My usual rant about the Giro dell'Emilia has to do with the visual beauty of this race, the difficult course with its selective finish, and the incredible action that makes it a more Catholic-looking Flech Wallonne. Then I turn to the frustrating lack of TV coverage, set to continue this year, and wonder who has it in for this great race, and why. I watch as the UCI reorganizes its calendar... to render the race even less important to the riders, who previously used it as a tuneup to the Giro di Lombardia (I refuse to use the idiotic new name) but who can now skip Emilia with impunity. I watch as the powers of Italian cycling flex their muscles in their interests. The regional Gruppo Sportivo Emilia, owner of the race, is not one of those powers. Sigh.
The TV thing has reached a new height of insanity: once again the Giro dell'Emilia, one of the most watchable races of the entire sport, a race where Nairo Quintana announced his interesting future, joining Coppi, Bartali, Merckx et al in the winner's circle, will get a half-hour of delayed TV coverage on RAISport2 Saturday evening. Once again. Only this time, it's during an international break in the Serie A season, with the Italian national soccer team playing today and nobody playing tomorrow. There is literally nothing else to see on sports TV in Italy tomorrow besides this race. And still, it gets shunted to the margins.
Why? I have no idea. I'm sure it comes back to the people in charge of GS Emilia, though whether they are doing something wrong or simply being blacklisted, I can't say. The race itself is still quality but the startlist is losing its way a bit. Last year's winner, Diego Ulissi, is on vacation after overdoing it with the inhaler during the Giro. Other "big names" include an array of retread ex-dopers like Davide Rebellin, Emanuele Sella and Franco Pellizotti. Only three World Tour teams, Lampre, Cannondale and AG2R (?), are in attendance. Of the UCI Europe Tour rankings, only Mauro Finetto among the top ten is in attendance.
And yet, I can't turn away. The race has been diminished, but it's still the race that it always was. Races often enough get lost in the shuffle, only to return to prominence again. The Giro dell'Emilia dates back to 1909 and is emarking on its 98th edition. Look at the Tour of Beijing startlist and imagine what some of those guys will be up to a year from now when that flash in the pan has dissipated and the Giro dell'Emilia is still here. Things change, a lot, but old Italian regional classic races remain the same.
My pick to win: Moreno Moser. Sure, he has no form to speak of, but he needs to break his donut. OK, that's stupid, my real pick is Davide Villella. He was strong in Lombardia, no reason he won't be among the leaders tomorrow.