Our Giro columnist Charly Wegelius reflects on a tough Giro d’Italia with Garmin Sharp
Finally the Giro has drawn to a close, and I think that there were plenty of sighs of relief amongst the riders, but also from staff members. It has been a long, tough Giro for everyone. Beyond the 3,500km ridden by the riders, the cars and buses racked up an additional 3,200km of transfers.
This is a constant complaint from teams and riders, and without a doubt is one of the factors that makes these events a real challenge for everyone involved. Like most things, this issue is not as black and white as it may seem. I’m quite sure that the organizers would be as happy as we would to have each stage start within a few minutes drive of the previous finish.
The reality of putting together an event of this size, especially in such a bleak economic climate, is quite different. At the end of the day the books have to balance, and if that means everyone has to get up early and drive 100km to start the race in the parking lot of an enthusiastic factory owner, then that is precisely what is going to happen.
The organizer also has to find exciting and challenging routes, timing the mountain stages over the weekends to ensure the best audiences. I do not envy them one little bit, and to some extent they are doomed to be criticized by some part of the sport or another.
Aside from the start in Denmark, which was covered by a totally different set of vehicles and staff, last years Giro was actually rather kind on the riders. But I also remember reading some criticism from the Italian media that the race had been bland and uninteresting. So where does the balance lie? Too many mountains and the race is smothered, too few and the race is boring.
In my opinion the priority has to be with the riders wellbeing. They are the protagonists of the show, and surely the only way to ensure an exciting racing is to have athletes that have at least had a good nights sleep.
At times the double combinations of long pre-race transfers, 250km stages, and evening transfers boarder on the ludicrous. Bear in mind that a 20:30 arrival of a team at the hotel means that when massage is done the riders can hope to eat at 22:00. Not to mention the poor mechanics and masseurs, who can be regularly working until past 23:30.
In an ideal world I would like to see the winner decided on the road, but I have a feeling that the wearing down process of constant transfers and late nights contributes to the process of elimination.
Some riders take these obstacles in their stride, while others suffer terribly with it. Two riders on our team that spring to mind are Tyler Farrar and Ramunas Navardauskas. Both have an amazing ability to sleep almost on command, and both have taken possession of the darker, quiet back section of the bus, making it into a kind of den where they can catch forty winks while the other riders chatter and listen to music.
Barely minutes before the TTT in Ischia, for example, I wanted to have a final meeting with the riders to go over our plans. I only counted 8 heads, and eventually the puzzle was solved when Ramunas was found fast asleep in his cave at the back of the bus. Literally ten minutes earlier he had been on his bike doing the recon of the course.
What will the future bring? I am something of a pessimist, and I cannot imagine a reality in which Cycling will go back to point to point racing with almost no transfers. So the other option I see is that wealthier teams will begin to invest in infrastructure to cope with the transfers. Perhaps a “Sleeper Bus” with small rooms for the riders so they can sleep on the go and skip the hotel all together?