The Giro d’Italia is just around the corner, and we all lead busy lives, so allow me to dissect the forthcoming race for your reading pleasure.
I’ll sort the need-to-know from the haven’t-got-a-flippin’-clue.
Following a couple of near misses at the Giro d’Italia in the past couple of years, it seems that Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk has a radical plan for success this year.
Rumours are swirling around the pro peloton that the Lotto Jumbo rider is about to ditch his tried and tested method of riding around with a massive coat hanger in his jersey, in favour of something more conventional.
As he explained: “riding around with a massive coat hanger in my jersey has been something of a secret weapon for me in the past, but this year I’m taking more of a traditional approach.”
Sources close to the angular cyclist suggest that this ‘traditional’ approach will consist of riding around without a massive coat hanger in his jersey.
“Much as I enjoy having freakishly wide shoulders,” he went on to say, “I have to accept that, aerodynamically, they’re not ideal. Also, if I forget to walk sideways through the door of the team bus at the end of a stage I’m well and truly wedged in.”
As Kruijswijk well knows, these are the kind of logistical details that separate the Grand Tour winners from the also-rans.
As usual, the Giro d’Italia this year has the betting markets humming with interest.
Can anyone keep up with Quintana in the mountains? How grumpy will Vincenzo Nibali get, and will any fellow riders throw anything at him? What regional landmarks will the race organisers manage to turn pink – The Duomo, The Dolomites, Silvio Berlusconi?
But the real money revolves around king of the Giro d’Italia ‘Super’ Mario Cipollini.
On what stage of the three week race will ‘Cipo’ announce to the watching world that he is still, at the age of 50, the best sprinter in Italy.
And also the best looking.
And the most manly.
The smart money suggests some time in the first week, the announcement being accompanied by photos of him riding one of his own bikes, oiled and tanned, in a sleeveless jersey.
By and large the sprinters will abandon the Giro with, well…abandon.
They will contest a few of the flatter stages before concluding that they have no desire to ride over any more mountains than are absolutely necessary. Rather than flog themselves all the way to Milan they will head for the comfort of their favourite armchair, and the safety of the TV coverage on Eurosport.
The question is, what will be the hot new excuse this year?
No doubt we’ll get a few ‘stomach cramps’, the odd ‘viral infection’, one or two ‘dangerous road conditions’, and the occasional ‘swan-off-with-a-shrug-and-not-so-much-as-an-arrivederci.’
Does it devalue the race?
And the winner is…Nairo Quintana.
He’s the best climber in a mountainous race. A double Grand Tour champion, and winner of Tirreno-Adriatico earlier in 2017. And there aren’t enough miles of time-trialling in this year’s Giro to reveal a chink in his armour. Stick your mortgage on him.
Closely followed by…Steven Kruijswijk.
He’s the Dutchman with a good, and improving, record in the Giro d’Italia. He finished 7th in 2015, and 4th in 2016 – dominating the race until a crash on stage 19 robbed him of near certain victory. Surely he’ll make the podium this year?
And maybe…Tom Dumoulin.
A stage winner at all three Grand Tours, he very nearly maintained a challenge for the 2015 Vuelta Espana before Fabio Aru and his teammates ganged up on him – he eventually finished 6th. There’s no solid evidence that he’s a definite podium contender, I just like his style.
And the others…
Thibault Pinot – Hmmm, bit flaky.
Geraint Thomas – Can he really keep it up for three weeks?
Vincenzo Nibali – Pfffftt! Who knows? Anyone’s guess!
Van Garderen, Landa, Mollema – not quite.
As we know, the Giro d’Italia is guaranteed to include a fair amount of Mario Cipollini in one form or another.
So, in preparation for whatever profound lunacy is about to come out of his mouth, allow me to share my favourite Cipollini quote (to date), from an interview with Rouleur magazine back in 2015:
I have nothing more to add.
(Images: Giro in pink via pixabay.com | Kruijswijk By filip bossuyt from Kortrijk, Belgium – 262 kruiswijk, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49236336 | Mario Cipollini via Gianluca Gozzoli Flickr CC)