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David L. Stanley

Parliamo del Giro d'Italia!

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David Stanley is an experienced cycling writer. His work has appeared in Velo,, Road, Peloton, and the late, lamented Bicycle Guide (my favorite all-time cycling magazine). Here's his Facebook page. He is also a highly regarded voice artist with many audiobooks to his credit, including McGann Publishing's The Story of the Tour de France and Cycling Heroes.

David L. Stanley

Melanoma: It Started with a Freckle

David L. Stanley's masterful telling of his bout with skin cancer Melanoma: It Started with a Freckle is available in print, Kindle eBook and audiobook versions, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

David L. Stanley writes: Parliamo del Giro d'Italia!

Or to save you the trip to Google Translate—Let’s talk Giro d’Italia. Put on a little Pavarotti or Il Divo or Frank Sinatra. Pour yourself some Aperol on the rocks with a splash of club soda. Got prosciutto and a chunk of real Parmigiano Reggiano on the salume board? Good, because the Giro is a 3-week race and it takes a lot to fuel the riders, and a lot to fuel the fans.

The 2023 Giro will truly test the gruppo. The race covers 3489.2 km that has everything to challenge the bike handling skills, tactical smarts, form, and tenacity of the finest riders. From the Day 1, May 6, time trial, a real time trial of 19.6 km in the Abruzzo from Fossacesia to Ortona, to the finish in Rome on May 28, this Corsa Rosa will challenge the GC riders to their utmost.

The 2023 Giro d'Italia. A beast!

There are 68 kilometers of true individual time trials. The Grand Tour trend of late has been a shortening of time trial distances. While I don’t ever want to see the 80+ km time trials from several generations back, the 30-50 km total distances of late thumb their collective noses at the most basic skill in cycling: How hard can you go for how long with nobody around to trade pace and draft? 70 kms/43 miles seems just right. It provides a spectacle for the pure TT men like Ganna and Dennis, a test of overall strength for the GC men, and it doesn’t send the gregarios and sprinters out the back with 30 minutes lost on the time trials alone.

Speaking of sprinters, there are 8 stages which might give a sprint finish. Every fan loves a good sprint finish. The strong teams bring their teams to the front with 10 km to go, form a protective pocket around their rocket, with plenty of 55+ kph feints and dashes as they position their man for his 300-meters bolt for the finish at 70 kph. Yet, even the sprinters’ stages are not without challenge.
All of the classified flat stages, save stage 17’s, May 24, 192 km in the lovely Alto Aldige region from Pergine Valsugana to Caorle are 200+ km. I don’t count the race-ending Stage 21 in Rome of 115 km. By the time the race hits the streets of the Eternal City, everyone goes all in for a 3-hour horse race to the finish. It doesn’t matter how tired you are after 20 stages, you figure out how to hang on and get to the finish. I’m rooting for Cav. You’re free to root for whoever you like.

Can Mark Cavendish pull off another big stage win? Sirotti photo

There are nine stages rated as hilly or intermediate. These are the stage hunter stages. Every team rider looks at the race bible and determines which stage(s), if he’s given his head for the day, best suits his form and abilities. These can be thrilling days; the first two hours of the race is on the limit as a breakaway forms, a few hours of steady state, and then, it’s full gas again as the breakaway shatters while the men try to get away alone or in a small group as they learn that the main field is closing in. The teams are hard at work to a) Keep their GC men within a reasonable time gap, or b) pull the break back to set up the sprint. Gone are the days when a break of so-called no-hopers (an insult if ever there was one) was given the nod to roll in 20 minutes ahead of the main field.
There are six mountain stages. While a rider might lose the GC on a time trial stage, it is in the mountains which still bear the snows of winter that a Giro is won. Did I mention snow? Stage 19, on May 26th takes us through the Dolomites and le Tre Cime di Laverado. The pass, I saw on the Giro’s twitter for May 3rd, is under 3 meters of snow with more snow predicted for Saturday’s start. It might melt in 3 weeks. Or it could be snowing at altitude on race day. If not, they have plenty of plows, eh? It might be a stage for a very tough rider.

Stage 19 profile. This will hurt.

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Speaking of tough riders…
The Americans. The 2023 Giro features several North Americans. USA’s Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) is a recent call-up to support Roglič. Kuss is one of the world’s finest pure climbers and is a major asset to Roglic in the mountains. Kuss is a serious obstacle to race favorite Remco Evenepoel’s (Soudal-QuickStep) hegemony.

Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) is the equal of Kuss in the high mountains. While UAE is keeping their ace Tadej Pogacar quiet until the Tour de France, UAE Team does not lack for true threats to the overall: João Almeida, Jay Vine, and Pascal Ackerman should all play a part in the top ten. McNulty will be ready to ride for all of them in the mountains.

Brandon McNulty wins stage 5 of the 2022 Paris-Nice. Sirotti photo

This Giro sets up well for Joe Dombrowski (Astana). With no true GC contender on Astana, it looks like Joe, also a superb climber, will be free to chase down a stage wins.

Domestiques Will Barta (Movistar) and Traverse City, Michigan’s own Larry Warbasse (AG2R Citroën) are tough as nails gregarios. Young Matt Riccitello (Israel-Premier Tech) will ride his first grand tour. Riccitello’s teammate, Derek Gee, is the only rider from Canada slated to start this year’s race.

Let’s Talk Favorites. There are two. Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) and Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma). Remco faces a tough road. While in a pure one v. one battle, you have to give a slight nod to the Evenepoel skill set, a three-week race with all of this year’s Giro’s mountain challenges is a team race. While Ilan van Wilder and Pieter Serry and Jan Hirt are solid climbers, they are not in the ultra-elite category of Sepp Kuss. (BTW: Matteo Jorgenson moves to Jumbo for 2024.)

On the other hand, with the recent round of Covid-19 positives sweeping through the Jumbo-Visma squad, I’m loathe to say this is Roglic’s race to win or lose. Isn’t is possible that when Saturday’s start rolls around, any number of Jumbos could test positive? I hope that Kuss and Primoz are kept in bubble-wrap inside of hermetically sealed containers.

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The team that could truly blow this race up is INEOS. While Jumbo-Visma and Soudal Quick-Step do battle, the stage is set for Ineos to attack and attack and attack. Look at the riders:

Tao Geoghegan Hart after winning the 2020 Giro d'Italia. Sirotti photo

  1. Tao Geoghegan Hart. He has won this race before. He comes in after an exceptional spring in the mountains. He has all the skills needed, and the smarts. Plus, he has …
  2. Geraint Thomas, at his side. Or maybe in front of him. Sir G seems ageless. While it’s unlikely that a 36-year-old, even if he is a tough gent from Wales, could win a Grand Tour, if there is a rider of late that has the capability, it is Geraint Thomas, OBE. To his credit, if the road shows that Hart is the leader, Thomas is a man who will ride his heart out for him.
  3. Thymen Arensman. The 23-year-old is already an exceptional climber as shown by his 6th place at the last Vuelta and his win on the queen stage.
  4. Pavel Sivakov, only 25, is also an outstanding climber.
  5. Filippo Ganna. Against the clock, Ganna is the finest rider in the world. (Why am I saying this? If you read, you already know this.) He will push the top GC men down the finish order on the TT stages. Most importantly, he is a beast on the flat stages. He is willing to go to the front and blow the race apart. He can, almost singlehandedly, pull back any breakaway. He’s a large man, at 6’4”/1.93 meters and 185 lbs/84 kg who protects his GC riders.
  6. Ben Swift, at 35, is il gregario supremo. Never underestimate the value of a top road captain.
  7. Maybe the most important bit—no one on INEOS-Grenadiers has tested positive for Covid-19 that I can discover, and that might make all the difference in this race.

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I need to mention one more team that could truly benefit from the Jumbo vs Soudal-QuickStep vs. INEOS Grenadiers scenario, and that’s EF Education-EasyPost. Jonathan Vaughters has a bunch with talent on his team. First off, he’s got Charley Wegelius in the driver’s seat. That man knows his way around a 3-week Grand Tour.

Rigoberto Urán wins 2022 Vuelta stage 17. Sirotti photo

Hugh Carthy and Rigoberto Urán lead the team’s GC hopes, and it’s easy to see that one of them should take a top ten. Yet, EF-EasyPost has serious options throughout the squad. Grand Tour stage winners for them include Alberto Bettiol, Jonathan Caicedo and Magnus Cort. However, the guy to watch is Irishman Ben Healy. Ben comes off the back of the biggest breakthrough spring in the peloton, where he finished second at the Amstel Gold Race and fourth at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. An exceptional spring for the 22-year-old.

Who do I like? I’m not a betting man, so hear me out. If there are no more Covid-19 positives, I like Primoz on the top step, Tao in second place, and a slightly unhappy looking Remco on the third step. Should Jumbo lose another rider, I see Roglic drop to third, and everyone moves up one place.

Can Primoz Roglic wear pink in Rome? Sirotti photo

On the other hand, while I like Tao’s chances over Remco’s in the mountains, if Remco is within 60 seconds of Tao at the May 27 stage 20 time trial, with that huge 12% kicker at the tail, I like Remco to win the whole thing. Primoz is a fine time trialist, sure, but can he manage the last half of the stage with Remco and Tao? History says not likely. Yet, history is often wrong. In fact, the final 18.6 km TT might be the decider of the whole race, and wouldn’t that be something?

This Just In! As I write this at 4:00 pm EDT, May the Fourth be with you, it has become known that the riders are displeased with the final TT course. The steep, race-deciding section at the end is a glorified MTB path, narrow, twisting, partly cobblestoned, part dirt, part old tarmac. It is also rumored that part of the course is newly tarmacked. The road’s specs preclude follow vehicles. Only support motos can handle the route.

It’s important to note the pros are not complaining about road surface or any of its geometry. They find it unacceptable to depend on motos, from their own team or otherwise, for support. In a TT in our thru-axle era, a wheel change is the kiss of death. You have to be able to get a bike change. I have seen moto-based bike racks that carry one bike in car parks at races, but they appeared to be one-offs. Unless RCS Sport, the race organizers, can convince a maker of a small 4WD drive vehicle (I’m looking at you, Fiat, and your 500X), the final TT may need to be re-routed.

But dear Lord, please don’t base any more than a sporting flutter on my predictions. Anyone who follows me on Twitter (@DStan58) knows my record with Velogames Fantasy Cycling is lousy.

Here are two things of which I am sure:

  • If you design your meals around themes for each region this Giro reaches, you will have one glorious gustatory month.
  • This will be the most exciting Grand Tour of the season. On that, you can make bank.

Forza, Giro d’Italia, 2023, Forza!

Vai! Vai! Vai!

David Stanley, like nearly all of us, has spent his life working and playing outdoors. He got a case of Melanoma as a result. Here's his telling of his beating that disease. And when you go out, please put on sunscreen.


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