Inside Cycling with John Wilcockson: In search of the perfect grand tour

  • By John Wilcockson
  • Published Oct. 10, 2011
  • Updated Oct. 10, 2011 at 6:46 PM EDT

Giro and Tour organizers have different terrain, same goals for 2012

No one can predict how a bike race will turn out. And I don’t mean predicting who will win — but how the race will be perceived by those involved: the riders, the journalists, the organizers and the fans. When this year’s Giro d’Italia was announced last fall, most pundits expected an incredible race because it was littered with amazingly steep climbs and seven summit finishes, whereas the 2011 Tour de France was seen by many as a little too conservative even though there were four mountaintop finishes.

Contador on stage 15 of the 2011 Giro.

What happened? Well, the Giro did have some spectacular scenery but the race itself was a dud. Alberto Contador was so dominant on the mountaintop finishes that he’d virtually sewn up the overall victory before the first rest day; and the final week’s stages were so demanding, with long transfers in between them, that riders simply battled to survive and didn’t have the will or the resources to make it a competitive race.

Even Contador suffered from the rigors of that ultra-difficult Giro and a month later at the Tour he came up short on a less-demanding course. And yet that course, most people agree, produced one of the Tour’s most successful editions. Race director Christian Prudhomme’s decision to spice up the stages gave rise to much more exciting finales and a good mix of stage winners — even though multiple crashes did mar the opening week.

The favorites did play possum in the Pyrénées, but the sometimes breathtaking racing in the Alps greatly enhanced the reputations of eventual winner Cadel Evans, his feisty runners-up Andy and Fränk Schleck, along with an inspired Thomas Voeckler and never-give-up Contador. What’s more, the tough-as-teak Evans became a national hero in Australia and added to the impetus of cycling’s fast-expanding popularity around the world.

So what can we expect from next year’s Giro and Tour, the routes for which will both be announced officially in the coming days — though the stage towns of the 2012 Tour were leaked Monday and several of the Giro stages have been released by the organizers. In some ways, the Giro is stealing the Tour’s thunder by moving the date of its official presentation in Milan to this Sunday (October 16), a week earlier than usual, and two days before the Tour presentation in Paris (October 18).

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FILED UNDER: Giro d'Italia / News / Tour de France

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