"It's faster Now". Michael Barry has a diary on Velonews with an interesting observation. His point is that stages are raced much faster now than when he started in 1996 and that there is no piano on most - the speed is high for a long time at the start before a break gets loose. Also the climbing attacks aren't all out by a team that gets to the base of the big climb together so much anymore, but rather all the big guns are pretty much isolated nowadays by the middle of the big climb, and it is individual attacks.
Given this I thought it would be interesting to look at the last 20 years of Giros and just look at overall speeds. I took the average speed for the six years when MB started his career 1996-2001, the last 6 years and the six years from 1989-1995 to see if things changed. They have in an interesting way.
1989-1995 Ave Speed 37.56 kph Ave Length 3677 k
1996-2001 Ave Speed 37.74 kph Ave Length 3828 k
2003-2008 Ave Speed 38.28 kph Ave Length 3471 k
So there is definitely an increase of speed over the years. A half k per hour increase is nothing to sneeze at - that often is more than the difference between first and off the podium. And three quarter of a k since the early 90's. Uh huh.
The second interesting thing is that the race has been getting shorter, or rather, it got longer for about 10 years and is now getting shorter again. This definitely could have something to do with the speed also, but the earlier 90's races were closer to the current length with quite slower times.
It was interesting that the fastest Giro in the last 20 years was not done by an extraterrestrial Basso but by the quote maker Simoni who averaged 40.1 kph in 2001, the only person in the last 20 years to do this. Of course the course makes a difference in one year, that is why I averaged over 6 years, to reduce the impact of year to year course change. There has definitely been an increase in Forte and even Sforzando riding over Piano riding lately. Part of this I think is increased visibility and strength due to Pro Tour rules. These are now relaxed, but I do think they may have helped the Giro get to another level. We'll have to see if the attacking style on the mountains follows the newer way as Barry says. One more thing to look forward to. Mr. Barry is one excellent diarist.