Pro Cycling News – Splitting Stages, Splitting Hairs

Nov 11 2005

It’s in all the papers today: rumors of a split stage to end the ’06 Giro d’Italia. Split stages have been a bit of a bugaboo for the peloton in the past. The stage (or stages, depending on how you look at it) would consist of an uphill timetrial in the AM and the final waltz into Milan in the afternoon. Racing twice in one day is not that uncommon in pro cycling, but during Grand Tours, due to the massive stresses of bike racing for three consecutive weeks, it’s something of a no-no. This year’s Giro is a particularly unsuitable place for it, say the riders, because its start in Beligum requires a rest day (or more accurately, a travel day, only four stages into the race.

My take on this business is that a split stage, every once in a while, even in a Grand Tour, is an ok thing. The combination of stages here, an uphill TT, with it’s short period of effort (around 40 minutes) and enormously lenient time cut (generally 33%) followed by the 25kph downhill processional into Milan, shouldn’t stetch the riders too far; at any rate, they’ve got not stage to worry about recovering for the next day. Plus, this is the Giro we’re talking about here. Not that it isn’t hard to race a bike for three back-to-back weeks, but it’s generally accepted that the Giro is a far more intellectual battle than either the Tour or Vuelta, and the event certainly has more than its fair share of piano days. To quote Bob Roll, “Nobody rides slow like Italians when the sun comes out.” If the riders approach this problem thoughtfully, and the viewers and race directors are willing to settle for some more relaxed riding at times, two stages in one day should be a welcome break for all, and a great way to end one of the most interesting Giri in years.

Speaking of piano days and Bernard Hinault, Transparency Internation, a worldwide anti-corruption group, has produced a statement on Integrity and Anti-Corruption in Sport. The document is widely-scoped and impressive, and appears to want to do against corruption what WADA is doing against doping. The document, however, does not provide any hard and fast definition of “corruption;” would they take offense to le Patron’s declaration that “there will be no attacks today, because the next stage is hard,” or would they be upset that everytime a break gets clear at the TdF, all the directors call each other up on cell phones, asking whether or not they should bring it back? Certainly, cycling is a sport that would not exist without collusion between riders, and sometimes even teams. It seems, too, that doping can be equally tricky to define. Just ask Unai Yus, who, you may remember, was booted by his team from the ’05 Vuelta without explanation. Well, turns out he was possesing HGH. Forunately for Yus, this does not count as a positive dope test, and he should be clear to race for Euskatel next season as scheduled.

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