BUDAPEST (VN) — Until Friday morning there was barely a hint that the Giro d’Italia was going to start in this buzzing city along the Danube.
The Giro seemed lost among the cafés, bars, and dolce vita of Budapest, and there were none of the trademark signatures that the Giro party was in town. No fountains died pink, no shop windows full of Giro-inspired memorabilia.
In fact, the only evidence that the Giro was in Budapest was here is a big ad banner hanging on the side of Intimissimi shop, an Italian chain that is now a sponsor of the Giro’s white jersey.
There were rumblings that RCS Sport brass were less than pleased about the lack of a pink carpet rollout that the Giro typically enjoys in its far-flung and highly successful “big starts” in Belfast in 2014, and Jerusalem in 2018.
Any worries evaporated Friday as thousands of fans packed in around the Heroes’ Square for the rollout of stage 1. Enthusiastic fans lined five-deep down the entire length of the tony Andrássy boulevard, lined by Gucci stops and embassy row.
While the racing was subdued out on the road, with only two Drone Hopper riders taking up the chase, things heated up on the final climb to Visegrád castle.
Once again, thousands of bike fans on bikes and tents lined the 5km summit road, and witnessed one of the most intense and thrilling Giro debuts in years.
After being delayed and postponed for two years, it seems the Hungarian fans were ready for the Giro after all.
Sources: Giro d’Italia in talks with Turkey to host ‘big start’
After Budapest, where next?
Sources confirmed to VeloNews that representatives from RCS Sport are in negation to bring the Grande Partenza to Turkey, perhaps as soon as next year.
Talks are centering around starting the Giro in Istanbul, and to have the race run for three stages, including a stage that would link Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus.
Turkey is well-versed in hosting bike races, with its popular Presidential Tour of Turkey long a fixture on the international calendar.
With the Giro’s penchant for historical firsts and Istanbul’s world-class infrastructure, it could be a good fit. Stay tuned.
Drone Hopper doesn’t disappoint
The always well-coiffed and elegant Gianni Savio sat at the finish line Friday watching with satisfaction as two of his Drone Hopper riders rode into the day’s lone breakaway.
Savio is a familiar fixture on the Giro circuit, with his teams dating back to the 1980s. While he doesn’t boast a big budget like the WorldTour teams, he’s made a career out of signing unknown South American riders as well as aging veterans with some sprite still left in their legs – including a few coming off doping bans.
On Friday, there’s was no mistaking Savio’s troops.
“In the team meeting this morning, I said I want to see at least one Drone Hopper jersey in the breakaway,” Savio said. “And we had two! Mission accomplished.”
Savio urges his riders to jump into breakaways, most of them doomed like Friday’s effort. Yet there can be payoffs, including the occasional stage win, like Fausto Masnada in 2019. Or a trip to the final podium to win the category for the rider with the most kilometers in a breakaway, won by Simon Pellaud, both now in the WorldTour.
Savio could have the last laugh and might be in line for WorldTour status if his latest backers step up.
Mathieu van der Poel nearly takes out his eye
Mathieu van der Poel avoided a close call Friday, and it wasn’t during the intense race on the road.
After winning the opening stage and claiming the first pink jersey, the Dutch star was struggling with opening a bottle of champagne on the winner’s podium.
Watch a video of Van der Poel’s near-blinding incident on the podium.
After he couldn’t pop the cork, Van der Poel placed the bottle on the ground and leaned over it as he struggled with the stopper. It finally popped and shot upward to strike against his shoulder and bounce off his cheek.
The foamy stuff sprayed all over his face, but a fast-flying cork at such close range can do some damage if it strikes the wrong spot.
Thomas De Gendt: One year and counting of straight grand tour racing
Thomas de Gendt made a mental note about just how many days he’s been racing in grand tours across his long and successful career.
Counting up the days he’s at 418, and there will be more to come.
“I counted 418 race days. It’s not the most of active riders, but it seemed a bit high to me,” De Gendt told VeloNews. “That is more than one year of continuous riding, and that’s a lot.”
So do you remember every one of those race days? De Gendt said an emphatic no.
“You only remember the hard ones and the days you win,” he said. “The easy days you don’t remember, but the ones when you were extremely cold or you crash or you’re tired or you win, those are the ones you do not forget.”
I’ll start my 418th grand tour stage today. That’s 1 year and almost 2 months of non-stop grand tour racing. This cycling thing is getting out of hand.
— Thomas De Gendt (@DeGendtThomas) May 6, 2022