Sitting back as a fan my heart is in my mouth regardless the outcome of any bike race.
The Giro was always a favourite of mine as a pro and now a favourite to watch. Every stage is played out with an unpredictability that only the Italians seem to be able to manage and I have been loving it.
I am unashamedly parochial when it comes to being an Aussie and Aussie cyclists in the first week of the 2015 Giro presented as a fantastic show. First for OGE who took the bit between their teeth and raced for pink while Richie Porte positioned perfectly for GC sitting perfectly waiting to we hoped, pounce. The Aussies have unfortunately faded extremely fast and now OGE are retiring riders even faster.
I have posted a few comments about this and given the limited potential for results for all riders a team should seek the best possible outcome for the team. That said there is absolutely no dignity, or there wasn’t ever, in retirement from a race, a DNF. The legends that are created in the great tours or any other event are created when competitors finish and sometimes win under great duress.
At the beginning of a riders season, they and the team map out goals for the season and beyond targeting races, podiums, tours and even for some riders making it onto the team’s A-list in the selection process for the big races. Teams have an expectation that riders remain focused on selected individual goals as well as the team’s overall agendas.
I am now looking at a Giro where the Aussies are pulling the pin due to poor performances, or races gone pear shaped or even worse, to focus on another event. I have harked on about this before but until the UCI allow event owners to not invite Pro tour teams, who regularly field teams that are sub standard to a race like the Giro this will not change. There is corruption in the old “invitation system” but I would guarantee the “out-to-impress” wild-card teams are racing their hearts out and will finish the Giro no matter the physical cost.
While some riders adjust goals due to performance and race outcomes, it is racing after all, and anything can happen, many now just simply abandon on team instructions without a thought to the race in question to refocus on the next event.
As the OGE riders move on to the next race and depart the Giro with in my view limited dignity and an element of deja vu my thoughts turn to Richie Porte and his current struggles. Richie hasn’t faulted in his preparation having regular visits to the podium since January. On form he earnt his chance. One mistake, and like so many watching my pain was palpable and much has been said about a wheel change.
During my own career I had many such set backs but over a long season there were more opportunities to reposition. Behind one tour de France victory Cadel suffered many years of frustration and disappointment.
These days pro-riders race half as many races/days so intensifying the pressure on an eventual race day. During my career abandonment was never a consideration, injury or complete exhaustion the only reason to do so. Now decisions to abandon are common if it is considered there are no further opportunities for rider to win a stage. Simon is out, focusing on greener pastures, Michael Matthews will shortly do the same. I wonder how Chaves feels now after taking on GC responsibilities from the outset. Lonely, disappointed, abandoned but perhaps the lone hero for OGE.
Back to Richie and despite huge upheaval for himself during this race my thoughts are with him now. To hold his head up and keep racing during such turmoil takes incredible dignity, to loose more time due to a crash and maintain composure as the race slips away while maintaining the control and respect he needs from his teammates a huge undertaking.
Hero’s emerge for the fans and in this Giro I am still hoping Richie will be one, as an Aussie and because he needs to believe in himself. Contador’s legend grows and Aru’s status as a huge star is rapidly rising as he doggedly fights for every wheel.