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Giro d'Italia

How to improve the Giro’s best descender prize

Think the Giro d'Italia is all about climbing? Well this year, the riders who go fastest down those crazy mountains will get a special prize.

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The Giro d’Italia is known for wacky, sometimes inscrutable in-race competitions for those riders who cannot contend for the general classification. Who can forget the Selle Italia Super Team prize? My favorite is probably the race’s Fair Play Prize, which is sponsored by Italy’s highway patrol, the Polizia Stradale (now that is integrated marketing!). Well, our friends in Italy have a new award for those riders in need of a side hustle: Pirelli’s Best Downhill rider.

Yes, the Giro will give an award to the rider who plummets down those steep, winding descents the fastest.

Offering a cash prize to the fastest rider on 10 torturous Italian descents could lead to disaster. I have seen many fans and pundits raise concerns on social media over the safety concerns of this competition. Michael Carcaise, executive director for the ANAPRC riders union, criticized Giro organizers in a CyclingNews article today. These concerns are all warranted. The last thing we want to see are crashes and injuries.

Should the Giro award downhill derring-do? Is this too dangerous for an already-dangerous sport? Unless organizer RCS Sport does an about-face, we are stuck with the Pirelli Premio Miglior Discesista. 

We here at VeloNews obviously hope for a safe race. We also have some unorthodox ideas for how to improve this competition.

Safety measures

1. Do you remember the 2011 Giro, when RCS tried to send riders down the harrowing Monte Crostis descent? At the time, then-race director Angelo Zomegnan wanted to place protective netting and padding on that descent. I think the race should go a step further this year. For these timed descents, the Giro should line the entire roadway with inflatable pads, like the ones used in bumper bowling.

2. Part of the safety concerns relate to equipment. Riders sacrifice downhill safety and speed (read: disc brakes) in favor of lighter bikes for the climbs. The Giro should set up pit stops at the top of each timed descent, where riders can hop onto exotic DH-specific road bikes with disc brakes and wide tires — UCI rules be damned!

3. Will there be a leader’s jersey for this classification? There should be. And instead of the usual paper-thin Lycra, the descender’s jersey should be more like one of these padded muscle shirts. Perhaps they can weave kevlar crash pads into the chest and back area. Think of how the padding would boost the rider’s self-esteem when he’s at the cafe before a stage. Now that’s some incentive to race for this minor classification.

DH-specific riders

Of course our assumption is that few riders will actually target this prize. We can’t remember the last rider to really target the Highway Patrol award for fair play, for example. The riders simply have other priorities. So, in order the spice up this competition, RCS should invite some top descenders to make the Pirelli prize a little more spirited and exciting. I propose these invites:

Paolo Savoldelli — the man nicknamed “Il Falco” for his descending prowess, which won him the 2005 Giro, should come out of retirement. He’s only 43 years old, after all. That’s only about three years older than Svein Tuft, who’s racing the Giro for Orica-Scott. Savoldelli would be a Brett Favre-style comeback for the ages, albeit with more hair gel.

Peter Sagan — the peloton’s most interesting man needs a little pick-me-up after a disappointing spring classics season. No doubt he is one of the best descenders in the peloton. Plus, it would be a huge win for Specialized’s disc brake marketing.

Myles Rockwell — Anytime you stage a downhill bike race, your first call should be to the DH mountain bike community. The Giro needs to invite some of those DH heroes from the 1990s, and I say the start with Myles Rockwell. You see, Rockwell can rock out on a road bike too. He won the Red Bull Road Rage event in Malibu back in 2005, shredding the twisty course on a clapped-out road bike with threadbare tires. Imagine what he could do on proper equipment. We’ll have to confirm whether or not the Pirelli Best Descender competitors will be tested for, uh, herbal remedies however. And if Rockwell is too busy, then I’m sure Brian Lopes, Missy Giove, or Shaun Palmer would give it a go.

Cool prizes

For each timed descent, the fastest rider gets 500 euros. The overall winner of the classification gets 5,000 euros. That’s nice and all, but a colorful race like the Giro should be able to come up with a more interesting prize. My suggestions:

– A 24-pack of Tegaderm and a lifetime supply of Mountain Dew.
– Free entry into the Megavalanche mass-start downhill enduro race.
– A mid-1990s Chevrolet Camaro and a year’s worth of mullet haircuts.
– An artisanal trophy, crafted from the piles of roached-out brake pads that teams throw out during the Giro.