Of course being a Romanoff, with all the affiliated problems with hemophilia, I'm betting he had hella problems with road rash.
Scarlett Johansen, bicycle race, tight jeans. Need I say more?
So you know all about Team Slipstream winning the Team Time Trial, and American Christian VandeVelde wearing the Giro d'Italia's Maglia Rosa for a day, right? You don't? Well, that's actually a good thing. Time was, an American wearing a grand tour leader's jersey would be enormous news. It's kind of a big deal still, but one of the effects of Andy Hampsten, Greg Lemond, Hincapie, Landis, Armstrong and Zabriskie is that it isn't a world breaking story. It's not Sly Stallone's Allies beating the Nazis in "Victory," it's just another day in the pro peloton, a little unusual but not the kind of thing to stop the presses over. It was a great thing for Slipstream to win, and great for U.S. cycling and the Giro to see an American in the leader's jersey.
There are some downsides, to be sure. The TdF has so eclipsed all other bike races that the Giro has become a bit of a backwater; several alleged ProTour teams have sent notably weak teams, placeholders, to the race. For another thing, while anything can't happen on any day at the TdF - the big teams are packed with top riders and strategy is charted out months in advance - the Giro is much more of a racer's race. There aren't a lot of surprises day-to-day, and the racers don't seem to mind if a camera catches the peloton cruising along at 17 MPH for several hours at a time if the roads are rough, the weather is a bit bad, or the pack feels a bit tired. A casual fan wouldn't get the touring pace, but a racer or serious tifoso would smile and enjoy the 'piano piano.' Fans can enjoy just chilling and watching the race in the background, and racers can have a chance to ride themselves into shape, have a rest day in the middle of 20 days of utter pounding, and eat lots, look at the sights, and get ready for the toughest mountain stages this side of La Ruta de de los Conquistadores. Then when they get down to really racing, it's totally unpredictable, because all the Italians ride as if the devil himself were chasing them. So you never know who is going to win in the mountain stages - it will be whoever doesn't abjectly blow up. It is amazing to see a dozen or twenty pros ride up hills and blow up. Sure, in the TdF you'll see the lieutenants peel off as their legs get burnt out, but they still keep chugging up the hill pretty well, and the leaders may lose a little pace but they rarely blow. They ride to limit the damage. It doesn't seem to happen that way in the Giro - the mountain stages look more like they are raced for the win. They seem to ride more desperately, kind of like the French in the TdF except the Italians usually stand a chance of winning. So you can see many of the riders push way past their limits. How does a guy like 'il Falco' Savodelli win twice? By killing himself to stay in contact on the climbs, then risking his life on the descents. Racing to win. Eddy Mazzoleni absolutely murdered himself last year, riding some great mountain stages, and clearly blowing himself up a couple times, then hanging on by his teeth to finish decently in the stages where that happened, blown legs notwithstanding. You could see him, riding strong, riding strong, riding strong.... wobbling, then trying to chug in recovery mode. He'd be at or off the front, then all of a sudden he'd be going 5 MPH, struggling to stay upright, just punishing himself. *Great* racing. And oh, by the way, Americans are capable of doing okay at it.
Ultimately the Giro will suffer vis a vis American participation. While it's a purist's race, it doesn't have the marketing impact that the TdF does. American teams typically aren't in it for the beauty of the race, but to make money, and if you want to make money, you need to focus on winning The Big Game. Which is a shame, because American cycling would find itself accorded a seat at the table if its teams and riders would grab more of the working man's palmares - and the Americans aren't the only ones who know about The Big Game compromise. Several ProTour teams are stinking it up, saving their riders' legs for the Tour de. Oddly enough, I don't think it hurts the Euro teams all that much to skimp here, because nobody questions whether Francais de Jeaux deserves a seat at the big boys table. The American teams and riders - oh sure, they can win the TdF, but the monuments, the other two grand tours, the smaller tours - but US cycling doesn't exactly strike fear in the hearts of Europeans, even in spite of how impossibly hard many Euro pros find our NRC crits.
For now... VandeVelde had the Maglia Rosa for one day, now the irrepressible young Ricardo Rico - Rico Suave -has the stage and Pellozotti wears the jersey.
And I'm about to subscribe to RAI, the Italian ESPN which carries *all* the bicycle races. Seems it's available through Verizon FIOS so Sainted Wife is checking on the subscription price this morning. Guess I'm going to have to brush up on my Italian gibberish to watch that - you got your linguine, your fettucini, your zucchini...
Small but nice victories all around this weekend I guess.