(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.
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.