This year, as in every year, I briefly thought I would watch the Tour de France casually. I would not become obsessed and thus avoid the highs and lows of cycling in July and the gutted feeling when it is over and forgo getting up at 5:30 a.m. PST.
Then I got this email.
I bought the NBC Sports Gold pass for cycling during the Tour of California in May. It did not include the Giro but it will include the Tour de France. I watch on my computer, follow VeloNews and the @letour on Twitter and watch every episode of Orica Scott Backstage Pass on YouTube.
The favorites are Chris Froome (Sky), RIchie Porte (BMC), or Nairo Quintana (Movistar) for the overall General Classification or yellow jersey. The race begins on July 1 with a time trial in Dusseldorf, Germany. Will my favorite Tony Martin win on home turf? Will Germans Marcel Kittel or Andre Greipel turn themselves out to win a stage at home? Will Mark Cavendish be healthy enough to compete? Will best rider in the world Peter Sagan win the green jersey again? We’ll know when Le Tour finishes in Paris on July 23rd.
If you like listening to podcasts. My cycling favorite is The 3 Domestiques. I listen on the Stitcher app to Matt Keenan, Sam Edmunds and Dan Jones discuss pro-cycling with great interviews.
So set your alarm and don’t miss the drama, the athleticism, and the tradition.
We met lots of cyclists who were racing in Italy the 3 weeks of the Giro. We missed some–one of my favorite riders Marcel Kittel of Etixx-Quickstep, dropped out before Tuscany. Fabian Cancellara of Trek-Segafredo dropped out after the time trial. So I was ripe to add riders to our favorites list.
It was easy to like Esteban Chaves with Orica-Greenedge. He is an energetic and charismatic young climber from Columbia. His smile is 1,000 watts and his teammates clearly like him. We met him on a rest day and he was relaxed and happy to be on the Giro. He is 29 years old but has the boyish looks and energy of a teenager. I instantly became a fan.
There did not seem to be too much team pressure on Chaves to win. Sometimes a team with a leader in the top 5 closes down and you can feel the tension of expectations. This team still felt like they were mostly having fun. This is probably an advantage on a 3-week bike race when your chances depend on surviving crashes and the daily grind until you can get to the final mountain stages when the real race begins.
In the last few days of the Giro the competition did get real. Chaves took the overall lead on stage 19. The maglia rosa (pink jersey) Steven Kruijswijk dropped in the rankings after a weird crash into a snowbank during a momentary loss of concentration.
The Sicilian Shark Vincenzo Nibali won the stage and closed the gap taking second overall. There was one more mountain stage before the final (largely ceremonial) last stage. Nibali attacked to win the 20th stage with Chaves on the podium in second.
If Orica-Greenedge was disappointed, it is difficult to tell from this loving tribute on Backstage Pass. Thanks Dan Jones for the terrific use of Steve Jobs’ speech.
I went to Italy for the first time to experience a few days of the grand tour Giro d’Italia. In the process I got to meet the Orica-Greenedge cycling team on the rest day.
They are a predominantly Australian team and their team culture is laid back, friendly, serious about sport, and open to fans. We waited quite a while for the team to return from their training ride. Normally they would ride on a rest day for 1.5-2 hours but they were gone longer because the journalists from the Global Cycling Network were filming a feature on the team.
While we waited the producer of the team’s terrific fan films, Backstage Pass, Jonesie hung out with us and regaled us with behind the scenes stories. Naturally the conversation turned to the stunning Paris-Roubaix finish by Mathew Hayman. The Paris-Roubaix is a one-day, spring classic bike race and has a reputation as one of the most challenging. This Backstage Pass is one of their most watched of all time. You can see why.
Venice was my last stop in Italy before flying back to London. I did a quick scan of priority stops and the Peggy Guggenheim Gallery was tops. I am walking through the gallery and I see this painting of a cyclist at the Paris-Roubaix race. Clearly at the end when he feels shattered.