Sunday, May 30, 2010

Veni, Vidi... Giri?

The 2010 edition of the Giro d'Italia came to its end today, with Liquigas rider Ivan Basso riding to overall victory through the streets of Verona.

Ivan Basso grabs the final maglia rosa.
(Image courtesy of
La Gazzetta dello Sport.)

This year's edition of the Giro ran from May 8-30, its 21 daily stages taking it on its annual tour around the Italian boot. My recent trip to Piedmont ran from May 13-22, putting me in Italy right in the middle of the Giro's three-week course. Those that know me well, who know how long cycling has been an important part of my life, have been surprised to hear that I didn't make it to a single stage of the race while in Italy. Didn't even manage to catch any of it on the tube, not even in my hotel room, much less in a local bar.

Aside from passing the Rabobank team cars on the highway en route from the Torino airport to Alba on the morning of my arrival, the closest I came to the Giro during my nine-day stay was an occasional perusal of the results in the Italian sporting daily, "La Gazzetta dello Sport." In this case, it was over a glass of Pelaverga, just after grabbing a quick lunch at Enoclub, located on Alba's Piazza Savona.

Maybe things would have been different had I arrived a day earlier, in time to catch the team time trial stage in Cuneo, a scant half-hour from my starting base in Serralunga. Perhaps if there had been some spare time in my schedule, I could have found a cycling-crazy bar — there must be one somewhere in Alba, it can't be all about football — in which to catch a stage or two. Or if American television didn't completely ignore the race, I could have at least caught the early and late stages of the race from the comfort of home.

The fact is, though, my passion for the sport of cycling, as an observer that is, seems to have waned over the last couple of years. I still love the sport, don't get me wrong. I just can't summon the enthusiasm or find the time it takes to follow its results, its rising and falling stars, the way I once did. Part of that is no doubt a simple change in my life, an ebb and flow in the cycle of what it is that occupies me.

But I can't help but chalk part of it up to a growing disillusionment with the sport. With at least two of the riders finishing in the Giro's overall top ten (winner Basso and sixth place Alexandre Vinokourov) just having returned to the sport after recent multi-year suspensions for doping violations, one can't help but wonder. Are they really clean and really that strong? Or have they just found newer, better doctors and sports physiologists who know how to keep them a few steps ahead of the current drug testing parameters?

Come Tour de France time in July, I'm going to try to put these concerns aside. Just enjoy the sport for what it is, not for what its participants may or may not be doing behind the scenes. I love cycling, like I said, and I really love the Tour. For three years now, ever since I started this blog, I've been wanting to do a daily feature that follows the path of Le Tour via the wine and food culture of the various towns and regions through which it passes. This is the year in which I'm finally going to do my best to make it happen.

I missed the Giro. I don't want to miss the Tour.


TWG said...

Cycling seems to be one of the dirtiest sports but why aren't more riders caught?

It's easy to follow the TDF if you have Versus.

David McDuff said...

Is it one of the dirtiest sports, Tom? Or does it just get more attention and criticism than most other sports? Tough to say....

I was worried earlier this year that I'd have to switch "cable" providers in order to be able to see the Tour. Happily, my provider ironed out whatever issues they had with Comcast (who now own Versus), so I'll at least get to watch.

javier said...

i sent a comment to your entry of May/5 wondering about your not mentioning the Giro while you were departing for Italy. I didn't know your schedule vis-a-vis this year's course however it seemed possible that could've caught the initial stages if you arrived on time or the later stages if you stayed for a couple of weeks.

I did watch the Giro (I think it is msnbc, channel 217 on Comcast) and as you said, it is hard to put aside all the information we have about previous doping cases, and just freely enjoy the 'fair' competition. have had endless arguments with friends over this topic, some people swearing that every single rider is dirty, other people thinking that only a few are, some get caught, some don't. The Lance thing by itself is another huge subject for discussion. I guess I'm myself in denial somehow, cause I love cycling. But it actually seems so easy:

David McDuff said...

Javier, yes, thanks for your earlier comment and my apologies for not having a chance to respond to it.

Thanks too for the link to the article on doping/EPPO micro-dosing in the Times. Sounds to me like there's a good chance we'll be looking at another Tour full of police raids and, like it or not for the riders and their much needed rest, 2AM wake-up tests.

I'm pretty confident there are some truly clean riders, but equally confident that there are well more than a few dopers still active in the pro peloton.

javier said...

For those who think EPO and other substances could be detrimental to health, there are other performance enhancers:

Speaking of conspiracy theories.

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