Today is dedicated mostly to looking back and celebrating, mostly. Girbecco has a post half-written on the virtues of the top GC contenders. There's a kids post about to pop as well. But I wanted to start the process of saying goodbye by trying to put a finger on what the Giro is really about. IMHO, that would be entertainment.
As opposed to...? Well, the Tour de France, by contrast, is dedicated to the singular purpose of putting on the world's greatest bike race. It's all about the bike, first and last. Of course, the Tour has massive institutional advantages over other races and will probably always reign supreme. Some years the Giro strives to be like the Tour, and while it can't ever close the gap, you can get a Tour-lite like we saw last year, with fearsome challenges thrown at the riders.
More frequently, though, the Giro strives instead to put on a show, and this year's was the ultimate. The course is selective, but finds little wrinkles to keep from eliminating certain riders who might not be Tour-quality but who can certainly enliven a race in their own way. This year that was partly due to the decapitation of the presumed two hardest stages, so take this praise of RCS with a grain of salt. But the Cuneo-Pinerolo epic was always supposed to finish in the valley. And the remaining hard stages resisted the highest altitudes in favor of the lower -- if still pretty damn fearsome -- ascents.
What you get is a battle of the Italian regions. Well, and the interloping foreigner who steals the show, but Italy is a peninsula riven with middlin'-sized mountains and riders who know how to climb them. This Giro featured the Abruzzese Di Luca, the Udinese Pellizotti, the Trevisino Bruseghin, the Varesini Basso and Garzelli (and Cunego), the Trentini (Simoni et al), the Tuscans, and a long history of and an array of foreigners, many of whom seem geared up for the Tour-lite version only to encounter a less familiar animal.
Apart from entertaining fans (mostly Italian fans) with a race that conforms to the geography, the Giro is also truly expert in entertaining us with the sights of la bella campania. This year was truly off the charts, as the organizers flagrantly threw their weight around at the country's competitors for tourist dollars. It hardly bears repeating here, but any bike race that starts in Venice and ends at the Colosseum is gonna be hard to top. But the Giro regularly finds less glamorous ways to show off too, visiting mountaintop villages and sanctuaries, islands and shoreline vistas, as well as its curious, hidden regions further south. It's usually beautiful, and always interesting.
That last part: another favorite Giro trick is to stick a 3km climb on the end of a transitional stage, just to keep us tuned in. The Tour rarely does this, in part because they have a different points competition in mind and in part because they simply don't have to. We will tune in to three consecutive stages in Bordeaux because it's the Tour.
Anyway, the show this year was phenomenal. The riders also made the race, and the celebration of the host country was truly memorable. Hope you had fun. Here's some cheesy music to take us out...
Laura Pausini & Eros Ramazotti (via xabau)