It's Grand Tour Time
Cycling is filled with tradition, but the Giro d'Italia is making a new history.
In less than a week the first Grand Tour of the season rolls out in Herning, Denmark - the Giro d'Italia 2012. Twenty-two teams of nine riders each will be contesting what is considered the most beautiful of the Grand Tours.
Sure the Tour de France has the worldwide prestige that is only dwarfed by the Olympics and World Cup soccer (or football - depending on where you're from), but it lacks the Italian flair. By no means am I suggesting the Tour de France is ridden in the bad parts of town - for crying out loud - it finishes on a street called the most beautiful in the world. But the Giro d'Italia always seems to be the postcard of everything that is beautiful in Europe. If after watching the Giro you don't want to book a holiday to somewhere in Europe I would consult with your doctor because, obviously, you have no pulse.
Regardless, while this Grand Tour plays second fiddle to its French cousin it has taken the lead in social media. If you're on Twitter (If you're not, as a cycling fan, I highly encourage you to do so for many reasons. Perhaps that's a post for another day?) follow @giroditalia as they have fully embraced social media and are often giving updates and news regarding their race. The same applies to Facebook as the organizers have reached out to fans by asking to submit jersey designs.
While the Giro has embraced the new in this digital age they have also realized that the days of epic stages needed to be toned down. All this did was foster drug usage in order to handle the day in and day out grind of a three week race. Now the stages are still very competitive and challenging, yet don't reduce the peloton to a crumbling ruin. In the official Giro d'Italia program, the managing director of Giro organizer RCS Sport, Michele Acquarone, said referring to those hard editions, "if we'd piled all of the mountains on top of each other we'd have ended up on the moon. It was too extreme, too complicated, and it asked too much of the riders and everyone else, too."
I'm not sticking my head in the sand and saying that this has eradicated doping from the peloton, but creating a more manageable race is a step in that direction.
The man seen as largely responsible for this change is Acquarone. Some people raised an eyebrow in apprehension at the thought of a "marketing guy" coming in changing an event that is over 90 years old and steeped in tradition. Also, he says he doesn't even ride a bike! Oh the horror!
But let's be honest - Europe has a lot of events, places, and things steeped in tradition or history - so anyone coming in with new ideas is going to rock the boat. There are times when change is necessary and this is one of those moments. So what that the guy isn't an authority on professional bike racing - he's moving