This years Giro will be unlike the other 3 week stage races of 2018, it’s completely unpredictable, utterly exciting & absolutely full of drama.
In contrast, the Tour will be closely overlorded by 3 or 4 GC teams, with the rest controlled by sprinters squads & anybody else who has an interest, rarely will a break succeed. The value of a stage win or top 10 place can make a rider a millionaire or guarantee future team sponsorship, the stakes are so high in the Tour that risk taking is kept to a minimum.
The Vuelta has become the last chance saloon for the riders who suffered ‘unluck’ in 2018. Rarely will a WorldTour team sponsor allow a top rider the luxury of waiting until the end of the season for their chance to win big, so this race is now littered with the seasons ‘nearly men’. With the best riders perhaps slightly overcooked and on a more equal level with the next level of grand tour riders, making for great racing. We’ll also see a higher level of team control than the Giro, with 2019 sponsorship negotiations in progress, some teams will be desperate for a result or TV time.
This leaves the Giro with the natural position in the calendar to provide us with the maximum entertainment you can get from a 3 week race. Which it certainly did.
Simon Yates rode a devastating first 2 weeks, showing just how much promise he has for the future. Still a year younger than Froome was when he first started performing in grand tours, Yates had top 10’s in the Vuelta (’16) & Tour (’17), so is very far ahead of that particular career path. The data he’ll have gathered from this Giro will prove fruitful for not just himself, but also for his twin brother, who sharing the same genes, has also recorded a top 10 in the Tour (’16) & Giro (’17). Despite reaching this point in their careers from very different pathways, they have very similar abilities, imagine them both riding together in a 2019 grand tour! Possibly the most feared duo in cycling from next year.
Villains & Heroes
Our prime pantomime villain is Chris Froome, boo hiss I hear you say, and as Doumoulin came to be aware, “he’s behind you” (until at least the last 150m of the final mountain stage where he tried to jump him). He even had the pantomime horse rolled out for the final stage, which even he didn’t look too enthralled with.
He’s riding this Giro, not under a positive test, but an adverse analytical finding of salbutamol in his system. This gives him the chance to provide evidence to prove his innocence. Personally, I don’t think he should be riding, as a rider is responsible for what is found in his body under WADA rules, but he’s also allowed to prove himself innocent of an AAF under WADA rules. So Froome is allowed to race for now, that’s the rules, like it or lump it, if we don’t have rules it’s chaos, but the rules may need to be revisited to allow this kind of thing to stop happening, as it did with Contador. A very complex issue to allow fairness to those wrongly accused & to prosecute the guilty.
We also have Fabio Aru, who recorded a stunning time trial, only to later be fined for drafting a moto. The sheer volume of doping chat that appeared on Twitter was phenomenal as the times appeared, we very quickly just assume things these days, but often it’s just opportunist cheating we’re seeing, as in Aru’s case. We can’t put that on the same level as doping, if you do 32mph in a 30mph zone, that’s breaking the law, but it’s also breaking the law driving a stolen car at 160mph, both are at opposite ends of the traffic laws. So those who equate opportunist drafting to finding a disreputable doctor & repeatedly sticking a syringe in your arm, are looking at opposite ends of the cheating scale, many (on Twitter predominantly) see these as equal offences.
On the heroes side, we have the riders most liked by fans, which leads some people to think they’re doing things more cleanly than the others. This is another strange phenomena, it appears that if we like a rider, they’re clean, but if we don’t like them, they have a new undetectable wonder drug, which allows them to beat our clean heroes. I sometimes think that maybe we need universal baddies, who everybody hates, just to stop the bickering, then at least everybody agrees. So our super clean heroes of the sport (i.e. the ones I like, so they MUST be clean 😉 ) are Doumoulin, Yates, Nieve & Pinot.
I keenly await your vitriol and hatred for my choices.