaves wearing pink, this year’s Italian adventure felt like the start of the changing of the guard.

G is for German sprints

Andre Greipel celebrating his win on stage 7 (Image: ©Getty Images/Tim de Waele/Corbis Images)

The bunch sprints were dominated by German riders this year: two sprint wins by Marcel Kittel, three by Andre Greipel (making him the winningest German in Giro history) and the final (controversial) sprint won by Nikias Arndt. Should be an interesting Tour de France on the flats.

H is for Hail Mary

Darwin Atapuma on his own on stage 13 (©Getty Images/Tim de Waele/Corbis Images

In American football, a Hail Mary is that long long long pass that the quarterback throws when there’s no time on the clock and he’s not even sure there’s a receiver at the end of it to catch it for the win. Well, it felt like BMC’s Darwin Atapuma was performing the cycling equivalent of a Hail Mary in the mountains. He was always in the break, always just thisclose to victory but not to be. But he showed his grit, his guts, his heart in those attacks and we love him for it (and he finished 9th overall)! Long may El Puma stalk the mountain sides …

I is for IAM not done yet!

Roger Kluge with a ‘hell yeah!’ salute on stage 17 (©Getty Images/KT/Tim de Waele/Corbis Images)

The Giro route planners tried to give the sprinters something to stay in for during the last week with a few flat stages before the final big mountain set pieces, but one Roger Kluge ruined the sprinters parade on stage 17. It was one of those performances fuelled by pride, as it had been announced the week before that IAM will be no more at the end of this season. Kluge held off a storming peloton to make sure that beautiful IAM kit was seen one last time in the Giro.

J is for JoDomBro

Joe Dombrowski: popular with cheerleaders (©Getty Images/KT/Tim de Waele/Corbis Images)

The other hurler of the Hail Mary was Cannondale’s Joe Dombrowski. Like Atapuma, Dombro was constantly up the road (except when he was called back for domestique duties or when he made a mistake and carpet bombed the TV mics with f-bombs) and animated the front of the mountain stages in a way that put his name on everyone’s twitter feed.

K is for Krystle

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We’ve seen this shoulders in Italy this month … 

Nicknames … Midge and I have decided that Steven Kruijswijk‘s nickname is Krystle. As in Carrington. As in Dynasty. As in massive shoulder pads.

L is for Landa

Teammates Mikel Nieve and David Lopez Garcia comfort an ailing Mikel Landa on Stage 10 (Image: ©GettyImages/Luk Benies) 

It’s a shame that Mikel Landa couldn’t live up to the pre-Giro hype. Touted as Sky’s answer to the question of ‘can they win a Grand Tour without the word France in it’, everyone had high hopes for the maverick former Astana rider. But illness through almost all of the spring season didn’t help the Basque rider’s chances, and he climbed off his bike after losing 7min in the first 50km on Stage 10 due to intestinal problems. Team Sky really don’t seem to have much luck with this grand tour, although Rigoberto Uran‘s second place finish in the 2013 edition is nothing to sneeze at. But he did that on the back of being set free once their protected rider, Bradley Wiggins, decided to pack it in after a miserable time. Last year’s Richie Porte Campervan Campaign™ was full of controversy (wheelgate anyone?) but light on performance and he abandoned on the second rest day. The campervan was never seen again.

M is for Making do

Orica-GreenEDGE quite simply have the best YouTube channel ever. Here is just one of the many fabulous films they put out during the three weeks.

Stay tuned for N-Z! 

Header image: Julius Caesar in pink (©Getty Images/Corbis/Andrea Spinelli