The Giro Lowdown
The 2012 Giro d'Italia route was announced and while it may be more "human" it still scares riders.
We had the unofficial leak of the 2012 Tour de France route and it seems to be designed for a time trialer who can climb well - no big surprise there. While there are some challenging stages and the last week of racing has the potential to keep us glued to the television right to the end, there are no stages that riders will say are inhuman. Challenging and selective - but not a death march. However, the same hasn't been said about the other two Grand Tours on the 2012 calendar, the Giro d' Italia and the Vuelta a Espana.
Maybe it's like a case of sibling rivalry. The Tour de France is THE race of the season and is only behind the Olympics and World Cup soccer in terms of press and spectators. The Giro and Vuelta don't quite attract the same attention - which is a shame. To make up for that, both tend to act out. The Italian tour is arguably the most beautiful. The Vuelta has not been afraid to think outside the box when designing stages. There's only a dirt road to the top of a mountain? No problem. A road that has a 24% gradient - yeah, they'll include that into the stage. At times both of these Grand Tours have relied on the "extreme" factor to prove they are just as worthy as their French cousin.
Sunday the route of the Giro was revealed in a ceremony that was a combination of the "X Factor" and America's (or maybe I should say Italy's) Next Top Model. The cherry on top was Alberto Contador lowered onto the stage like a rescued Peruvian miner. I love the Italians for their sense of flair. Who would have thought of having a cartoon character play the guitar to the Giro theme song? Upon further reflection here in the US we have a theme song for Monday Night Football (to my American readers - yeah I know Hank Williams Jr got yanked from ESPN, but the sports channel is still going to have a theme song.) so maybe we're not so different after all? Throw in some cheerleaders and I think we could rival the Italians in the flair department.
Speaking of reflection the Giro d'Italia organizers took a step back from creating a Grand Tour that leaves riders empty for months. Instead the transfers between stages have been shortened with the goal to have riders in bed by 8:00 pm rather than still in the team bus with 50 kilometers yet to travel before their head meets a pillow. Is it any wonder that many winners of the Giro have been accused or involved with doping? And I guess that's what ultimately killed the idea of starting the Giro in the States. Remember earlier this year there was talk about the prologue and a stage being contested in Washington D.C.? Yeah, that ain't happening. Selfishly I was disappointed to read that, but I also recognize for the riders this would be a massive adjustment and cause unnecessary hardship