Can a grand tour be boring?
If you’re a racing fan, the answer is an emphatic no. If you’ve watched the 2022 Giro d’Italia, even the most passionate fan will admit there were boring moments.
That’s inevitable, and every grand tour has them. Not every moment of a three-week, 80-hour-plus race can be full-gas, especially if one hopes the peloton is racing on pane e acqua.
So how do we rate the 105th edition of the corsa rosa?
Ultimately, that depends on how one views a grand tour, what personal allegiances or biases one might have, and, above all, what someone might considering exciting.
Also read: How Jai Hindley won the Giro d’Italia
Is it exciting that the entire balance of the GC was tilted in favor of Jai Hindley in little more than 5km of steep ramps high in the Dolomites on the penultimate stage?
Having a GC go down to the wire in a grand tour is a win for any race organizer. What’s more boring? Having Tadej Pogačar smash apart the race in the first mountain stage, and then have two weeks of procession?
Some people consider sprints boring, while others dislike the race of attrition that monster, 220km, five-climb stages across the Dolomites invariably produce.
The Giro certainly lived up to its billing of the most beautiful race in the most beautiful places.
No route from Budapest to Sicily across the Apennines and into the Alps and Dolomites cannot hit that measuring stick.
Yet this Giro felt oddly “off.” Maybe it was due to the lack of a big, marquee name. Or the untimely exit of so many of the pre-race favorites. The peloton is so equal these days that true differences are often meted out in the most precise moments.
The 2022 Giro certainly wasn’t without its highlights or stand-out moments, and personally, I enjoyed the race.
But overall, this Giro seemed to be missing that extra spark, that drama or emotion that makes for a truly great grand tour.
Here are the 2022 Giro di Hoody good, bad, and ugly awards for 2022:
From Girmay to Pozzovivo, lots of ‘good’
This Giro was packed with “firsts,” and that’s good.
Bora was impressive across the entire race, and the German squad brought its “A-team” for its big coming out party as a fully committed grand tour squad. With the exit of Peter Sagan and his entourage at the end of 2021, the team finally turned the page on its classics and one-week stage race focus, and dove head first into the grand tour waters with stunning success.
The team raced astutely across 21 stages, with Hindley emerging as the most consistent and determined rider in the bunch.
A stage win and the overall represents an impressive haul for Hindley, and he’s already hinted at interest at the Tour de France. And with the climbing legs he showed off at the Giro, he just might be able to stay close to Pogačar in the climbs. We shall see.
Another feel-good story of the race was Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert. Not only did the team surpass expectations at every turn, it made history with Girmay.
The Eritrean seems destined for much bigger things, and his Giro victory against Mathieu van der Poel only served as confirmation of his quality. Too bad an exploding cork put an end to his Giro (see more below). Jan Hirt and Domenico Pozzovivo both punched into the top-10, and Hirt won a deserved victory over the Mortirolo.
Mathieu van der Poel brought his superstar sheen to the race, and gave the Giro a little bit of the extra spark the race was missing. Van der Poel is a huge presence on the bike, and it was thrilling to see him race like a true champion across a full three weeks to finish his first grand tour.
A stage win and a second place in the sprints were no surprise, but he revealed short TT chops to finish second and third in each of the Giro’s time trials. If only grand tours still had prologues.
Throw in some wheelies and pineapple pizza, what wasn’t to love?
🚴🇮🇹 | Zelfs als hij in de heuvels van Turijn niet voorop rijdt, zorgt Mathieu van der Poel ervoor dat de fans alsnog vermaakt worden… wheelie! 👌😆 #Giro
📺 Koers kijk je op discovery+ pic.twitter.com/2M72xjwTZH
— Eurosport Nederland (@Eurosport_NL) May 22, 2022
Italians celebrated Vincenzo Nibali’s final Giro, and his exit will leave a huge hole in the race. Though Italian riders delivered five stage victories, the Giro will be missing a big Italian GC favorite for the future.
There are a few names bubbling up in Italy, but no one truly looks like grand tour podium contender material any time soon. Fourth in his final Giro was due in part to the riders who weren’t there, but it’s also a testament to Nibali’s quality and depth.
And finally in the feel-good category, who wasn’t happy to see Mikel Landa land back on the podium with third?
It’s been a long time since his first podium with third in the 2015 Giro. Landa has since been pumped up in the Spanish media as the great hope in the post-Contador generation, and he’s sometimes struggled to follow through on expectations.
Team politics, bad luck, crashes, or sometimes poor choices worked against him, and after finishing fourth twice in the Tour de France (no easy feat), Landa kept it together to bring home a podium spot.
The bad, from illnesses and early exits
Although this Giro didn’t have that marquee name like a Pogačar or a Primož Roglič, the race started with a much deeper GC contenders list than the Tour will see in July.
In Budapest, there were nearly a dozen riders who could have won.
By the end of the first week, that list was sadly diminishing by the day. Tom Dumoulin faded on Mount Etna, and Simon Yates succumbed to a knee injury from an unfortunate crash. Romain Bardet fell ill with a stomach virus and João Almeida got zapped with COVID-19. And Miguel Angel López pulled out unexpectedly before the first week was out and Wilco Kelderman was taken out by a mechanical.
There were a few bad crashes, but seemingly a lot less than what the peloton saw in the first week of the 2021 Tour de France. So that’s not so bad.
The opening stages in Hungary also revealed that although these “exotic” starts can prove a boon for the race organizers and help raise the profile of the sport in new markets, it’s obvious the peloton does not want to “race” on unfamiliar roads.
Just like in Israel in 2018 or even in North Ireland in 2014, the peloton did not take risks in the opening road stages in Hungary.
In part because the courses did not lend to much action, but also because the teams didn’t want to put their stars under unnecessary danger so early in the race on unknown roads, surfaces, traffic furniture, or contours.
My Giro in numbers. 3859km/104h36m spend on a bike. 3150km/70h spend in the bus/car. 3 flights. 1 ferry. 99296 kcal used and eaten. 50378m elevation gain. 20 different hotels. 4 beers. 1 stagewin. Pain in legs, unlimited.
— Thomas De Gendt (@DeGendtThomas) June 1, 2022
Not every team could join in on the spoils across this Giro. Israel-Premier Tech brought an entire leadout train for Giacomo Nizzolo, and he could not muster better than third in stage 5. Fernando Gaviria was also trying in vain to win his first grand tour stage since 2019.
Ineos Grenadiers settled for second with Carapaz, something to celebrate on any other team, unless you’re Ineos Grenadiers. The team did everything right, yet Hindley got the best of Carapaz on the Fedaia.
Maybe Ineos could have pressed harder in other moments of the race instead of waiting for Fedaia. It didn’t — or couldn’t — because Hindley and Bora were up to the task, and the way the course was designed, Fedaia was going to be the natural climax.
Carapaz, with second in 2020 Vuelta, third in the 2021 Tour, and now second in the 2022 Giro, is clearly one of the best grand tour riders in the bunch. There was no way he was going to win last year’s Tour, but he came very close to winning both the Vuelta and Giro, and confirmed with his Giro win in 2019 he’s one of the few riders who have the consistency and depth to challenge for grand tours.
It’s hard to criticize him or the team because they rode a near-perfect race and simply a better rider beat them, but it’s going to hurt to lose the Giro in this way for Ineos.
Like most races, this Giro saw the successes in the hands of the deepest and best-funded teams.
In fact, only 11 teams won stages, meaning half the peloton went away empty-handed, certainly “bad” for sponsors and the hunt for UCI points.
The ugly: flying corks and wrong-way finish lines
The Giro deserves credit for overall improvement in delivering its rolling caravan on wheels. For anyone’s who been inside the “Giro Casino” knows that the race is light years ahead of where it was a decade or so ago in terms of logistics and organization.
That didn’t mean there weren’t a few unfortunate incidents. These can happen in any race at any time, but the wrong-way fiasco at the top of stage 19 should not have happened.
The major blight of this Giro was the incident involving Girmay and the flying corks from the celebratory prosecco bottles at the end of each stage.
Riders were already complaining that the already heavy bottles were hard to open, and since the sparkling wine was not chilled as it normally would be, the explosive force was even enhanced. Already on the first stage, none other than Van der Poel saw a cork explode into his face when he struggled with a bottle.
Also read: Girmay on the mend after freak cork incident
Girmay was lucky to escape an even more serious injury when a cork exploded directly into his left eye, leaving him with a hemorrhage just moments after his historic win on stage 10.
By the next day, the large magnum bottles were placed already opened at the foot of the podium. Why did it take so long to figure out?
— Velon CC (@VelonCC) May 27, 2022
And finally, this Giro was a bit “ugly” in that the GC fight was so quickly reduced to a two-rider race.
That meant the top GC teams — Bora-Hansgrohe and Ineos Grenadiers — were more than willing to let breakaways pull clear to chew up the potential race-changing finish-line time bonuses.
The GC riders only truly contested for three road stages across the Giro, at Blockhaus, in Torino, and up Passo Fedaia. Fans love to see the big favorites fight for the spoils. They were doing that, but behind the breakaways. Fans on the road got a two-for-one race, with the break and the GC bunch digging in.
There’s no perfect formula for a race route, and every race plays out depending on how the teams and riders race it. And from every indication, riders were on their knees. This Giro was as difficult and brutal as just about every edition.
This Giro was like a slow-boiling pot of pasta. It finally bubbled over in the end, and the finishing flavor was pretty good. It was simply a very long wait.
Giro di Hoody’s grappa rating of the 2022 Giro d’Italia:
Three out of five.