As any kid will tell you the best thing with having grownups compete for your attention is that it's a great opportunity to hit them up for gifts, lots of expensive gifts. Now that I've had time to unpack and play a little with Mamma Giro's presents I've put together a little wishlist for the upcoming Tour presentation and I can't wait to see what Papa Tour will bring us. What aren't we getting already?
A balanced course
The Giro is giving us a route that looks a bit like the 2013 TdF route in terms of balance, maybe a little more in favor of the timetrialers. There's a team timetrial which rarely has a huge impact and then a long 46,4 km TT that should really be for the pure specialists. It's not the massive Wiggo-bait that we had last year but it's still a biggun by Giro standards. Just as last year there's a mountain TT at the end and it's a beaut this year on the iconic Monte Grappa. Given the volume of climbs and mountain-top finishes it's pretty much a race in the mold of the last years GTs, that is: one for the climbers. Judging by rumors the TdF should have a traditional long TT on the penultimate day but no word on what else is on the menu. Perhaps we'll get a race in the old mould with two long (45km+) flat TTs? That was never too cheery but by now it would be a bit of a novelty. Maybe they should go that way just to inspire some infighting on Sky? There aren't too many gimmicks to chose from that will really be seen as something that might trip up allround dominant Froome but pissing him off by handing up a Wiggo-centric course might be one. But on the other hand, there's no way in hell they will do anything to scare off everyone's new darling, Nairo Quintana. Nope, this will be another climber-centric courses I bet. Besides have you looked at the coming stars of french cycling? Pinot, Rolland, Bardet, Barguil..... are these the names of timetrialing aces? No. No they are not.
This is a bit of a touchy subject. The Giro are having a do-over stage on stage 16 when they try for the massive Gavia/Stelvio double once more and you don't get much more iconic than that. Problem is, can we count on actually getting a Gavia/Stelvio stage given what we saw this year? The Tour is at a definite advantage here and it looks like Izoard is the icon of choice for the year. In the Pyrenées the details are sketchy but one word on Velowire is a truly original stage that includes the Aubisque, Tourmalet and Aspin. This would be entertaining for no other reason than to see smoke coming out of Willj's ears as the organizers shun a multitude of excellent climbs in favor of the old regulars.
Ehhh.... fuggedaboutit. The Giro are chucking the Zoncolan into the mix again. Lets hope the ASO don't engage in the silly monsterclimbs arms race. It looks like the Planche des Belle Filles is back in with a few nasty bits. Lets hope the TdF leaves it at that and looks for other ways to make the race thrilling.
NO backloading please
We're looking at a clockwise Tour this year which means Alps before Pyrénées. Apparently he race will pass through the Vosges mountains north of the Alps as well early on and that should offer excellent terrain for some treacherous stages. Presumably the first TT will take place here as well and it would make sense if it was an undulating or climby one. As we saw this year the TTs that aren't pure uphill ones but rather contain both some climbing and some (hopefully technical) descending sometimes turn out to be the most unpredictable and captivating ones. The Vosges should be great for that.
Hopefully the Alps won't be wasted with tame stages that invite the riders to sit back and wait in fear of a brutal last week. No 200 km marches to one big final climb please, instead give us stages with multiple easier climbs that invite teams to use some tactics and offensive riding. Because clearly the problem will be the same in 2014 as it was in 2013, a Chris Froome and Sky that is way too strong if they get to dictate how the race is ridden. If it is to be made into a race we need terrain that allows the opposition to challenge them for the full three weeks or it might turn into a victory lap.
A great first week
In some cases it's all about building anticipation. As a Grand Tour viewer though, if the race is a dud from the beginning and it's all a waiting game to see when the real action starts then that will diminish my enthusiasm once the race actually gets going. The Giro has done a lot to lead the way with its inventive first week stages, mixing sprints with uphill finishes and seemingly simple stages with some nasty booby traps to keep riders on their toes and thankfully the Tour has followed suit. This year we'll get what looks to be some promising stages in the UK and then, if rumors are true, the weeny GC riders will once again be tortured with a trip over some Paris-Roubaix cobble sections. People can say what they want about whether the cobbles belong in a GT but I don't care, I think it's a brilliant curveball to throw to the modern, cautious and sometimes one-dimensional GC-riders just to hammer home the point that it takes real allrounder skills to win. The Giro opening looks promising enough but I'm hoping for something even more spectacular from the French.
Course reveal is on Wednesday in Paris and as usual we will be following along here to immediately point out why it sucks and why it's awesome. Even in the post-season doldrums it's an event not to miss.