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Things get interesting on Saturday with the start of the Giro, the best of the three Grand Tours in my opinion. Its French counterpoint (Le Tour), better known and more scrutinised as it is, long ago became a victim of its own success. Yes it’s still a great race but the opportunity for surprise seldom arises when the racing is controlled to the turn of a wheel by the big boys and their teams. The odd breakaway on a lumpy transitional stage is all that can be expected in terms of true excitement, and that’s only when the breakaway boys are way down on GC or have played the wind well.
As for the high mountains, the steep gradients and suffering that make or break any yellow or pink clad contender. Yes, they still entertain but, like the rest of the race, they are contained by race radios and team tactics. A new kid on the block will usually show their legs each, often in terms of the white jersey competition, but that’s about it. Next year they will marked like the rest of the favourites, their opportunity to shine curtailed
The Giro is different. Yes the big teams try to stamp their mark in just like Le Tour but the element for surprise still exists often as a result of the chosen parcours. In recent years the route have been so tough, mountain stages running back to back, that the last week resembles a true war of attrition as the riders’ legs and minds fatigue. But this year it’s different, the route more human under the guidance of a new race director. The mountains are still likely to decide the winner – the last week in the Dolomites is a best – but the winds ofDenmarkand the final TT could still shake up and decide how who triumphs inMilan. There is even something for the sprinters; Super Mario would have been pleased had he of made the return that he talked about earlier this season.
One of the defining moments of the Giro for me is not a lone breakaway, mountain top finish or breakneck sprint. It’s a lingering shot of the peloton tinkering along, riding tempo on a transitional stage. The speed is no higher than your average Sunday club run and some of the riders are eating ice-cream. They are not racing because they have decided – collectively – that they do want to. Now would that happen on Le Tour!