I really enjoyed this year’s Giro. There was drama right from the beginning in Denmark and it carried through the entire three weeks. On the first day, I remember being disappointed as I saw Taylor Phinney coming around the final turn with a time that I knew would be good enough to handily beat Geraint Thomas and take away his rare opportunity to wear the pink jersey in the Giro. However, I quickly realized what it meant to Taylor and his family, and couldn’t help but like him more. He’s such a character in cycling and it was a huge dream of his to wear pink that it wouldn’t have been right for anyone else to have worn it at that time, especially as he had planned for that time trial since October.
Taylor fought like a champion to keep the jersey despite a catalogue of crashes and mishaps and endeared himself to the fans even more. The Italians especially, as he now lives there and speaks the language fluently. He was involved in a crash on stage 2 and had to chase back on as it happened outside of the 3 kilometre to go mark, and then again on stage 3. This time causing him a scare and an extremely painful ankle, and also saw Mark Cavendish hit the ground hard in a scary incident at high speed. This incident haunted both until the end of the race. Phinney battled on but his injury got the better of him and a below par performance in the Team Time Trial caused him to lose pink to Garmin and Ramunas Naverdauskas.
It was an interesting race for Mark Cavendish. Three stage wins is no mean feat for any rider, but considering his lofty standards and what else happened in the race, he’ll probably have mixed feelings about the event. The crash on stage three may have cost him another win, or at least a strong points finish, the stage where Pozzato and Goss collided cost him another potential win as he had to go the long way around and then was brought down at slow speed. The stage won by Roberto Ferrari (who probably should have been kicked out for causing the crash on stage 3) also could have been better for Mark. He had to check his speed on the final tight corner and he couldn’t get back on terms. The last sprint stage was won by Andrea Guardini. That was a stage everyone expected Cav to take with ease as almost all of the big contending sprinters had gone home. Maybe he underestimated his opposition and didn’t start sprinting until it was too late or maybe he was just tired, but whatever the case, those extra points certainly cost him the red points jersey.
It’s a far tougher proposition than the Tour Green Jersey as in that race, all sprint stages offer double points, whereas the Giro doesn’t offer that. To only lose that competition by 1 point must have been excruciating after all the pain he and the team went through to protect it. Having said that, you can’t say Joaqiun Rodriguez didn’t deserve a jersey in this race. Only the final time trial was his undoing in the GC fight and even in that he did himself proud, outdoing most people’s expectations.
There were so many other moments I loved. The solo win of Matteo Rabbotini was absolutely incredible. When Rodriguez overtook him in the final stretch for the line and he came back at him to win, I couldn’t help yelling at the TV, cheering him on and getting excited the same way I would for Cav or another of my favourite riders. Cycling inspires that passion in people, and that’s what I love.
Other stand out moments include the wins of Paolo Tirralongo, Lars Bak, Joaquin Rodriguez, Rubiano, Pozzovivo, Kreuziger and I almost forgot about the incredible win of Thomas De Gent on the final road stage up to the highest ever Giro finish. That was an absolutely brilliant stage win and he positioned himself perfectly for the final time trial where he once again produced a stunning ride to seal a podium place.
The General Classification was an interesting fight throughout the event with lots of guys being in touch with the main contenders for quite a long time due to the profiles of the stages in the first two weeks. In the end though, it was clear coming into the final week that it was going to be a two man fight between Hesjedal and Rodriguez. Former twice champion Basso, last year’s inherited winner Scarponi and his team mate and former winner Cunego among the others such as Roman Kreuziger, Dominico Pozzovivo and the two Columbian Sky riders all didn’t quite have the legs to challenge for the overall. I must say I was impressed by Ivan Basso and Liquigas. Despite him being a twice former champion, his form this year has been poor for the most part and I expected him to get dropped earlier than in the final 2 stages like he was.
It was a great battle and I’m so pleased for Ryder Hesjedal and Garmin Barracuda. They desperately needed a big win like this as they haven’t had a huge amount this year. The TTT win was also huge for the team and gave them a solid base from which Hesjedal could build from and win this race. It was great to see Ryder become the first Canadian grand tour winner.