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Notes from the Slightly Bemused Desk

102nd Giro dell’Emilia 2019
Emilia going a bit ‘Poland’ with their decorations.
Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images

To those of you who decided they’d skip a year of calendar-buying, it is October. I was diligent in my purchases this January and therefore I was very surprised to see this top ten from the Giro dell’Emilia:

  1. Primoz Roglic
  2. Michael Woods
  3. Sergio Higuita
  4. Bauke Mollema
  5. Alejandro Valverde
  6. Diego Ulissi
  7. Pierre Latour
  8. Jakob Fuglsang
  9. Egan Bernal
  10. Gianluca Brambilla

If you try to think of ten favourites for next year’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège, you’d come up with a similar list. This in a race that five years ago was won by Davide Rebellin. The surprising thing was not only that the Giro dell’Emilia could attract such a startlist but that the stars came with motivation and form this late into the season. Roglic himself looked to be (quite reasonably) running out of form after his Vuelta win, a disappointing performance in the Worlds ITT as exhibit A but he was his normal self here, roaring to victory on the same climb that he took the maglia rosa on in May and, surprisingly, riding up it in less time after two hundred kilometres of racing. This didn’t seem right but I suppose momentum and the presence of a carrot and a stick could explain it.

The whole thing is bemusing to me and I’ll explain it like this. Remember the Tour of Beijing? Remember how the line was that the season was petering out at that time and nobody rode it with any form? The Tour of Beijing used to happen around October 10. All these good performances from these top riders took place on October 5. So it seems that now, the peloton has decided to stay in the nightclub until the lights come on and they start playing the national anthem. To extend this metaphor to breaking point, the licensing laws have changed as well, with the final song of Il Lombardia played later in the night. In 2012, Il Lombardia took place in September. It is now well ensconced in mid-October. Given the newfound popularity of the late-season Italian races, there may be better competition in the race of the falling leaves this year than ever before.

Another thing I’m bemused about is the crash of Alvaro Hodeg in the Tour de l’Eurometropole. He crashed into the feet of the barriers in the final straight, just as the sprint was beginning. A short video of the crash is below if anyone is interested in seeing what happened.

If you’d rather not, let me tell you that it is ludicrous. Hodeg rounds a corner which is barricaded with plastic barriers which only protrude a very small amount at the bottom. These barriers run out in favour of the footed barriers as the corner finishes, with the effect that the road actually narrows by a few centimetres and somebody taking the very outside line of the corner, as Hodeg did, finds themselves with dozens of metal rods in their path and nowhere to go. He’s racing within the designated limits and all of a sudden finds his path blocked.

What bemuses me about this is that I remember those barriers causing problems a while ago and I kind of assumed that we’d all decided that these sorts of barriers were self-evidently very bad at the job of delineating the course limits during a sprint. Or rather, they were excellent at doing so. Far too good in fact. Any rider who strayed too far to one side would know all about it. Because they would crash. Which I knew, and thus assumed that anyone organising a cycling race knew. I assume these barriers are much cheaper than the alternative? While putting these barriers in place is not excused if the organisers were doing it to save a few euro, it does at least explain why they were put there. Otherwise we have to assume that a bunch of people who have organised race after race looked at these barriers which any cycling fan knows are problematic to say the least and said, with no impetus to do so, that ‘those will do.’ Anyway, Hodeg has four broken bones so his dancing during cyclist wedding season will no doubt be impaired.

Sonny Colbrelli won GP Beghelli. Or I’m told he did, honestly if the race didn’t exist and procyclingstats just made it up and said that he won it I would not investigate further.

Tre Valli Varesine is tomorrow. It’s arguably got an even better startlist than Emilia. If this isn’t the best Il Lombardia of all time then I truly will be bemused.