When I read folks saying that the Giro is better than the Tour, I have to shake my head.
The scenery in Italy can be stunning, sure – but like yesterday, it can be ghastly, too.
The Tour is exactly the same, for every Riviera, there’s a retail park.
As for the fan base, it’s a no contest; in the north of Italy the fans are legion and fanatical but the further south you go, the less enthusiastic they are.
Today the numbers of roadside fans was sparse – and that includes the first mountain top finish of the race.
If the strade bianche were in Lombardy, we’d still be trying to get off the hill.
And as for the field – no Lance, Alberto, Schlecks, Cav, Boonen or Cancellara.
Organisation-wise it’s scary driving a stage route here in advance of the race, unless you have the official cars breathing down your neck.
On race route yesterday we had to watch very carefully for ‘civilians’ coming against race route and across race route at traffic lights.
On the Tour, the roads are secured six hours before the start; there is just zero chance of the wrong vehicle being on the course.
All that said, it’s more sympatico on the Giro, there’s much less officialdom, the folk are great, the food is good and it’s a great buzz.
But ‘le Tour is le Tour!’
Yesterday was a great experience; personally I don’t think dirt roads belong in a Grand Tour, for sure have the Eroika, Rutland, GP Herning, Paris-Roubaix and Tro Bro Leon but don’t have ‘gimmicks’ in a stage race.
But as Martin has just said to me; ‘none of the riders are saying much about the dirt roads – it’s just like, “well, it’s part of the race!“
Maybe I’m being too conservative?
Today it was good not to be rained on and the rolling country with the hill top towns was beautiful.
As I said earlier though, the number of fans roadside was disappointing.
Drive through virtually any town that’s on a Tour de France route and it’ll be packed to the rafters – there would have been no problem picking a spot in any of the stage route towns, today.
The finish hill was very poorly supported, there was no atmosphere to speak of standing where we were at 1900 to go.
It was good to hear that Steve Cummings and Chris Froome were in the break – Vik would say otherwise, but I like and respect both men.
I think that Steve has the potential to be a very good rider, but perhaps plays the super domestique role best.
Alberto Contador spoke very highly of him at Discovery.
Saxo Bank will be delighted with their win, today – their Giro is a success, whatever else happens.
Wiggins must be ruing those splits and crashes in Holland, he was with the ‘heads’ on Terminillo today, albeit he looked right on the limit and in this Giro, the climbing hasn’t even started.
Millar collapsed, a shame; the maglia rosa was his for the taking at the TTT but the Garmin team didn’t ride like the unit that so nearly won both the Giro and Tour ‘cronsquadras’ in 2009.
And now, it’s Monday.
There comes a point where you just have to sleep; Rieti wasn’t far off the bottom of the climb and provided us with good, clean digs and not a bad wee restaurant.
When I awoke at 07:00 I could see the newsagent across the square, up, out, down the stair, across the Piazza Cesare Battiati, grab the door handle – locked!
I’ve got one now, though.
Cycling merits not one front page mention today; it’s all about Inter Milan and Josè Mourinho winning the league – that takes up pages one to 18.
It’s page 42 before we get our fix; it’s hard to imagine what you have to do to get 8 out of 10 from the Gazzetta.
Chris Sorensen rides in a day long break, jumps them on the race’s first mountain top finish and tortures himself to victory – that’s an 8.
Martin reckons he should have moon-walked across the line to boost that to a 9.
Evans looks the winner to us – team or no team – whilst Sastre is now 8’10” back on Vinokourov – who we reckon will have at least one bad day in the last week – whilst Evans sits at 1’12”.
It’s going to be very difficult to put seven minutes into Cuddles for Carlos, no? (that’s how Carlos ends every sentence – ‘no?’)
Columbia tester Pinotti surprises at 5th and so does young Aussie, Porte in 6th.
But like we say, early days.
Martin wants to get this: copy posted, and we have a long drive to Frosinone and the start of stage 9, so we gotta go.