Three days in and it's already time for a rest day. Reason is of course that the race will be spending the day flying from the Netherlands to the south of Italy after a weekend kick-off in the "cold" north. I've seen and heard reports that organizers RCS have been jubilant about the outcome of the weekend and the Giro's trip to the Gelderland province and in many ways it certainly was. And in some ways it wasn't.
The foreign Grand Departs/Grande Partenzas are a regular fixture of the Giro&Tour (and to a lesser extent the Vuelta) by now. It adds a feeling of novelty and of an extraordinary event to the start of a GT while also adding to the coffers of the organizers as cities and regions fork over considerable amounts to welcome the bike races and the marketing exposure they bring. Sometimes it's a roaring success and sometimes it leaves a bit of a meh-feeling. Le Tour visiting Yorkshire is perhaps my personal favorite in the former category while some of the Tours dips into Belgium for the start come off as the less glamorous examples of the latter.
To me there are two elements to judge the Grande Partenzas on, spectacle and sporting factors. The spectacle part it seems this weekend ticked all the boxes on.
- Enthusiastic crowds. I don't know what it is about this that brings out every Teun, Dirk and Hennie out on the streets because the crowds at Amstel or other Dutch races never seem this large or enthusiastic. Maybe the Dutch are just gaga for GTs and not so much for the classics? This weekend of course the weather and the public holiday helped but that's not the whole answer because it has looked the same just about every time the GT's have visited NL. Most likely the answer is that many of those out on the roads, much like at the TdF in July, are not necessarily hardcore cycling fans but just everyday people enjoying the fun spectacle. Any reason for a party is a good reason.
- The Event. The Gelderland province seemed to have done tons to whip up enthusiasm and around the Giro there were a lot of side events and fun stuff to get people into the spirit of things. They seem to have made the most of the visit and by having the starts and finishes in the same towns allowed them to make of it. Plus the team presentation looked like a great party.
- Sights and scenery. Not the kind of spectacular scenery that the Northern Ireland coast or Corsica offered but beautiful sun-drenched Dutch countryside didn't do too poorly on TV either. Of course had there been grey skies and pouring rain it might not have been as exciting. It might have looked like the average day in the Driedaagse van West Vlaanderen.
The sporting side offered a little more divided picture. On the one side the race couldn't have had more luck in it's winners. Local boy Tom Dumoulin winning stage one and wearing pink for the whole weekend gave the roadside fans something to cheer for and Marcel Kittel in superb form gave the race a healthy dose of star quality and glamour. As a bonus very very local boy Martin Tjallingi crowned his retirement season with two days in the break and a mountain jersey. But on the other hand we saw two sprint stages that if it hadn't been for the festive mood we would have written off as dull, uneventful snorefests and timetrials are what they are in terms of excitement.
Yorkshire and some recent starts have shown that opening stages can be more than just parades. It has been great TV entertainment and has drawn the viewers in and created a buzz of excitement about the race that carried on in the coming weeks. On the other hand there is a case to be made that some starts may have been too brutal. The peloton have come to the end of the first week already exhausted before the big challenges have even started. So there is definitely a balance to consider.
So how did you guys view the weekend? Glorious success or meh-ish snorefest?