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David L. Stanley

2018 Giro d'Italia:
A look back at an incredible three weeks of racing

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David L StanleyDavid Stanley is an experienced cycling writer. His work has appeared in Velo, Velo-news.com, Road, Peloton, and the late, lamented Bicycle Guide (my favorite all-time cycling magazine). He blogs regularly for Dads Roundtable. Here's his Facebook page. He is also a highly regarded voice artist with many audiobooks to his credit, including McGann Publishing's The Olympics' 50 Craziest Stories and Cycling Heroes. And there is his masterful telling of his bout with skin cancer, "Melanoma: It Started With a Freckle".

 

The queen stage of 2018’s Giro d’Italia was stage 19. The flag dropped in Venaria Reale and finished 185 km later atop the Jafferau in Bardonecchia. At the 110 km mark, Stage 19 took in this year’s Cima Coppi upon the gravel roads of the Colle delle Finestre, 2,178 meters above sea level. The men then raced on to the 2,035 meter high ski station at Sestriere, Alberto Tomba’s favorite ski area and host to the 1997 Alpine world championships and the venue for Alpine skiing for the 2006 Winter Games of Torino.

Giro d'Italia stage 19 profile

Giro d'Italia stage 19 profile. Ouch!

Enough of the travelogues. I followed stage 19 at work via text updates. I was gobsmacked, along with every other cycling fan on Earth, as Chris Froome launched an attack 80 km from the finish, on the dirt roads of the Finestre, that would take him to victory several hours later in Bardonecchia.

From here on out, things get sketchy. Read A and B, choose one, and then read on.

A: Chris Froome is the finest stage racer of this generation. He has won 6 of the last 21 Grand Tours since 2013. Supremely fit, a stunning tactician, and experienced in the chthonic third week that is every Grand Tour, that he staged such a comeback was surprising, yet fitting. No one knows his numbers better than CF. No one is better suited to launch such an intrepid attack. And succeed.

B: Chris Froome, riding for the Evil Empire that is Dave Brailsford’s Team Sky, staged one of the most blatant displays of cheating since the early days of USPS and HWSNBN. Up gravel roads and down screaming descents, Froome took 3:23 from his most serious pursuer, Tom Dumoulin (NED/Sunweb) by the end of the day. How he did it, we don’t know, but we know something is pas normal, non normale, with his ride.

Coming on the heels of his victory atop one of the world’s most fierce climbs, the Zoncolan of stage 14, his sudden transformation—from a guy barely hanging on for the Giro’s first two weeks into the man who de-Finestrated the field—created a thought bubble so large over my head that my students must have seen it:

“Oh, Hell. Not another Floyd.”

Chris Froome

Chris Froome headed to victory at the top of the Zoncolan in stage 14. Sirotti photo.

I want to believe that Froome is clean. I want to let the AAF from his Ventolin play out in accordance with the rules. I’ve used an inhaler. I knew what it was like to not have an inhaler handy when I needed one. It’s been said that it’s like suddenly breathing through a straw. That’s true, a cocktail-sized stirring straw. Exercise-induced asthma is miserable and just a little terrifying.

I do know that the men and women at the very top are not normal. They surpass even their near-peers in physical ability. They have special Jedi-mind powers; the power to push themselves far beyond the rest of us, far beyond that of the other men and women in the peloton. Their ability to seek out suffering, and then go beyond is what makes them the elite of the elite. We’ve seen Froome do near-superhuman rides before. We’ve seen his guts on display. No one can forget that he was so intent on winning on Ventoux during stage 12 of the 2016 Tour de France that rather than wait for a new bike after a crash, he ran up the mountain. No one can forget his attack over the top that same Tour with Sagan, Porte, and Bodnar the day before on stage 11. Yes, Chris Froome is daring. He has a massive internal motor. He is one of the world’s best climbers. And time trialists. And descenders. And tacticians.

But we’ve all been burned before. The SmugThug and HWSNBN, the haze of skepticism that has surrounded the Dark Lord Brailsford—we want to believe, but we don’t want to be crushed.

This will play out over the course of the summer. You might have an opinion of your own. Why not share it on the BikeRaceInfo.com/McGann Publishing Facebook page. Click here. Thanks.

This Giro was brutal. Ruthless. Merciless. It reduced 2015 Vuelta champion Fabio Aru to a weepy mess. With only the ceremonial last stage to go, this Giro sent Thibaut Pinot to hospital, too shattered to roll a pancake flat 115 km with the grupetto.

Adam Hansen. When the Great Hanseeno rolled over the finish line in the shadow of the Colosseum in Rome, cycling's true gladiator bade good bye to his Grand Tour streak. Hansen has ridden twenty consecutive Tours, Vueltas, and Giros. That's around 78,000 kilometers of racing, nearly twice around the earth at the equator. Twenty started. Twenty finished. He's on record as saying that whilst he's definitely not riding this summer, he may be back for 21 at the Vuelta. Chapeau, Adam Hansen. Have a coupla tinnies, mate.

How hard was this? Look at the numbers on Ben King (Dimension Data-USA), the top US finisher in 44th place, courtesy of Velon.

Ben King rode a superb race. Always there for the team, a fine climber, kudos for a damn fine race, Ben. Thank-you.

Tom Dumoulin. Confirmed. The 27-year-old World TT champion showed us that he is the man for the next five years. His attacks on Froome in the last dozen kilometers of stage 20 into Cervinia showed he fears no one on a climb. Not Froome. Not the ghost of Charly Gaul. Not anyone.

Tom Dumoulin

Tom Dumoulin about to start stage 20.

Miguel Angel Lopez. He’s won the Tour de Suisse. The Tour de L’Avenir. He dropped Froome, Nibali, and Kelderman and won a stage of the ’17 Vuelta. He finished on the podium in this Giro, his 3rd Grand Tour. Don’t look over your shoulder, Tommy D. Someone might be gaining on you. Did I mention he’s 24?

Simon. Simon Yates. If you weren’t gutted for Simon as he simply ran out of gas on stage 19, you need to check your humanity. After three stage wins and 13 days in the maglia rosa, Simon’s tank went empty. It happens. Un jour sans, they call it in France. After losing 38 minutes on the day, Yatesy fought on and finished with the grupetto the next day, 45:32 behind the day’s winner, his teammate Mikel Nieve. Yates lost 73 minutes in two days to finish G.C. in 22nd place.

Simon Yates

Simon Yates making his way to the finish in stage 19.

How easy it would have been to invent an illness, a saddle sore, the Laurent Fignon Memorial Tapeworm; anything to exit the race. Not Mr. Yates. As a result, Simon Yates is the most admired man in this year’s Giro.

At the post-Giro presser, Yates said, “Of course I was disappointed, but I always look for the positive straight away, so for me it's okay. I'm still only young [or youngish—he’s 25] so I'll come back and adjust certain tactics or whatever it is that I've done in this Giro, and I’ll come back stronger."

We’re all rooting for you, Simon. Rooting hard. We know you’ll be back and you might win this thing.

Should Column A prove to be accurate, this Giro, with Froome’s 80-km fearless, valiant attack, will go down as one of the all-time great Grand Tour rides.

Should Column B prove to be accurate, then Emperor Palpatine Brailsford and his henchman Darth Froomey will be known as the men who stole the Giro from Simon Yates.

At least Froome didn’t try to sell us on the idea that his performance was based on a couple shots of Jack Daniels.

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