Just when you didn't think it was going to happen, the elastic broke today at the Giro d'Italia. For the previous four days, when it looked like a breakaway might actually win the stage, the peloton came storming in to snatch the glory and cast the escapees back into obscurity. While everyone likes a field sprint and watching the likes of Cavendish and Bennati duking it out at 40+mph is thrilling, it is nice to see the boys who did the hard work all day long reap some rewards.
However, on Thursday's 140-mile stage the 'no-hopers' finally got their day in the sun(literally). Not only did 11 riders escape the pack, but in the end, their margin of over eleven minutes is a clear sign that the fight was not in the peloton. In some ways this is a bit surprising since this was supposed to be a 160-mile stage, but the riders mounted a protest and the organizers shortened the stage by 18 miles. It has been a tough Giro for the teams. The riders have been subject to over 300 miles of stage transfers, this occurs when the start for the following day's stage is in a different location from the previous days' stage finish.
In one very unfortunate incident, the day the teams transferred, by ferry, from the island of Sicily to mainland Italy, there was a four hour wait to catch the ferry. Usually, in these types of circumstances, the race organizers rent their own ferry so the transfer can be accomplished quickly. Inexplicably, this year,the teams had to wait their turn to take the public ferry and by the time most of the them reached their hotels it was almost midnight. Such a late hour of arrival makes it very difficult to get a meal and the critical post-stage massage and still get enough sleep for the next day.
So, the riders protested and fortunately, the organizers listened and agrees to make things a bit easier for the teams. After all, this is a three-week race and any extra effort now will have to be accounted for later on in the event. Personally, I want to see great racing and sometimes that means that the breakaway succeeds. However, the competition and the course should provide the difficulties, not the logistics of getting to and from the stage starts and finishes.