Here we are, on the brink of the Giro d’Italia of 2021. As races go, it’s not short of clichés on which to hang a 500-word preview ramble. Renaissance art; beauty; style; literally anything pink…all these are perfectly serviceable Italian tropes around which to craft a wry pre-race think piece.
Food is also a good one.
In recent weeks the pro peloton has battled the cobbles and cowshit of northern Europe to rattle through the one-day spring classics. Het Nieuwsblad; Fleche Wallonne; the Tour of Flanders. Culinarily, we’re talking roadside hotdogs and cones of mayo-slathered frites. Fried onions are probably involved. Washed down with beer.
Flavour profile: Belgian.
The food, as the bike races, a visceral exercise in immediate gratification. Nothing wrong with that. Wham, bam, job done. Belly filled, beer swallowed, a Van der Poel or a Van Aert wins the bike race and it’s on to the next one.
The Giro d’Italia marks a change of palette. A twenty-one-course tasting menu. Simple, familiar ingredients, combined in carefully curated fashion for an elegant, visually stunning, carb-heavy loop of la Repubblica Italiana.
The food is pretty good too.
In truth, the clichés exist because they capture the essence of this race. They can’t be ignored.
It is incredibly beautiful. The race will pass through a non-descript rural village, in the arse end of nowhere, where a renaissance artistic masterpiece that would be the focus of an entire tourist industry were it found in any other country hangs un-viewed in a ten-a-penny holy chapel. Almost everything has been painted pink.Embed from Getty Images
This is the Giro.
It is also a near un-humanly difficult race. The mountains which await in week three are masochistic. The Queen Stage – Stage 16 – is over two hundred kilometres in length, contains over five thousand metres of vertical ascent, and peeps up above two thousand metres in altitude three times in one day. I’m a little breathless just writing that.
Using the word ‘peep’ does not make it sound any cuter.
‘Amore infinito’ say the marketing men. Infinite love. Ask the riders four hours into that day how infinitely loving they’re feeling. Perpetual pain, more like. To infinity and beyond.
And predictions, of course, are a fool’s game. Just look at last year’s podium: Geoghegan-Hart, Hindley, Kelderman. Not a pre-race favourite among them.
How is Egan Bernal’s back holding up, we wonder? Is Simon Yates really as dominant as he looked at the Tour of the Alps back in April? Can wonderkid Remco Evenepoel actually return from career threatening injury to contend at his debut Grand Tour? And Landa? Vlasov? Carthy?
Whatever your hashtag of choice – #thefightforpink, #themostbeautifulrace, #amoreinfinito – the Giro does what the Giro does. It will be exciting, high pitched, and dramatic. Stuff will happen.
Check out the blog for my daily dispatches, every evening, from Torino to Milano.
Clichés at the ready.
(Top Image: via Flickr CC https://www.flickr.com/photos/flowizm/7302370772)