Giro d'Italia 2021 Giro Rosa - 2nd to 11th July

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Lizzie shirking duties now, leaves just Rivera and Chabbey working. Why is Elise still working, that's insanity. She won't outsprint Coryn or Lizzie. Have to gamble and force Lizzie to contribute. Lizzie is right to make Rivera do most of the work because she's the best sprinter of the quartet, so tiring her out is obviously beneficial to Deignan as the 2nd best sprinter in the group.
 
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It was one of the more uninspiring editions of the Giro Rosa - A combination of a dominant team, some good riders missing the race and a lopsided and uninspiring route. In effect the winner was decided after two stages.
 
Definitely lacking in suspense, the route was less lopsided and more strangely bookended, with a sequence of stages of little GC consequence across the middle and the mountains at the start and finish, which meant it was pretty much a waiting game with little of consequence happening through much of the middle of the race, and no real suspense for the final mountain because of how dominant SD had been on the first one. It definitely missed some non-SD-Worx grimpeuses, although it is worth noting that Lizzie was 2nd in the La Course that finished on Izoard, she isn't a mug, but because she's never really gone for GC here since her maglia bianca exploits in 2009 it just seems very underwhelming to see her in 4th. Not only did we see van Vleuten and Niewiadoma not starting, but a combination of illness, crashes and poor form meant that three other riders who could have been a much bigger factor - Elisa Longo Borghini, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and Mikayla Harvey - were not able to be factors in the race at all. This meant that you had last year's first place winning, but last year's 2nd place was absent, and 3rd, 4th and 5th were not GC-relevant this year. Add in the absence of the woman who crashed out of the pink jersey last year, and Olympics preparation meaning some of the more intriguing wildcards not being there or leaving early as a result, and it did very much leave the endgame that SD Worx galloped into an early lead and everybody else settled for placements thereafter. I suspect Deignan's GC tilt was borne out of simply being the case that Trek had to get something out of the top end of the race with that squad and she was best placed to do so, while Elise Chabbey did everything possible to at least get Canyon something from the race.
 
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I noticed the three remaining Rally riders dns today - maybe bc of Heidi Franz` bullying experience yesterday? Or?
Possibly, although that from the sounds of things was in the péloton and nothing to do with the race organisers or stages themselves. Although I guess perhaps she decided she wouldn't feel comfortable in the bunch today around whoever the culprit or culprits were after having spoken up as that could only make things worse and subject her to a day of abuse for bringing it up, so the others withdrew either in solidarity or to prevent any by-association action like the incident involving Valverde and Gilbert that El Pistolet used to love bringing up. Would be interesting to have a bit more colour to it, as things stand, with no details of what was said or done, it's difficult to know whether we're talking some trash-talking that crossed the line and that was taken the wrong way, or something that merits some much more serious looking into and raising with the appropriate channels so that action can hopefully be taken. Understand if Heidi doesn't feel comfortable naming names or revealing what was said or done, however, but at present it's hard to know what a satisfactory outcome would be.
 
Didn't get to see much of Giro. Anytime I tried to watch on GCN on playback, it was buffering. I heard coverage was terrible so don't know if it was GCN or just the poor coverage provided. Like others said, a strange race with everything set after first 2 days and SD Worx dominant.

On the bullying things, riders going too fast in the gruppetto have always seemed to receive some choice words for as long as I have been following cycling. Seems to be part of the etiquette for riding in the gruppetto. We don't know the details so hard to say, but sounds like that.
 
So, now this year's edition is over, what of the future of the race? PMG are supposed to be organising again next year, have they shown enough to convince the UCI to put it back on the World Tour calendar? We didn't get the prescribed 45 minutes of live pictures.

It's scheduled to end two weeks before the start of the Tour de France Femmes next year. The same gap to the Olympics saw Van Vleuten and Niewiadoma skip the race this year and Vos abandon whilst in the points jersey, and the Olympics is only a one day race, albeit on the other side of the world. Can the two races happily coexist on that timetable?
 
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The race is on the provisional WWT calendar for 2022, and, the way I understand it, they weren't actually required to provide any live coverage this year, so as long as they can guarantee 45 minutes next year, they should be alright.

I think José Been tweeted during the race that no one from the top 10 was going to ride it in '22, because of the questionable organising and the competition from the TdFF. Some riders might want to use the Giro to get into shape for the TdFF though, and unlike the Olympics this year, different time zone and climate won't be an issue. But then it is a weeklong race, so doing a 10 day race two/three weeks earlier might not be ideal for everyone. And then you also have the Battle of the North 9 days after the Tour or only 6, if you do the Vårgårda races as well.

We don't know yet if next season will be the last for Van Vleuten, but if it is, she'll most likely go all-in for the Tour like she has done with the Olympics. Not having the best riders there, will obviously hurt the Giro, but it could also mean the race will be tighter and more exciting (at least compared to this year's race) and also give other and younger riders a chance to ride for GC. And you'd still expect some of the best Italian riders will want to do it.

But it will of course also depend on whether the Tour is going to be an instant success or not.
 
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This was one of the things I was afraid of - ASO were only interested in coming in with a women's Tour once they knew they would win, so in order for them to 'win', the Giro has to 'lose', because the ASO have the money and organisational clout but the Giro had the history that gave it the prestige. With Lappartient far more pliable to Amaury's desires than his predecessors who already let ASO run roughshod over the women's calendar and get away with token efforts for years, it's clear that the time for the small privateer organisers is pretty much over. Which in some respects is a good thing, but it sucks that the people who've kept women's cycling alive through passion and determination are basically being swept aside for juggernauts who see it as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility checklist rather than something they are genuinely behind.

At the same time, the sport will always struggle to progress if the biggest race is able to get away with huge organisational shortfalls and lacking presentation, coasting by on its status inherent - imagine if we got proper HD footage of all the classics, the Giro and the Vuelta, but got nothing but the final half hour of Le Tour, on a broadcast that kept cutting out when they got into the mountains.

However, I felt bad for them last year because other organisers did not put themselves into the mire the way the Giro Rosa did, simply by cancelling their races. The Women's Tour, for example, for all the praise - deserved - that goes into its organisation, prize pot, support and TV show, was only serving highlights, and had no live coverage whatsoever. The head of SweetSpot has said that they had had some trouble securing this and that they were also not allowed to show moving pictures before the highlights show to append to news broadcasts etc. to try to attract an audience, which is a shame - however by not running in 2020, they were able to kick the can down the road a year and not jeopardise their position, which they may have had to do in 2020 had they tried to run on short notice in the autumn as the Giro did. It's fair for the Giro to argue that they are then being punished for trying to keep their race alive - the 2020 edition was thrown together at the last minute and, if we're honest, it showed, with stages having to be re-routed while they were in progress, the Assisi finish having to be moved down the hill, and the lack of live coverage in contravention of their requirements.

That said, they did not have to produce live coverage this year, but they chose to in order to essentially show capability or test capability in order to win back their World Tour status, and for that they should be thanked. Maybe not congratulated so much, as there were obviously still major shortfalls in the presentation, but they were not under obligation to do so and it shows they are serious about trying to protect their race's importance and status.

I feel, however, that it is probably time for RCS to step in. Because the Giro has been the pre-eminent stage race in the women's calendar throughout the "racing in the dark" period (I always thought if there was a book about the early days of pro women's cycling it should be called that, patterned after the infamous Grande Boucle stage when they were transferring from Corsica to the Alps and a storm waylaid them, meaning they were finishing the shortened stage at almost 10pm, but reflecting the whole "not visible" aspect of the racing going on away from broadcasters and urban centres for the most part) they've been able to rely on that status for a long time, but if they are to compete and preserve - as I feel the race and its history deserves - that status, then the current organisation needs to be helped as they are clearly too small and too underfunded to produce a race with the kind of coverage and level of prestige that is becoming of the level of the race in today's marketplace, where major players like Flanders Classics are increasing the professionalism and showing PMG up.

RCS have shown with Strade Bianche Donne that they can do it, and while coverage there is not perfect, neither is the coverage of the men's race, and it's a lot more effective than the present Giro Rosa coverage. I know that the one thing that was always a great advantage for the race is now a disadvantage - the fact it was coterminous with the Tour was always a positive thing as it meant they could prepare the highlights show and get it out on RAI Sport appended to the end of the Tour coverage in years gone by to maximise crossover audience, but now they're having to compete for live broadcast spots with the biggest juggernaut in the sport, especially now the Tour has every stage broadcast start to finish - but if RCS were to do more than they currently do, just licensing out certain trademarks and graphics and letting PMG do the rest, then the race would be better served and more competitive.

I think Jose Been's statement is rather exaggerated; certainly plenty of riders may well be fed up with the lower standard of coverage, support and race infrastructure, but likely the comments she is referencing will be hyperbolic, built out of frustrations of the time. As Samu mentions, most likely at least the big Italian names will still want to come, and various riders will have unfinished business with the race. Next year is a bit of a wildcard because it will be the first time since 2009 that there's even a conceptual contender to the Giro, and the first time since a long time before that that there is a realistic contender to its status. Obviously history will still favour the Giro, in the same way as La Flèche Wallonne is still more important than LBL on the women's calendar, but if the Tour comes out of the gate hot, with all-singing all-dancing production, like the first edition of the Women's Tour but with mountains and time trials and a media circus? You can only be first once...

However, at the same time I don't see that as a reason to not go to the Giro - because even if its prestige is hammered harder than anticipated, it can still be useful as a warmup race. It may no longer be the be-all-and-end-all race of people's calendar, but it's still of value to people to do. I mean, hell, in men's cycling you had riders using the Giro to prepare for the Tour, you have riders using the Vuelta to prepare for the Worlds, and this year we even have riders using the Tour to prepare for the Olympics. A few years ago (in 2014) Evelyn Stevens did a 17 day no-rest-day shift, doing the 10 day Giro, then hopping on a flight to Germany and doing the 7-day Thüringen Rundfahrt immediately. She won the latter. Last year, Mavi García raced the Giro directly off the back of the Tour de l'Ardêche, a very mountainous week-long race, and finished high in the GC of both. And hell, how many days were there between the Vuelta and Giro back in 1981 when Battaglin won them both?

The other thing is, we have to know the parcours for the Battle of the North yet. From what I can gather the chances are the Swedish leg of the race will be close to and around the Vårgårda area and the Norwegian part is likely to be around Halden, where the organisers of the LTON are based. If so, I see precious little opportunity for this to be even medium-mountain, and in reality it's going to be a 9 day flat-to-mildly-hilly race. That in and of itself is fine - sure, we have a lot of races like that in the calendar parcours-wise, but not many 9-day ones - but it will also mean that it will favour a completely different type of rider to the Giro or - presumably - the Tour (pending parcours also, but they have more options to vary the size of hills and mountains than the Battle of the North), which will mean we could have some riders for whom the Battle of the North could be a chance for a major long-form stage race win that would not be possible on the routes delivered by the Giro, or the routes expected for the Tour - the likes of, say, Lisa Brennauer or Lotte Kopecky, who could well become threats here where riders like, say, Kasia Niewiadoma or Mavi García are less likely to; as a result the latter group would be more likely to do Giro-Tour, whereas the former group could choose Giro-North or Tour-North depending on other targets and what kind of recovery they need. There's also the possibility across time that the Women's Tour could expand in time as well, which would offer a middle-ground - more freedom for variety in the hilly stages than the Battle of the North unless it moves its Norwegian stages further afield (which could then be a problem for logistics), but still lacking in the obstacles of the size that the Giro and Tour can offer.

The Giro needs to adapt to the changing women's cycling environment. So far its status as the only women's Grand Tour has enabled it to sustain itself without really stepping forward, but the level of organisation and coverage that enabled it to protect its position during the time when almost every race was scrambling for funds to run year on year and those few races run by professional specialists rather than unpaid volunteer groups were essentially token efforts, is simply not going to be enough to compete any longer. If you look at other long-standing women's races, many of the stage races have suffered (plus the way ASO have been allowed to run roughshod over the calendar for La Course has been extremely counterproductive). Only the smaller races that are happy with their niches, like the Tour de l'Ardêche, have continued unencumbered. The Tour de l'Aude is long gone. The Route de France was killed off. The Giro del Trentino splutters and sporadically tries to resurrect itself, sometimes as a one-dayer, sometimes as a stage race, but usually only for a year or two before another protracted absence. The types of races coming under threat has steadily increased in standing, and now we have seen that Thüringen Rundfahrt has had to adapt to survive (again, La Course being a major problem for it) and Emakumeen Bira essentially folded into the new Itzulia Women as the organisatorial group were fed up of being punted around the calendar and then EITB essentially forcing them into the Itzulia slot to get the coverage required of them, so threw their hands up and said, "fine, you do it then". But at such a point as the professionalisation juggernaut is leaving races like Emakumeen Bira behind, there's only one more level of the 'old guard' of women's cycling that remains above that... and that's the Giro Rosa. And so the warning signs should have been there for a while for them. If they have been trying to adapt but it's beyond their means, then they need help. And if they haven't been trying to adapt but have been coasting on the "it'll never happen to us, our race is too important" sentiment, then they're in the process of being caught out, because I don't think they're in the position to be able to do that any longer.
 
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I was imagining maybe Van Vleuten might want to focus solely on winning the TdFF, plus Uttrup Ludwig (because FDJ) and maybe a couple of others. If it does happen that the whole top 10 give it a swerve (and probably that'd become most of the best 20 or 30 riders if the focus on the TdFF is that great) I really doubt the Giro will last long. If it's struggling for TV and sponsors now who's going to pay for a second division race, WWT status or otherwise?

Clearly the current state of the organisation can be improved, but if ASO really commit to their race PMG aren't going to be able to compete with that and the pull of the Tour name. RCS need to get involved, but if riders are not going to do both the date will have to change. That might be for the best anyway - competing with the Tour for live TV slots is a problem, but the early July date also guarantees Wimbledon will be occupying the schedules of some potential broadcasters.
 

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