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Notes from the Infernal Desk

‘18 Giro news, Olympian dreams, and transfers of course

Luk Benies

In Seattle we are in the middle of a heat wave, or that’s what they tell me anyway. Basically, instead of getting air from the Gulf of Alaska, which keeps the Pacific Northwest cooled beyond what anyone would consider reasonable in August, it’s coming from the hinterlands of British Columbia, which is more like your normal August day: hot and sweaty. Needless to say, this has unleashed total panic and civil disobedience, though smoke from Canadian wildfires has put a damper on the temps, and anyway, given the region’s Scandinavian roots the violence consists mostly of people not alternating properly at four-way stop signs. I think I’ll be OK, but if you don’t hear from me for a while, please let the 2018 Giro d’Italia know that I love her...

Speaking of the 2018 Giro, Sicilian news outlets all had stories about how there are going to be three stages on the Island during the Giro, presumably numbers 4-6. Funnily enough, Conor, Andrew and I were talking before the PodCafSt about how they might move out the heavy equipment of the Giro from Israel. My impulse was to imagine them driving north -- that’s how you’d get to Italy by land, right? — only after Lebanon comes Syria, and driving through Syria is a bad idea for reasons you’ve already thought of before I could type them. The alternative would be to go even further around, except Iraq, and Iran, and so forth. More importantly, it’s not even close to the shortest distance.

The shortest distance is by water, which also has its limitations, but a close second to the shortest distance is to drive south and then west through Egypt (sure) and Libya (uh, OK) and on to Tunis, where you can catch a relatively short ferry ride to Sicily from... yep... Carthage. I totally love this route so far.

Anyway, there are maps, so I think we have gone beyond the rumor stage. So I give you the three Sicilian stages of the 2018 Giro d’Italia:

2018 Giro stage 4

Wherever the ferry lands (Messina?), it’s not far to Catania, the island’s other big city, and a stopover for many a Giro. From there they ride to the island’s ceramics capital, Caltagirone, which I recall being pretty hilly and probably suited for a fun finish.

2018 Giro stage 5

From there, they go to nearby Caltanisetta, another regional mini-capital, for the running of an Etna stage. That we know all about.

2018 Giro stage 6

Finally, stage 6 runs along the Mediterranean coast, beginning in the rather famous town of Agrigento, home to some wonderful Greek ruins as well as a world championships in 1994, to Santa Ninfa, about which I know nothing except it’s hilly up there and it’s just past the olive capital of Castelvetrano.

We will have more to say about these stages when the route is announced, but so far it looks like a distinctively southern/Mediterranean affair. Here we have them almost a week in and they still haven’t made it to the mainland. Yes, this year it was five stages before they touched the boot, so i’s not that different, but either there will be another long transfer or this will be a pretty Mezzogiorno-heavy route.

Speaking of the future, the Olympics announced that its 2024 games would be in Paris and 2028 in Los Angeles. This is a pretty unique situation, getting two Olympic road events dropped on us, which is big stuff. But before getting to that, I do want to say that the LA Olympics is a welcomed change, since it’s scheduled to build nothing more than minor facilities. The athletes’ village will be the campus of UCLA; there are stadia for pretty much everything, including the LA Coliseum for track events (which don’t fit into football stadia); and the games are expected to make money, which is a sign that they might not lose money, or not a lot. I’m sure there are challenges involved around transportation, but I’m also sure that I’m biased because I can plan on checking off “Olympic Road Race” from my list of cycling events to attend.

As to the races? Paris might be a sprinters’ affair. I know the Olympics work with the UCI, and the UCI’s mode for one-day races is to make them varied enough to encourage a wide variety of outcomes and winners. But although there are hills near Paris, they aren’t enough to shake up the peloton, I don’t believe, and the finale is currently listed as “Champs Elysées.” Personally I think Paris (or Compiegne) makes a good jumping off point for a northern race to the Belgian border, but I daren’t dream of a cobbled Olympics, with riders from Chile or Algeria watching their bike disintegrate underneath them. Anyway, that one might be sprinter-friendly.

LA is surrounded by hills, however, so if Paris goes flat, look for LA to go up. You could even finish on Big Bear, though that would be surprising. My dream is a race along the coast past Malibu to Santa Barbara, and then up into the hills of Santa Ynez, maybe for a finish in Buellton or Solvang. You could show off the beauty, the stars’ homes, and finish up by selling some wine. I suspect they will keep it closer to home, along the lines of the ATOC stage from Santa Clarita to Pasadena, but we shall see.

Finally, back in the present, it’s Transfer Season, and names are dropping quickly. You can hit up our Transfer Madness post where they are being compiled and dissected. [And listen to the PodCafSt for a bit of discussion as well.] But I still have a rant in me about how this unfolds.

We still know very little about team budgets and contract numbers. We never do know much, though stuff leaks out now and again, or some journalist with some ideas tries to compile things. But cycling is nuts for concealing this information.

Why do they feel the need to not share? I’m sure there’s a reason, but I am here to argue that it’s a lousy one, or at least not good enough to justify this system. If we are talking inside baseball, I’m sure the riders themselves know a bit about who makes what, from talking to agents. And for the public to be kept in the dark seems utterly pointless.

And then there’s this: all of the soccer world is talking about Neymar’s transfer. Much of American sports fanhood spent the last two months talking about NBA rosters. Why? Because we know what the dollars are! We know what teams can afford to spend, so it becomes fun to talk about who gets what. Is that healthy for us? Does it compare with critical issues facing the world? No, not even a little. But it keeps the sports in the news, which means it’s fucking tremendous for their business.

If Cycling had half a clue, they would let us in on these numbers, and watch the fan chatter double or triple in the weeks leading up to or following the Tour de France. It’s a sponsor-funded sport. The bottom line would very much appreciate this spike of interest. And they throw it completely away for... what? To keep a few agents guessing? Rubbish. There’s a lot about the sport that is changing from its early 20th century roots, and this is one that needs to change as well.