The Giro d’Italia brings all the elements together needed for a perfect bike race, say insiders. The food, the culture, the passion, the towns and the passes – all in one three-week race.
Pro riders, directors, journalists and other insiders give an idea of what makes the Giro d’Italia stand above the other races on the busy cycling calendar.
“Italians are a passionate culture and the Giro is there culture funnelled into bike racing,” American cyclist Chad Haga (Team Sunweb) told Cycling Weekly.
“It’s just a spectacular, beautiful and intense Italian race. It’s always so gruelling, everyone is so fresh here. It seems like the match book is bigger here, and we use everything.”
“Every year I’ve done it, there’s something really epic about it,” Canadian Svein Tuft (Mitchelton-Scott) explained.
“Whether how it’s raced, the courses or the weather. Every year, I think, I never want to do that race again and then a week later, I’m already thinking I wouldn’t mind another one.
“When we did the Stelvio in the snow. We didn’t know what was going on, but the race happened. We were descending off a 2500-metre pass in the snow. There were guys everywhere, like a triathlon, groups of two or three all over the road. Many people want to stop that aspect of racing, but it’s also one of the beautiful things of our sport. I’m not for suffering on the bike like crazy, but it is a part of what we do.”
“When I was a pro, it was always that the Vuelta and the Tour were similar,” Team Sky Sports Director Nicolas Portal explained.
“But the Giro is early in the season with possible bad weather, the towns are different when you race through them, the size of the roads, and they are not always perfect roads. It all makes the race harder, you have to be much more focused.”
The Italian race is the second oldest of the three Grand Tours. It began in 1909 and this year it celebrates its 101st edition with a big start in Israel, the first of the three ever to race outside of Europe.
“It’s the party, the pink and the passion,” said Mauro Vegni, cycling director of the race organiser, RCS Sport.
“This is the Giro. It’s deeper in the hearts of the fans, they make you feel it. They quit work to come and see the Giro, but not just the race, but everything that comes along with it.”
“The Italians feel it in their hearts,” Race Director Stefano Allocchio added. “When I raced, it was one I always wanted to be in because it’s part of our culture. The same for the French in France.
“For some years now, we are moving closer to the Tour de France in terms of popularity and they are making adjustments to have the same Giro party. It’s everything together here: the food, the hotels, the weather. The Italians make you feel welcome.”
“Italy is pretty special, what’s big for me is the coffee in the morning,” Laurens Ten Dam (Team Sunweb) said.
“The food is great, but we also have our cooks now. It’s a bummer sometimes because you see some special hotels. It’s the coffee, the wine, the food. I like the Tour de France and Vuelta a España, too, but here it is better.”
“I’ve seen all the riders at the teams presentation, they are relaxed and happy,” Fernando Llamas, journalist for Spain’s Marca newspaper explained. “If you are at the Tour presentation, they are there biting their nails. Worried and under pressure. Here, no.
“The Giro’s important, but it begins softly. This is a party more than a big working race. In the Vuelta, the peloton is already tired. So the Tour riders are under stress, in the Vuelta they are tired, but here it is a perfect mix.”