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Closing the Books on the Giro

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It might get dull if we continue writing Giro post-mortems until we run out of things to say, and anyway the Cycling world is quickly turning the page. June is the month where races go on while pretending the Tour hasn't sucked the air out of the entire sport's atmosphere. The exception is the Dauphine Libere, now a sort of official waiting room for Tour contenders, right down to the jerseys. Anyway, a few final Giro thoughts to clear out of the brain before we transition.

  • There's a prominent place in the HTML color hall of fame for ffcccc. If the name isn't already "retro-giro," it should be.
  • Last thoughts on the parcours: probably the biggest news in this year's race is the return to a more traditional format... as in, one that's trying to be shorter and more action-packed than the Tour. On only five occasions did the odometer tick past 200km this year, and of those only stage 10 included a serious (and we do mean serious) climb. Last year, fully nine stages topped 200km, including nearly all of the mountain stages, save the doomed Plan de Corones route. This topped even the 2006 Tour, which hit this number seven times (and topped 190km ten times). The Tour will always be the world's greatest race, the event which determines who is the ultimate hardman in the sport. For the Giro to mimick the Tour, while most of the Tour contenders skip the event anyway, is bad for the Giro's identity. This year's route revived what makes the Giro different from the Tour, and it absolutely worked.
  • Few single items mattered more to making this a great Giro than the sight of Alessandro Petacchi winning in Milan. Two weeks earlier, Petacchi was openly contemplating an early withdrawal to prep for Le Tour, but someone either smacked him upside the head, or perhaps Petacchi's stage 3 triumph drove away the gloom hanging over him the last 12 months. In any event, Petacchi stuck it out, and by the final sprint he had resumed full-on hero status. The sight of the rainbow jersey on display and attack for three weeks; the sight of the maglia ciclamino on the shoulders of Italy's sprinter of the decade; the sight of the maglia rosa worn by another Italian warrior prized for his own unique attributes -- all of this confirms to Italian fans that the Giro is very much alive. Had a figure of Petacchi's stature walked away to resume solitary training would have been all wrong, but he didn't, and both race and rider are better for it.
  • Danilo DiLuca is still a grand tour work in progress. If future Giri retain the shorter, punchy, spectacular stages featured this year, DiLuca will get a shot at enduring glory. But the last two editions weren't well-suited to his skills, which suggests that at this point in his career, neither is the Tour. For DiLuca to remake himself from Classics ace to Giro patrone has been a spectacular accomplishment... but it's another steep slope upward from here to Tour contender, for a guy who rides defensively on the longest climbs and time trials that define the Tour. Can he do it? I will never question his ability or sanity again, but it remains to be seen.

VV Il Giro!