Guest post by Eurosport’s David Harmon
Frankly I don’t envy the riders lining up for the start of the Giro d’Italia this year. With the UK and its near neighbours awash with torrential rain the race makes its debut in the most northerly venue ever used by a Grand Tour, Denmark of all places. So spare a thought for Michele Scarponi and the lads this coming weekend.
Herning, north of the capital city and hometown of Bjarne Riis will host the 8.7km prologue and while the weather seems set fair for Saturday what’s the betting that the following two days will be plagued with lashing rain and whipping sea winds to test the mettle of the more sunshine loving riders in the bunch? Mind you Mark Cavendish seems to go rather well in Denmark and the are certainly more opportunities so the greyhounds his year. After 3 days the whole kit and caboodle packs up and hops a mere 1200km back to the boot of Italy and takes a very early rest day.
Sometimes I wonder whether these far flung trips abroad are really worth it but as soon as the race starts the bizarre twists of fate that marks out professional cycling as the most complicated and fascinating sport in the world answers he question with a resounding ‘yes’. Remember when he Giro began in she Netherlands a few years ago? Dominico Pozzavivo, a man who is tailor made for the high mountains as we saw displayed in front of our eyes on Eurosport last month when he destroyed he opposition in Giro del Trentino, rode and looked like a schoolboy on his first winter club run, battered from pillar to post by thunderous winds all along the Dutch coastline. It provided great TV but for Pozzavivo his race was effectively over before he ever set foot back in the homeland after total collapse.
Never fear the mountain goats will still determine he outcome of the race come the big mountains that arrive thick after week two but if this year’s route appears far more balanced it’s because it is.
Along with last year’s Tour de France and of course Cav’s Copenhagen gallop, the 2010 Giro was one of he greatest commentating privilages I’ve had in my career. The organisers we rightly praised for finding the balance between spectacle and reality but as on so many occasions in life, they just pushed it a little bit too far in a effort to outdo themselves for 2011.
Frankly after he tragedy of Wouter Waylandt’s death early in the race the morale in the commentary box and on the race as a whole ebbed away and more importantly the confidence of the riders in the organisers abilities slipped away with it. The problem with launching he most demanding and savage Giro in living memory is that if your race takes a wrong turn, there is now way to turn back and so it was with last years race.
It wasn’t just the death of Waylandt that brought he black dog of despair on he race though. Once Alberto Contador gave a kicking to everyone on the slopes of Mount Etna, the rest of the favourites were left fighting like whipped dogs over the scraps from the table. The race was over, the rest was a battle to survive over nearly two more vicious weeks.
And what was the outcome of all his brutality and suffering? In the event Contador was stripped of his win and leather-faced Michele Scarponi, no stranger to the odd ban himself, stepped up to the podium and defends the title this year as frankly just best of the rest. All in all I’d rather forget most of last years edition of the race.
So, Michele Acquarone, you’re the new race director on the block, show us what you’ve got. If youve created a race that is balanced yet gripping, blends just the right amount of beauty with brutality and rewards the tactically daring as much as the astute then you’ve got my vote.
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