Sadly, we are at that time again. The Giro d'Italia is over for another year, not quite 365 days, but almost that far away. As always with a Grand Tour, it feels like it has been going on forever, it is barely possibly to remember a time before we were all watching racing in Italy. There is going to be an almighty comedown from tomorrow, as we struggle to understand how to live without the constant companionship that bike racing brings.
How long ago does Hungary feel now? Almost another lifetime.
To give you a bit of insight inside the machine of the Giro, a couple of hours after each stage finish a press release drops in from the race organisers, filling you in with what happened. It tells the story of the day, gives you some vital statistics, the quotes from the stage winner and the race leader, along with a preview of the next day.
It also has a fantastic subject line, which is usually a laboured but interesting pun on the stage winner, or the events of the day. Looking back on it now, it is an interesting way to remember the race, to recall the dramatic events of the past three weeks, one of the closest GC battles of recent years.
Rather than the best stages necessarily, these are some of the best Giro press release headlines.
Stage one - "Van der Poel, a pink tulip"
23 days ago, Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) claimed the first maglia rosa of this Giro, after winning atop the climb to Visegrád outside Budapest. The Dutchman powered to victory ahead of Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) and Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious). It was the second Grand Tour stage of his career, and also the second time he pulled on a leader's jersey at a three-week race, after the Tour de France last year.
The way the Giro decided to mark this? With the epithet "a pink tulip". This one is self-explanatory, with tulips the flowers sold in the millions by Van der Poel's home country of the Netherlands, and pink the colour of the Giro GC leader jersey. A solid start.
Stage two - "Royal Yates, Van der Poel doesn't abdicate"
Stage two was the peak of Simon Yates fever at this Giro, as the Team BikeExchange-Jayco rider stormed to an unexpected time trial victory in Budapest, just beating Van der Poel and Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma). At this point in the race, Yates looked like the favourite for overall victory, but that would prove short-lived in the end.
I'll be honest, I don't really understand this title. What is royal about Yates? Maybe the castle the time trial finished near used to be home to Magyar kings? A cursory Google suggests not, so who knows. The monarchy references continue with "abdicate", which is on theme I guess.
Stage four - "Vulcanic Lennard Kämna and JP Lopez"
Stage four would prove decisive in the makeup of this Giro, as Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe) climbed to victory on Mount Etna, but was trailed by Juan Pedro López (Trek-Segafredo), who would climb into the pink jersey. He stayed at the top of the rankings for the next ten days, and is still high up on general classification before the final stage.
This headline is pretty straightforward. Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, so "vulcanic" is clearly a nod to that. I find "JP López" fascinating, because I don't think anyone calls him that? The man is Juanpe.
Stage seven - "Bouwman goes fishing in Potenza. Lopez still in Rosa"
Stage seven was the first appearance of Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma), a man who we would get very used to over the three weeks, as he ended up winning the mountains classification. He dovetailed very well with teammate Dumoulin to triumph in Potenza, showing off his explosive finish in beating Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates).
Another confusing headline here. We can only assume that the Dutchman likes fishing, but the day he spent in the breakaway was hardly a relaxing day by the riverbank. Interesting, anyway.
Stage eight - "Thomas De Gendt is the King of Napoli"
A fortnight ago there was a thrilling circuit race around Napoli, with Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) proving victorious in the end. The Belgian breakaway specialist worked closely with teammate Harm Vanhoucke to get into the day's escape and then attack perfectly to claim his second Giro stage, ten years on from his last.
Another pretty staid headline, but the King of Napoli makes sense, a monarchy that actually existed from 1282 to 1816. With De Gendt being the first winner in the southern Italian city in almost a decade, it is his title for now.
Stage 11 - "Dainese, first kiss is always the best"
There was a shock winner in the bunch sprint on stage 11, as Alberto Dainese (Team DSM) beat some very established fast men to the line. The Italian was the first home winner of the Giro to this point, a win that was desperately needed by the tifosi. It was a welcome victory for DSM too, who would end up losing GC leader Romain Bardet days later.
This headline is fantastic. I have absolutely no idea what kissing has to do with Dainese winning, maybe this is an Italian expression? It also doesn't stack up. The first kiss is not always the best, your first one could just be mashing your teeth against someone you vaguely like at school. Make it make sense.
Stage 15 - "Cic-Cogne"
On the first Alpine stage of this year's Giro, it was another Italian victory as Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) proved the pick of the breakaway, and soloed almost 20km to his win. It was the Italian's third Giro victory, and one of his most impressive, as he built on the fantastic race his Trek team had already been having.
I really think this is a great pun, with the stage finish (Cogne) being built into Ciccone's name. I'm sure they came up with this very quickly, but I enjoyed it a lot. 10/10.
Stage 16 - "In the Hirtland of the legend"
Jan Hirt (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) won his first ever Grand Tour stage in Aprica after a brutal race in the Alps with over 5,000 metres of climbing. The general classification battle failed to turn on, but we were treated to some fantastic breakaway action up front.
The Czech rider's name is a dream for headline writers, with any number of "hurt" or "heart" words available to you. The obvious ones would have been "Hirt locker" or "in a world of Hirt", so "Hirtland" is quite nice. Good work.
Stage 17 - "Buitrago, a Colombian eagle hovers over the Giro"
Another hard day in the Alps, another debut Grand Tour victory. This time Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain-Victorious) proved the best of the break to climb to victory in Lavarone. The Colombian, who missed out on stage 15, went one better to take victory ahead of Gijs Leemreize (Jumbo-Visma), passing the Dutchman just at the top of the final climb.
This one is magnificent. Why an eagle? What does hovering over the Giro mean? A Google tells me that the national bird of the South American nation is actually the Andean condor, so this is a little nonsensical. However, as a headline, it would definitely make me click.
Stage 20 - "Covi claims the Queen Stage, Hindley takes the Maglia Rosa"
The penultimate stage would prove decisive at this Giro. While Alessandro Covi (UAE Team Emirates) claimed the stage, this day will be remember for Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) distancing Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers). The pink jersey swung on this moment, with the Australian putting over a minute into the Ecuadorean.
Sadly for such a key stage, this title is pretty boring. Maybe the press office was spooked by me emailing to ask who wrote the fun subject lines, as this has been one of the highlights of my Giro. Until next year!
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