We’re deep into this Giro d’Italia and we really don’t know who is going to win.
Of course, you never know who is going to win until the race is over — inset favorite pun here — but let’s face it, at the Tour de France, if we don’t know who is going to win even before the race starts, usually by the first TT, things are looking pretty clear.
The Vuelta a España is a little different. There, too, the racing can be highly unpredictable, but it’s usually a question of which “extranjero” might upset the locals.
The Giro is so wonderfully unpredictable and so deliriously passionate, and that is why it’s everyone’s favorite grand tour.
Just look at the GC going into Tuesday’s opening stage of the final week. There are five riders stacked up within 61 seconds of each other. And it’s not like the peloton’s been on a two-week gran fondo around Italy. The peloton’s been hitting out pretty hard just about every day.
And any one of those five could, in theory, win. In fact, that list could extend deep into the top-10. The Giro can be so crazily unpredictable that someone like Pello Bilbao could simply ride off the wheel of everyone, and win the Giro.
And what about some crazy, unscripted wild flier from Simon Yates or Hugh Carthy? At the Giro, you simply never know.
That would never happen at the Tour de France.
And that’s why the Giro is everyone’s favorite grand tour.
This week is so packed full of challenging and interesting stages it will be an absolute delight to kick back and watch every stage.
Thankfully in today’s 24-7 streaming world, we will be able to watch the entire, beautiful thing unfold live on TV.
Of the six remaining stages, four of them are going to be absolute brutes in the mountains.
We have the Mortirolo on Tuesday, Wednesday’s booby-trap to Lavarone, and Friday’s sneaky stage featuring the Kovolrat, a climb I’ve never even heard of but one that looks particularly nasty.
And then there’s the mother of all queen stages Saturday, tackling the Passo Pordoi — my favorite climb in the Dolomites — and the legendary finale at Passo Fedaia.
A few people have criticized this Giro as being somewhat boring. I am not sure which Giro they’ve been watching, or what exactly they might expect from a three-week, 21-stage grand tour.
Just like in life, every moment cannot be packed with mind-blowing action or ready-for-Instagram moments. The peloton, just like the human brain, is not wired for that.
Instead, there’s a rhythm and flow to any grand tour, and after two weeks of preamble, we are now we’re finally entering the crescendo, the final act, the true test of men.
The Giro’s final week is unlike anything on the international calendar. The mountains, the weather, the altitude, the fatigue, the uneven peloton, and the stress and pressure all reach a frothing mass of delirium that simply doesn’t happen in the Tour.
The French Alps might be higher and longer and steeper, but there’s something awe-inspiring of the Dolomites and northern Italy in May that is unsurpassed in cycling.
The final week of the Giro is at once a throwback to cycling’s black-and-white past and the ultimate challenge to today’s perfectly oiled racing machine.
The Giro, with all of its chaos, unpredictability, and difficulty, can throw a wrench into even the most specifically programmed, high-tech, well-planned program.
Remember the 2013 Giro, when Bradley Wiggins was the poster boy of the new modern era, he was utterly and completely chewed up and spit out by the Giro, and he didn’t even make it to the third week. Of course, Sir Wiggo had a lot on his plate in the aftermath of his 2012 history-making season, but it only served to remind everyone there’s no hiding in the Giro.
The final week of the Giro always — always — delivers surprises.
From Vincenzo Nibali’s unlikely comeback in 2016, to Ryder Hesjedal’s even unlikelier win in 2012. Tom Dumoulin hung on in 2017, but to get “Froomed” in 2018 in one of the most incredible long-distance attacks of the modern era.
There will be a surprise this week, we just don’t know when and where. Carapaz might hang on and ride it cruise control all the way to Verona, but I doubt it.
I will miss Romain Bardet this week. He seemed to be on track for something special, but there’s budding superstar João Almeida, centipede-fitter Jai Hindley, the wonderful mess that is Mikel Landa, and the crumpled form of Domenico Pozzovivo.
The final week might so daunting that the overall favorites might try to keep their powder dry until Saturday’s all-in assault in the Dolomites. Any hesitation by one simply opens the door for another.
Nothing ever goes to script in the Giro. Never.
That’s why the Giro is everyone’s favorite grand tour.