The champagne has flowed, the twirly trophy has been awarded, and the (presumably pink) dust has settled on the 2021 edition of the Giro d’Italia. I can only speak for myself when I say it’s been absolutely exhausting, hasn’t it? As for the riders, those that made it through from day 1 in Torino to day 21 in Milan deserve at the very least a year off and long holiday. Obviously, as they’re professional cyclists, they will be back on their bikes in a couple of days and preparing for the next challenge. Because they’re bonkers. And that’s why we love them.
So what did we learn over the course of the three weeks? Many, many lessons, that I’ll summarise for you now, in something vaguely resembling chronological order.
Fillippo Ganna is part machine #wattbomb
The Jumbo Visma boys know how to time trial
Sometimes, the slowest time set for a stage isn’t slow enough (see stage 2)
A Peter Sagan day apparently equals BORA Hansgrohe riding themselves into the ground only for a man named after a Mexican foodstuff to win instead
A man named after a Mexican foodstuff can win a bike race
Italian television companies are ill-equipped for inclement weather
George Bennett is ill-equipped for inclement weather (he needs at least #2coats)
Giulio Ciccone is everyone’s favourite surprise
Road furniture is terrifying
Mikel Landa and Pavel Sivakov are extremely unlucky
Watching a race enter a tunnel causes a rip in the space-time continuum causing a Schrodinger’s bike race scenario in which everything and nothing happens at once but the tension is unbearable
Gravel finishes trigger Egan Bernal’s hidden turbo mode
Look up ‘train’ in the dictionary and you will find a picture of Fillippo Ganna
It doesn’t matter whether or not you think they belong on a Grand Tour: gravel racing is an awesome spectacle and makes for incredibly exciting racing
A man who has only managed to come second in Grand Tour stages eleven times before can finally win a bike race
Edoardo Affini is such a valuable team mate, he’s worth riding up a massive mountain twice for
A man whose name translates as ‘Lucky’ can win a bike race, and trigger Alberto Contador to shout for five full minutes on social media
Slovenians know how to party
You cannot rely on the Italian Spring to produce a climate conducive to good bike racing
Italian television companies are STILL ill-equipped for inclement weather
INEOS Grenadiers are masters of putting on, and removing, rain jackets
Romain Bardet is a demon descender. (We assume. As we didn’t actually see the evidence).
Is it even a breakaway if it doesn’t contain one of the following: Simon Pellaud. Dries de Bondt. Victor Campanaerts?
If you can see Simon Yates, he’s doing it wrong*
*except on stage 17**
Don’t make Joao Almeida angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry
Egan Bernal is a complex individual comprising class, endurance, and raw power. He is both a machine, and human
Look up ‘grit’ in the dictionary and you will find pictures of Dan Martin and Alberto Bettiol
Giant pandas are indigenous to the slopes of the Dolomites
Peter Sagan can, on occasion, resemble an angry shepherd rounding up naughty sheep
Dani Martinez can wear a medallion and still set a lightning-fast pace up a mountain. He will work for you when you have nothing left to give. Then he will shake his fist in your face and goddammit, you will work some more
Fillippo Ganna and his dog are everything
Damiano Caruso appreciating Pello Bilbao is everything
It will take more than a puncture to slow Fillippo Ganna down
Remi Cavagna could use some cornering practice
Damiano Caruso didn’t miss out on first place, he won second place
Egan Bernal is a true champion
Bike racers are crazy, and this is why we love them. See exhibit A, George Bennett, who (1) arguably sabotaged his own chances of a stage victory following a spat with Gianluca Brambilla on stage 12; (2) rode back UP Monte Zoncolan to accompany his team mate Edoardo Affini back down (3) rode over the top of the snow-capped Passo Giau in 1 degree with no gloves on, then crossed the line still wearing his food bag.
Still, I love the guy dearly, and as a partisan George and Jumbo Visma supporter, I’m comfortable ending this list with his wildly varied attributes as doesn’t the chaotic nature of this Giro d’Italia feel as though it’s adequately represented by such a character? I vote yes.
And a few things we already knew, but were reminded of…
Italy is incredible and we all want to live there
Cycling is about so much more than just a race
Passion, guts and class are what make a bike racer a truly great rider
In this most unpredictable of bike races, anything can, and probably will, happen (see: car collides with rider; Queen stage shortened due to extreme weather conditions; rider forgets to corner, etc)
When a race like this ends, it’s hard not to feel as though you’ve left a small part of yourself behind in the process
Thanks for reading everyone, more Grand Tour adventures await in just under a month… join me there?