One thing we learnt from today’s stage the third of this year’s Giro d’Italia is that Hungary is quite gorgeous. I’ve never been but the images of the beautiful yellow flower-filled fields, the lush rolling hills, smooth roads and stunning architecture has definitely got me yearning for the opportunity to push a pedal or two there.
Another thing we are learning is that Biriam Girmay is, for a 22 year old, very mature. His interview before Stage 1 showed he has his head screwed on right and that second place to VDP was something else, and in his first ever Grand Tour too. Another solid interview before this stage reinforced that view.
Sean Kelly said he’d been ‘totally amazed’ by the way Girmay has raced so far this year and I’m in agreement. He’s a huge talent who’s already started building an impressive racing resume. The importance of having a Black African rider at the top end of pro cycling needs to be mentioned too, he’s a typhoon of fresh air in the pro peloton and an inspiration to young Black kids who are into cycling.
The start of Stage 3 saw three riders take off and no one else batted an eyelid, as there was zero chance of anyone stealing the sprinters’ thunder today.
In the Break of the Doomed were Mattia Bais (Drone Hopper-Androni), Filippo Tagliani (Drone Hopper-Androni), and Samuele Rivi (Eolo-Kometa). The same two Drone Hopper-Androni lads were of course in action getting some publicity for their sponsors on Stage 1, and if you been wondering what the heck a Drone Hopper is, it’s an industrial drone designed for ‘ industrial support and automated parcel transportation’.
Maybe a better ad for the brand would be if they picked up one of their riders and delivered him to 100m from the finish to take the win, but the commissaires may object to that, the boring sods.
One issue I’d like to discuss before getting back to the largely boring stage (until the end anyway) is the state of cycling commentary these days. I watch all the races on GCN+ which I have to say is brilliant, fairly priced and as well as having the big races also features just abut every other race, from the fairly well known to the more obscure events.
The anchors on the shows are good, competent and do the job of being the ‘average cycling fan’ alongside the former pros well. But some of the former pros they have on… Sean Kelly was a great rider no doubt, but I don’t rate him as a commentator. It’s not the accent, I have no problem with that, I just don’t find him very insightful. Robbie McEwen, same really, he’s better than Kelly but I do wonder why they don’t bring in the former Swedish pro Magnus Backstedt more often.
He never gets carried away, avoids hyperbole, often corrects an over-excited anchor with respect but in a firm no-nonsense manner, and offers great insights into what exactly is going on within the peloton. He’s brilliant, and he should be on at all the big races. Having a long and great palmares doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be a great commentator.
Right back to action, or lack thereof. Was this stage sponsored by a sleeping pill company? There’s a valid criticism to be levied at the organisers of this Giro and it’s that they’ve really messed up the opening of the tour.
If you’re going to feature two obvious sprint stages in the first two days, where the parcours screams nothing-will-happen-til-the-end, why not have a shorter course? Had the first two road stages been 80 or 90km long, what a feast that could have been. As it is, they’ve been snoozefests.
Highlights from the stage before the action kicked off at the end? Let’s give it a go.
At 90km to go a superhero appeared, though judging by his belly he’s probably retired these days. We’ll call him Captain Giro. A few riders took the bait and tried to launch their empty bidons into his, um, boat, and that helped take a little tedium off of the proceedings.
With 61km to go we got a shot of Birmay in the Maglia Ciclamino, the purple jersey that denotes the leader of the Points Classification, and though it’s on loan from VDP, he looked rather dapper, with the matching helmet and shorts.
And that was just about the mosZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz oops sorry about that, the most exciting thing that happened til, well, the very end.
Although at a sprint point at 52km, some sprint thing happened between two of the leaders and someone by the roadside woke up to cheer but half way through couldn’t be bothered and went back to sleep, but it looked like this:
With 28km to go the the leaders, now down to two, were finally reeled in.
At 15km to go the passion that the Hungarian cycling fans have for this Giro was fully on display, making Stage 3 look like a Belgian classic, great to see.
Pascal Eenkhorn then took off with Rick Zabel to fight for points on a small hill for the KOM classification, with Eekhorn taking the maximum. He then forged on alone, dangling 10 seconds off the front as the storm massed behind him.
With 6km to go Eekhorn was caught. The GC teams then set about trying to stay safe, as the sprinters’ teams vied for prime position to lead out the sprint.
Quickstep AlphaVinyl, desperate for the win, led it out and with 700m to go it was Cavendish in prime position behind out his lead out man, Michael Morkov. He attacked, too early I thought, but taking advantage of the slight decline of the road he hung on for the win. Write that man off at your peril!
9 years away from the Giro and he bags a win on the first pure sprint stage. His 16th stage win at the Giro. Remarkable!
But yeah, what a long ass wait for a bit of excitement!
The GC remains the same.