In cycling there’s a good few maxims you can pretty much take for granted. Scheldeprijs will always be flat. Nobody will ever really target the Vuelta. Gianni Savio will always be there. You may think he’s gone, but he’s always there. I’m talking to you, Colombia. And finally, the Giro is every cycling fan’s favourite Grand Tour. Nobody prefers the Vuelta, for obvious reasons. Nobody likes the Tour because it’s too mainstream and less romantic.
Well, there’s me. As you might have noticed from my body of work on this website over the last few years, I’ve prioritised it but as well as that, I’m a pragmatist. To me, Andy Schleck won the 2010 Tour because that’s what the records say. Alejandro Valverde is one of my favourite riders because he knows how to win. The Tour de France is the best Grand Tour because it’s where the best riders go.
Unfortunately for me, those last two beliefs have been shaken this year. Valverde’s staying home sick but the Giro field is as packed as it’s ever been. In a manner that frightens and confuses me, in fact. But if there’s one thing I DO know it’s that Tom Dumoulin riding the Giro two years in a row directly after winning it makes no sense and it’s a waste of the time that is the greatest resource in a sportsperson’s career. But that’s not the point, the point is that he has turned up in Bologna (all Grand Tours should start outside the real host country, it’s always better) and he is gunning to win this again. And you know, he probably will. This isn’t a GC preview, Shawn is on that and that’s the only line I’m giving on it for the moment.
What I’m getting at here is that there has been a bit of a shift in priorities between the old way in which the pro peloton viewed the Giro (a month where all the Italian cyclists mysteriously stopped answering their phones between ten and five and Damiano Cunego or someone started going all avant-garde and dressing in pink for some reason) and the new way (it’s nearly as good as the Tour). Simon Yates just came out and pretty much said he wanted to wear pink much more than he did yellow, though I don’t know how much of that expectations management. Dumoulin has prioritised it for some goddamned reason. Roglic is doing the same, though that I kind of get. I’d get it more if what I’m about to say weren’t true: there is parity between the quality of the Tour and Giro GC fields for the first time in a very, very long time.
That’s not a bad thing. But it’s different. I personally kind of preferred it when you could look at the Tour winner and say that he’d beaten all his rivals, in their top condition, at their own game. Froome did this in 2013, for example. This year I don’t think we will be able to say that. The Giro-Tour double is a nonsensically difficult thing to do. Finishing on the podium of both is almost unbelievable. So yeah, there is a change here. There is more parity between the Grand Tours. I’m not the first or the hundred and first person to notice it but I wanted to talk about it. And while I’m glad the top class of cycling will be in Italy this May, the flipside is that our sport’s showcase event is stripped of a little star power. There are positives and negatives to this and it’s for everyone to decide where they stand.
I’m not the kind of writer who’s going to do a “this is what I love about the Giro” piece. I’m not good at nostalgia and I don’t think I have enough material. What I can do however is tell you what I love about this Giro, and there is plenty. I like the way the route has been designed. The first proper mountain stage isn’t until the second Friday, stage thirteen but that’s okay. There’s only one flat stage between stage twelve and stage twenty-one and if I have one maxim of my own it’s that you cannot stuff that part of a Grand Tour with flat roads. Instead the flat stages are put in what I will call the Boring Enclosure along with the first rest day. If you want to take a mid-May city break to Amsterdam or Nizhny Novgorod, I can suggest flying out on the Sunday evening after the stage nine time-trial and arriving back in time for bed the day before stage twelve. You will have missed nothing, I promise you.
The previous week is full of dangerous little stages just waiting to trip somebody up. They might prove more benign than I expect and if they do I will be able to throw a well-earned tantrum about it as well as any of you but for now I expect some fun out of them.
For the sprints I favour Viviani, I think he is simply faster than Gaviria and their teams will make a difference as well. Quickstep turn losers into winners, UAE Emirates turn my stomach. I do not care who wins the points jersey and, unless you have a bet on it, neither do you.
Right, time for some random observations. Everyone loves random observations:
I am behind the Italian teams and I am informing you now that any success for Bardiani or Androni is a success for me. There is nothing you can do about this. Yay neutrality.
This is where Eddie Dunbar makes his mark on the cycling world. You heard it here first.
This is where Pavel Sivakov makes his mark on the cycling world. You heard it here eighty-ninth.
I have quite honestly no idea what Mikel Landa is going to do here, and I really can’t wait to find out.
I assume Lupo Wolfie is still a thing? Nobody has informed me to the contrary.
I stand by what I said in my Romandie preview. Roglic has hit form too early. He must have.
2014 Diego Ulissi would clean up at this race.
If anyone actually gets where I got the name for the headline from, please make that very clear to me. Hell, I’d take it if someone got the Caveman Lawyer reference.
Finally, I’m genuinely looking forward to this Giro. It’s a very unpredictable one and I can devote more time to it than I have in previous years. Enjoy the party, guys.