You guys, I'm exhausted. If Chris is any indication, I am not alone. Grand tours - they just wear you down, even when there is an extra rest day. But at the same time I am glad the Giro is over (did I really just utter those horrible words?), I am sad because it means we have a week without bike racing to distract us. So what do we do now that the Giro is over?
For everyone who was not racing the Giro, and even for some who were, attention is now being turned towards July and the Tour de France. But we don't simply jump right into the Tour - we need breaks between these grand tours, after all! Instead, virtually everyone planning or hoping on racing the Grand Boucle in a little over a month's time will be racing either the Criterium du Dauphiné or the Tour de Suisse, the two stage races just over a week long traditionally used as final preparation for the Tour. And let us not forget all the national championships that take place in the two weeks before the Tour begins. Really, we should all be excited about Nationals week because it means we get to guess (and then see, at the Tour!) what teams will do kit-wise for their newly minted national champions. Does anyone remember the hilarity we thought would ensue from Liquigas's attempt to mix Timothy Duggan's red, white, and blue with lime green?
While riders will be honing their form in France and Switzerland, we will be looking for clues of how riders will perform in the weeks to come. Is Froome too strong too early? What about Contador - is he trying to come from behind too late? Will first place in the Dauphiné win, or first place in Suisse, or neither? Which race was better preparation for the Tour? Rarely are our imaginations so active as in the coming weeks of racing.
"I get it," you say, "I know there are more races coming. This happened last year, after all. You're not fooling me into thinking this is something new!"
So, why do I put these words down? Well, the Dauphiné starts this weekend, on Sunday. Suisse is a bit further away, starting June 8th. As we get closer to the races, we will have previews of courses and riders and probably rampant speculation that will turn out correct one time in four (hey, if you wanted real insight, you would've gone to the bookies, right?). But from where I stand right now, the Tour de Suisse looks like it could be a cracker. There is a prologue and concluding time trial, but between these bookends there is a summit finish atop Crans Montana on Stage 2 and then Stage 7's climb of the HC Albulapass with only a short descent before the finish. In short, GC action should be interspaced pretty evenly over the race's 9 stages. I, however, am most excited about the stages in the middle, for Suisse seems to be taking a page out of the Giro's playbook and creating very few stages that are straightforward sprints, putting a lot of short climbs near the finish to inject some aggression into the day to day racing.
And as for the Dauphine? Well, I'll let Will and Jens talk more about that. But despite Giro fatigue in my brain, I'm way excited for the racing to come.