Saturday’s Giro Rosa stage to the top of Monte Zoncolan was humbling. Many of those with nothing to celebrate but finishing were in various states. Some leant over their bars, others slumped against the barriers, a handful collapsed, prostrate on the ground.
While the leading duo of Annemiek van Vleuten and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio matched each other until the final two kilometres, behind, the battle for places waxed and waned as riders fought their own little battles with others and with themselves.
It encapsulated everything we love about the sport. It was a fantastic spectacle.
Except we did not get to see it live.
You see, the Giro Rosa may be the longest, most arduous race on the women’s calendar, but it seems to be invisible, and, having worked at three of them now, that seems that is a choice. Organisers seems to delight in hiding under the radar.
The timing on the calendar and its clash with the Tour de France is questionable. The Tour is the biggest race of the year and as such magazines and websites have little space left for the Giro Rosa.
Live coverage is an expensive undertaking for all race organisers, but even if it were live on TV would you watch it instead of the Tour?
There is a logic behind the timing, however. The highlights package shown on British Eurosport with a day’s delay is merely an extension of that which was shown in previous years by Italian broadcaster RAI as part of their Tour coverage. Shown at peak viewing time, it gave the race vital coverage in its home country, but it is only this year pictures have leaked to the rest of the world.
With the Tour taking much of the available space, written coverage is limited, so there is little opportunity to get a return on the investment of sending journalists to cover the Giro. Worse though is that race organisers do nothing to help writers follow the race.
There are no press rooms, no press conferences, no WiFi, questions often receive a smile and a shrug, and some simple requests are met with nothing short of rudeness and obstruction. It’s as if they don’t want people to know how good their race is.
There was, however, a development this year as accredited journalists were sent daily press releases, though results were only sent out when asked for. Why would anyone want to know the results?
It wasn’t just the Zoncolan stage which was dramatic. The final four of the 10 stages were all in the mountains and the uphill time trial was a brutal test - 46 minutes for 15km anyone? As in all stage races, there were less interesting days, but the race as a whole was excellent - despite Van Vleuten’s dominance - the peloton putting on a show.
It really was a great spectacle.
Italy is beautiful and possesses some great country for racing, and like previous editions the peloton took advantage. However, should the Giro Rosa want to grow, not only should it reassess its spot on the calendar, but it needs to allow someone to drag it into the 21st Century.
If not the Giro Rosa risks irrelevance.
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