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Riders defend conservative racing in opening half of Giro

Long flat stages and a run of tough days ahead explain the lack of fireworks so far in the 2019 Giro d'Italia

MODENA, Italy (VN) — It is impossible to have fireworks and excitement every day on the Giro d’Italia. That’s the response from some of the race’s participants to criticism that the 2019 edition has been boring.

The race is halfway through its 21 stages, but has yet to see a large classification shake-up or much action in the mountains. Instead, the public has witnessed long 200-plus-kilometer stages and riders soaked by rain.

“The public want spectacle, but it’s impossible to race six hours every day,” said stage 10 winner Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ).

“Everyone is getting tired from these long stages. This first week was 1200km and that included two time trials – so that says how long and hard this first week was.

“You also see what happened to Tom Dumoulin,” he added. “It might have seemed like a silly crash on TV, but these [stages] are all very stressful for everyone inside the group.”

Only two days thus far, the opening time trial and the one on stage 9, are likely to have had much effect on the final overall classification. That said, two crashes on stage four also took a toll, with several GC riders losing time and an injured Dumoulin ultimately abandoning.

The sprinters, like Démare, have had to fight for their wins after long runs through the Bel Paese. Only Tuesday offered some respite, but then a crash marred the end of the 145km stage.

“You are seeing the sprints are very hard because everyone is very tired,” said Démare. “These long stages are having an impact on the riders – maybe the spectacle is not so great, but the recovery is going to be a real problem for everyone in the last week. We are all getting tired, we are humans.”

“The rain has been another big factor and it hasn’t made the Giro any easier,” he added. “It really has an impact on the body with so much water [and] cool temperatures.”

Although Démare was talking after winning stage 10 in pleasant conditions, the skies turned grey and heavy rain fell as soon as he stepped off the podium.

Texan Chad Haga (Sunweb) was sympathetic to complaints that the race had been boring.

“I could agree with that a little bit,” he said.

Haga joined the team’s eight-man roster to help Dumoulin win the Giro for a second time. Now, with the Dutchman at home, he and his team-mates look for stage victories.

“It doesn’t mean it’s always stress free for us in the bunch or the GC guys trying to get through,” Haga noted. “So it’s not the most riveting yet, but it’s still good racing.”

Haga said that the classification favorites left are saving their guns for the many high mountains starting on Friday.

“It’s just that it is a three-week race. You saw Simon Yates last year just absolutely shred the first two weeks and then collapse within sight of the finish line almost.”

But his advice to anyone losing interest in the Giro was to hang in there just a little bit longer.

“Look at the profile of all the stages in the back half of the Giro: you don’t want to be firing all your guns right now,” he said. “Just be patient, the excitement will come!”