Giro reflections

The centenary edition of the Giro didn’t let us down: the return of Lance (sorry, I shouldn’t mention that first); a fascinating classically mountainous route stretching the length of the country; great crowds supporting the Italian riders; a race that went down to the wire. Hats off to Denny Menchov. Not only was he cool as a cucumber in the Italian sunshine, stalking Di Luca, Pellizotti, Sastre, Basso and co, but he also managed to win Stage 12 and upstage his closest challenger Di Luca several times at crucial times in the race.

Even the final stage – that was meant to be a straightforward showcase 14k time trial through Rome – heightened the drama with a tense rain-affected ride, Di Luca choosing a road bike and putting 5 seconds into Menchov at the first time check, and then Menchov (just 20 seconds ahead at the start) inexplicably hitting the deck within the final kilometre only to remount and retain the Maglia Rosa.

Menchov celebrates Giro victory

Menchov celebrates Giro victory

If there was skepticism over Menchov in the past (and in particular fueled by the 2005 Vuelta win post-Heras disqualification), this performance surely puts him amongst the top few in any grand tour he enters. Carlos Sastre also reinforced his credentials for retaining his Tour title with a terrific Giro and two great stage wins. Pellizotti looks like he could be a genuine challenger amongst the top echelons of cycling, and in particular to the returning Ivan Basso in the Liquigas team.

And what of Lance? Despite Cycling Weekly seeming to be firmly on the ‘anti Lance’ bandwagon (see recent unnecessarily partisan issues covering the Giro), I subscribe to the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ doctrine. Yes I’ve read David Walsh, and almost every other Armstrong book out there. But the man has come back after three years, broken a collar bone, and then returned just five weeks later to put in a very good showing in a grand tour living with the best in the high mountains and finishing 12th in the GC. Yes he looks a little heavy, no he hasn’t been particularly attacking, yes he’s 38, no he’s not looking as dominant over an ITT course. But would anyone discount his chances of an 8th Tour win? Not me.

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