The Secret Pro on the Giro: ‘There were days when you’d just despair’
With the Giro d’Italia over we thought it was the perfect time to catch up with our favourite anonymous insider, The Secret Pro. While this year’s Giro was a throughly entertaining spectacle from the outside, The Secret Pro writes that, within the peloton, the main feeling was one of frustration and despair.
Quick question: who remembers the good old days of the 1990s and 2000s, a time of fast racing when guys were achieving superhuman feats? Sure it was spectacular to watch but imagine being in that peloton and looking at guys you knew you couldn’t touch because they were, well, superhuman. Do you think we could ever return to those times again?
Anyway, what about this year’s Giro, eh? Some amazing performances by some of the guys in the peloton, don’t you think?
For me, I can gladly say I’m happy to see the back of my first Grand Tour of the season. Getting home after three weeks of racing is usually a relief for the legs and fatigued body but this time it was also relief from the stress of being cheesed off at the race organisation, other riders blatantly showing how “amazing” they are, and a lack of consistent rule-keeping.
If you followed the Giro you might have thought it looked like an exciting and fireworks-infused race on most of the stages. There were multiple stages where breakaways managed to stay away to take the win, or riders performed like they never have before. Certain teams just took the race by the horns and turned it into a display of who had the biggest balls. Simply put, this year’s Giro was the hardest race I (and pretty much all of my fellow riders) have ever done. It was as if every stage was a single-day race.
I can’t think of any race in my career where I’ve come away from it and sworn never to go back. But I did just that after this year’s Giro. Having done several editions of the Giro it’s a race I would now sooner skip next year. I’ll try and talk the team bosses into letting me aim for the Tour of California instead. It’d make sense too as it’s a perfect platform for our team’s title sponsor.
I can only remember one stage where there was time to sit back and chat a bit. It was on from the gun every other day. The mountain stages were made hard and controlled by some savage riding from the big teams. And once riders noticed that breaks were staying away to win, there was an all-out gun fight on the other stages just to get in the the breakaway.
There were days when you’d just despair. I know myself, my teammates and many of the guys in the peloton aren’t crap riders — we’d trained, eaten and prepared for the race 100%; we’d had the best form it’s humanly possible to achieve. And then we came up against guys who simply took the piss.
The general consensus in the peloton was that you may as well have just finished the stage in the bunch because no matter what you did, it wasn’t going to make an ounce of difference on the GC or even on the stage. It wasn’t just frustrating, it was bloody insulting.
When guys who, last season — or even earlier this season — were in your group or at your level take off up the road or put out that extra 30-40 watts? They may as well be laughing in your face.
Sure, the peloton is now at a level where you have to be on the top of your game due to the lack of money in the sport, the diminishing quantity of teams and the need to fight for your place in a team. But some of the performances are very questionable.
Inconsistency from the race judges when it comes to rules and regulations takes its toll on the head too. Look at poor Richie Porte and the saga of him taking a wheel from Simon Clarke and getting a two-minute penalty. You have to wonder if the same thing would have happened if it had been two Italian riders. Keep it consistent, please.
The Tour de France isn’t like this at all. The race is a lot better organised, not just in rule-keeping but with the way it pans out. It’s still a crazy-hard race but at least you have a pattern and a flow to the race that you know how to tackle on some level.
It’s not just the organisers and style of racing that have me swear I don’t want to return to Italy to race the Giro in future. Certain so-called ‘journalists’ left me despairing as well. I’d love them to take a look at themselves when asking specific questions, or thinking that they know what we are thinking. To say to our faces that the race is boring or that it’s not hard enough is just insulting. If I’d had the energy after the stages they said this I’d have swung at them.
It’s not just the mountains, the length of the stages or the way certain teams control the race that can be a cause for concern — there’s also the fact the organisers seem to make some stages dangerous just in the hope that it will make for great television. The last stage had a tight, twisting circuit with shitty road surfaces, cobbles and tram tracks. It’s another reason to call the race a joke. I mean, come on — we are all seriously tired and with stuff like this you’re just asking for trouble. Too bad they wanted an ‘exciting’ final stage to attract good TV viewing figures.
Astana had a great race didn’t they? Six riders in the top 25, and with guys that I’ve not seen that high up on a GC list before. They sure rode out of their skins! I’ve said it before but it needs stating again — especially after how they dominated the Giro in the mountains — but it amazes me (and many of the other guys in the peloton) that Astana still has a WorldTour Licence.
It’s beyond puzzling that they are still running as a team. What on earth is going on in the heads of the people at the UCI when it comes to agreeing to let Astana keep their licence? It’s a question that I’m sure I’ll never know the answer to.
I would love to have seen Astana made an example of. If the UCI had revoked their licence it would have shown a solid stance and been a massive step in the right direction. Instead we see Astana dominate the Giro.
Anyway enough of me moaning about Astana and the UCI. What about the whole FIFA scandal – seems to be a lot of corruption in that sport doesn’t there?
Contador did a good job of taking the pink home; his team was solid with a few scrappy exclusions. But he rode well, showed class on a few stages and then showed he couldn’t do it day after day.
Away from the Giro the big news this week has been the hour record. Wiggins is simply a machine and on top of that he’s one smart cookie. He manages to sell himself like no-one else in the sport — he’s hit the mainstream media in the UK and abroad perfectly. He can comfortably sit at home in his new Wiggo kit safe in the knowledge that he can milk this for a bit longer.
He’s done it all: Olympics, the Tour and now the hour record. You have to take your cap off to him. I remember racing against him as a junior and knowing back then he was going places. This was just before British Cycling had the piles of lottery-funded cash they do now to cultivate elite-level riders. He was a talent waiting to go places.
On the UCI-related talk again, Kreuziger’s case being dropped by all parties is an odd one. He’s not riding like he used to at all, but it’s impossible to say what’s going on. Maybe all the stress of being in the public eye for a while has taken its toll? It’ll be interesting to follow his form now.
On to a lighter note: Adam Hansen did it again, adding yet another Grand Tour to his ever-growing tally of back-to-back attempts. He’s a guy that clearly loves racing his bike, and he’s an absolute nut-job for attempting such a feat.
Who’d want to do ride 11 Grand Tours in a row?! Massive respect to him though. He’s smart enough to not have to turn a pedal too — the guy could earn a lot more money than he is as a rider but clearly he races because he wants to. Pure class. I wonder when he’ll say enough is enough?
Next up for me is the build-up races before the Tour de France. Compared to the Giro, the Tour should hopefully be a relatively stressless race. Fingers crossed.