Giro d’Italia

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - by Larry Hum­ber

The 100th edi­tion of Italy’s Grand Tour

The Giro d’italia is turn­ing 100 this May. Like the Tour de France, which ran its 100 edi­tion in 2013, both Grand Tours started at a time when rid­ers made do with heavy bikes that had one, maybe two, gears. Spain’s Vuelta a Es­paña, the third of the Grand Tours, is a mere pup in com­par­i­son, with its 72nd edi­tion sched­uled to start this Au­gust.

The 2017 Giro will launch on the is­land of Sar­dinia on May 5 and will fin­ish on May 28, 21 stages in all stretch­ing across more than 3,500 km. Mi­lan, where it all be­gan in 1909, is its fi­nal port of call. The race missed the years 1915–18 and 1941–45 be­cause of the First and Sec­ond World Wars.

The Giro tends to em­brace the whole coun­try and will in­clude all but a hand­ful of Italy’s 20 re­gions. Though the sprint­ers will be grab­bing the head­lines in the early go­ing, they may be pack­ing their bags fol­low­ing Stage 13 in Tor­tona, as it’s on­ward and up­ward from there to Mi­lan. Stage 16 is espe­cially nasty, as it fea­tures a dou­ble as­cent of the Stelvio – weather per­mit­ting, that is. Snow is an on­go­ing con­cern at the Giro. It doesn’t get any eas­ier on the fol­low­ing stages, with a 28-km in­di­vid­ual time trial to wrap things up.

As you might guess, Ital­ians have dom­i­nated the race, win­ning it a whop­ping 69 times. Ev­ery Giro from 1909 to 1949 was won by a lo­cal hero. In 1950, Hugo Koblet of Switzer­land broke the string. Bel­gian rid­ers, thanks largely to five-time cham­pion Eddy Mer­ckx, are next best with a mere seven tri­umphs.

We’ve seen just four Ital­ian wins since 2008, in­clud­ing de­fend­ing cham­pion Vin­cenzo Nibali, who also won it in As­tana’s colours in 2013. Ac­tu­ally, only three of the four were first across the line, as Spain’s Al­berto Con­ta­dor had the ti­tle stripped from him in 2011 for the use of the banned sub­stance clen­buterol, which al­lowed Michele Scar­poni to add to Italy’s to­tal.

Con­ta­dor was the le­git­i­mate win­ner in 2008 and again in 2015. Rus­sia’s De­nis Men­chov (2009), Canada’s Ryder Hes­jedal (2012) and Colom­bia’s Nairo Quintana (2014) have also rained on Italy’s pa­rade in re­cent years. It’s Quintana who is favoured again this time, quoted at odds of three to two (so a bet of $10 wins you $15), fol­lowed by Nibali (at three to one) and 2015 Vuelta win­ner Fabio Aru (at five to one). Aru hails from Sar­dinia, so he’ll ob­vi­ously be out to im­press there. Este­ban Chavez, who was run­ner-up in Italy in 2016, and Dutch­man Tom Du­moulin, who led through Stage 7 last year be­fore sad­dle sores got the bet­ter of him, are both at nine to one.

In 2016, Hes­jedal rode his fi­nal Giro. Other Canucks in­cluded Ag2r-la Mon­di­ale’s Hugo Houle and Svein Tuft. Houle made his sec­ond Giro ap­pear­ance and fin­ished a not-too-shabby 72nd. This year, how­ever, he’s plan­ning to miss the Giro for the Am­gen Tour of Cal­i­for­nia. Orica-scott’s age­less hard­man Tuft will likely ride his sev­enth Giro in May. Can­non­dale-dra­pac’s Michael Woods was slated to ride the 2016 Giro, but broke his hand at Liège-bas­togneLiège. He’s hop­ing to ride one Grand Tour this year. We might see him in Italy this spring.

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Michael Woods at the 2017 Tour Down Un­der on Wil­lunga Hill

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