Thursday, May 08, 2008

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Giro D'Italia (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Welcome, Giro d'Italia newbies! You've watched the Tour de Georgia and the Tour de California. You know all about Lance Armstrong, and some big race he kept winning for most of a decade. Perhaps you've even watched a wunk of Cyclysm Sundays on Vs., and have already rendezvoused with the bone-jarring pave' of the hard-core Belgian classics. But now it's time for the smashing Giro, baby--and here's what you need to know:

Q: How can you *watch* this crap for six straight hours?
A: On the contrary, dear grasshopper, once you know what's going on, you'll actually want to! Sure, 'til you're thoroughly brainwashed as the rest of us, there's maybe *something* in the world more entertaining than watching wee little climbers being blasted around by crosswinds at the butt-end of the peloton in the flat stages for 5 hours 'til the sprint squads bring the race under control and set up their boys for a thrilling showdown, but hell, go grab a snack til the last 5k! As the rolling stages: will the breakaway succeed? will the lead group collapse under the weight of its own paranoid tactical gamesmanship on the run-up to the line and be sucked up agonizingly by the group within sight of the finish? will a lone strongman attack his compatriots and dash to solo glory? And then there's the mountains, the lovely mountains--any favorite, at any moment, can crack on a decisive climb or lose concentration on a perilous descent, and three weeks work of pain and striving--and the overall win that goes with it--is gone in an instant. Watch, learn, and fall in love!

Q: Isn't the Giro just a cut-rate Tour de France?
A: Aiiiiiiiiggggggghhhhhhhhh! Aiiiiiiiiggggggghhhhhh! Um, no. Less hype, better food, and the liveliest rider smack-talk in the business.

Q: What do all those different jerseys mean?
A: Pink: the fabled maglia rosa--the overall leader's jersey, the one who takes it all. Hot pink: the maglia ciclamino, or points jersey--basically, the best damn sprinter. Green: the coveted maglia verde, the king of the mountains. And white: the best young rider, who'll be back in a few year's time to take the maglia rosa from the big boys. And if someone's wearing a totally different jersey from the rest of their team that isn't one of these--they're the national champ on the road or in the time trial, so watch yer back!

Q: Who are the favorites?
A: Overall (GC): Well, defending champ Danilo Di Luca thinks it's him, but he's gotta convince past winner Paolo Savoldelli to domestique for him, and Olympic/World road god Paolo Bettini thought it was we love aging 2x winner Gilberto Simoni, that is til Astana showed up with 2007 Tour de France winner Contador in tow. Others to watch: his teammates Kloden and Levi; unpredictable baby Ricco'; dark horse star-o-the-future Nibali. Indeed, "i bookmakers" have our adored and ever-hosed Klodi as the fave at 4.5 to 1, with only DiLuca and Contador close by. Sprints: Robbie "Head-Butt" McEwen; Daniele Bennati; Erik Zabel; Mark Cavendish. Rolling stages: barring some tactical reason for the big boys to reel 'em in, look for a breakaway. Team time trial: CSC, Slipstream, Astana. Any stage he sets his mind to: Paolo Bettini, desperate to break the curse of the world champion jersey and take his uncharacteristically late 1st win of the season.

Q: Who's missing?
A: Sprint god Alessandro Petacchi, first by bronchitis and now by his ban; Thor Hushovd, who the hell knows why the race organizers don't like the harmless Credit Agricole; overall contender/former infant champ Damiano "The Little Prince" Cunego, enraging the fans by focusing on the inferior Tour; former overall winner/2007 stage monster Stefano Garzelli, hosed over an inexcusable management snit. You blow RCS!

Q: What's it say on the TV screen?
A: testa della corsa: head of the race, the leaders on the road; also fuga (breakaway). The gruppo (peloton) are chasing 'em; if there's more'n one, it'll list 'em as "G1," "G2," etc. "GPM" indicates where you pick up mountain points. Traguardo or arrivo is the finish line--finally!

Q: So what do I yell at the TV riders, like they can hear me?
A: Forza! (strength) or Vai! (Go!)

Q: So, these guys are drinking insane amounts of liquids and riding hours at a time without a break. Where do they, um...?
A: Well, they sure ain't waiting in line for the little boys' room at the autogrille, so it's wherever and whenever along the roadside the race leader tells 'em to, or on their own, or even right off their bike at speed. So if you're standing innocently in front of a charming Italian orchard as the peloton's about to set off, as I was, then turn in surprise and excitement to see why Bobby Julich's walking right past you into it, as I did, don't come cryin' to me if you can't avert your eyes fast enough--honey, you've been warned!

Q: When's this whole shebang get decided?
A: In the last week--it's all about the mountains, baby! Watch for the Fedaia and its fearsome 18% gradient; the Gavia; and the Mortirolo for spectacular triumphs and race-defining cracks. Forza Gilberto--and Savoldelli, don't feel too bad if you feel compelled to bushwhack team leader Di Luca on a descent just for fun!

Okay folks, I've got some petty inconvenient job to go to, so that's it for now, but if you've got any questions I didn't answer, or you think my answers are just plain crap, ask 'em, or tell it like it is!

1 comment:

randie said...

Q: So what do I yell at the TV riders, like they can hear me?
A: Forza! (strength) or Vai! (Go!)
OR your favourite's name... over and over.