2013 Giro d'Italia Recap: Kellyisms, and a Contest...

Why not recap through the words of Sean Kelly. As a commentator and analyst for Eurosport,  Kelly, a veteran of twenty Grand Tours, brings a lifetime of race knowledge, so his insight given over the course of the race are especially revealing, in many ways. The short snippets of wit and wisdom are far from a complete picture of Kelly's commentary, they may not even be the best from any given day, but they are almost always good, with just the right mixture of humor and seriousness adding color to each stage.

The contest: Six of the quotes / paragraphs below contain missing elements (like a fill-in-the-blank question). The first person who can correctly fill in those blanks will win one of these nifty leather saddle bags. With a little research some of them may be do-able, others you will probably have to guess at. You have until Friday, 6:00pm local (Pacific Standard) time to get your answers in, either as a comment, or email. At that time the contest ends, and I will fill in the blanks for you. Good luck.

"Thirty seconds might have been a slightly erroneous number", as Ryder Hesjedal attacked before Stage 3's final climb, with the live footage showing him gaining a few seconds, clearly not the thirty seconds being reported. Even so, the stage clearly revealed a Ryder who was determined to defend his championship of the previous year. Unfortunately things would begin to slowly unravel for Hesjedal, and a week later he would withdraw from the race due to illness.

On the 4th Stage Sylvain Georges was shown talking into his radio during the final climb of the day. Georges was riding solo off the front at the time with a 0:45 advantage over his pursuers and Kelly, in jest, speculated that he was asking his team car, "Can I stop". Sylvain would be reeled in and finish in 84th place, 7:26 down on stage winner Enrico Battaglin. A few days later, Georges would be removed from the race, following a positive test for a banned substance.

"The BMC are controlling well on the rear at the moment", as the moto camera captures Taylor Phinney covering his face in mock embarrassment during Stage 6.

During the daily race coverage fans were able to text questions to Kelly for his response. One of these asked if he had ever needed to dismount and walk up a hill. Kelly answered, "Yes ... the Tour of Flanders ... I was in the race thirteen toimes [times, with Kelly's Irish brogue], and made it ... I think four." That more than anything reveals how brutal those Flemish bergs can be - succeeding without walking at least once on only four of thirteen attempts.

During a wet, slick Stage 7, Emanuele Sella slid out in a corner with about 25 km to the finish. With a bit of Irish humor, Kelly speculated that the slippery road may have been the mischievous play of "a drunk fairie". Sella would finish the stage in 34th.

Later during the 7th Stage, and while racing through the same town where the drunk fairie took down Sella, Arnault Jeannesson, slid out on a straight stretch of road. Even though this happens more than we may like to admit, it is always a bit surprising - "how did he manage that. On a dead straight section, down he goes." Jeannesson would pick himself up and finish in 8th on the stage, 1:07 behind winner Adam Hansen.

"Such a light-weight", speaking of Domenico Pozzovivo as he took up the chase of Rigoberto Uran on the slopes of Altopiano del Montasio, during Stage 10. Uran held on to win the stage, while Pozzovivo crossed the line in 7th, 0:31 down.

"He's going to have difficulty getting on to the wheel here", as Patrick Gretsch desperately attempts to grab the wheels of Ramunas Navardauskas and Daniel Oss, after the two had raced past him and opened a gap. Gretsch had shot away from a twenty rider break while descending from the category 2 Sella Ciampigotto. Ultimately Navardauskas and Oss bridged to Gretsch who managed to latch on for about five km before cracking. Navaardauskas and Oss finished the stage in 1st and 2nd, while Gretsch managed to eke out a respectable 17th, 4:20 behind.

"... the only one who didn't take a fall, so he's pressing his luck a little bit here", as Bert de Backer leads a break through the rain, with 33 km to go to the finish of Stage 12 at Treviso. Mark Cavendish pulled a third win out of his bag of tricks on yet another wet stage. de Backer was one of five riders who left the comfort of the peloton 9 km into the race, and held a gap of varying advantage until the final kilometer, when the sprinter's teams rounded them up. De Backer crossed under the finish banner in 31st spot - not bad considering the all-day effort.

During a discussion about the difficulty of organizing a chase in wet conditions while Bert de Backer and Co were racing through the rain on Stage 12, Kelly said "you don't know what their [other riders around you] qualities are like on the descents".

During Stage 15, on the slopes of the Col du Telegraphe, Sergio Luis Henao was one of a number of solo riders who attempted to break from the bunch in pursuit of a break away further up the road. When Henao moved clear, Kelly responded that "he could be the danger man [who] could really push on." On this day, though, it was for naught as Henao reached to snowy stage finish on the Col du Galibier in 29th spot, 2:04 behind stage victor, Giovanni Visconti. Just two days earlier, Henao's team leader, Bradley Wiggins, withdrew from the race, seeming to give Henao and compatriot, Rigoberto Uran, a little more lead to contest for stage wins.

A little further along into Stage 15, Kelly was more than a little surprised by the lack of initiative being taken by challengers sitting in the Maglia Rosa group. Clearly, he believed someone should have gone on the attack in an attempt to put race leader, Vincenzo Nibali under pressure, "when you get to four and a half kilometers, it's time to do something". But no, the main contenders still in the race (remember both Hesjedal and Wiggins had withdrawn by now) were content to mark the Pink Jersey wearer on this day. And snow began to fall in the Alps, on the Galibier.

During Stage 16, Kelly's colleague in the booth, noticed that the number on the back of Ramunas Navardauskas was flapping in the wind as he attacked off the front of the large breakaway group. The camera then switched to the rear of the group, at which point Kelly noted that Stefano Pirazzi could be seen "flapping on the rear", referencing that this was the familiar spot for the rider, noted more for his climbing ability than for his ability to go fast on the flats.

Soon after, and on the final climb of the stage, the category 3 Andrate, the camera catches Stefano Pirazzi blasting clear of the break, Kelly does right by Stefano, saying "... these sudden accelerations ... thats where he puts everybody in trouble, on these climbs". Returning to Navardauskas, there are questions in the booth as to why he did not do more attacking on the flats leading up to the Andrate; Kelly reasons that "it has just been so aggressive ... everybody's been softened up, as they say". And thus, no one is really in any condition to make that kind of an effort.

During the 17th Stage, thoughts turned to strategizing for the following day's individual mountain time trial, causing Kelly to remark "consistent all the way through, that's what you've got to be in the time trial".

The final climb of Stage 17, the category 3 Crosara, had the potential to prove decisive to the day's action. As the peloton approached the climb and its narrow roadway, Kelly noted "that was the reason there were a lot of elbows, a lot of pushing". As if fate were proving the point, the camera soon finds one rider running out of road, "and we see Igor Martinez having difficulty staying on the road", as he finds himself crowded off the pavement and into the dirt verge.

Vladimir Karpets has had some strong stage race showings in his career, and it is not unusual to see him battling for placings on any given day. So, when Kelly commented "is he still in the race?" as Karpets approached the line at the finish of the Stage 18 time trial, the implication was that the rider has not been as visible as normally expected. His finishing time, 3:02 slower than the stage winning time of Vincenzo Nibali, was good enough for 32nd on the day.

Stomachs can be fickle things. Sometimes what a rider puts in, when combined with a hard race effort, does not make for a good mix. As Fabio Andres Duarte charged to the line at the end of Stage 18, and left a little extra on the road, Kelly casually noted that it "... was the drink he had earlier, coming back up". Duarte's effort brought him the 13th fastest time.


After snow cancelled the mountainous Stage 19, which would have taken the riders over the Stelvio and Gavia Passes, there was one more opportunity for the challengers to knock Vincenzo Nibali from the throne - Stage 20, which had to be modified as well, due to the extreme weather conditions. For the second time in this Giro a stage finished in the snow; for the second time in this Giro Vincenzo Nibali proved to be the strongest when it counted most. "... the conditions are terrible, as you can see. It's like Paris-Nice in the beginning of March." No more sure confirmation could have been scripted for Nibali's mastery over the rest of the field in this year's Giro than the snow-obscured image of the Maglia Rosa, fist raised in victory, and no other rider in sight.

The Giro is over, done, and in the books now, but I am still trying to figure out what to make of this years race. I don't mean to take anything from the win of Vincenzo Nibali, he rode a good race, and it was an emphatic victory and, while certain individual stages had some edge to them, some suspense and drama, I thought the race overall was rather blah. The challenge against Nibali just didn't really materialize, especially after the withdrawl of Hesjedal and Wiggins early on. The weather seemed to be as big a story as the racing itself, and the continued spectre of positive tests for banned substances (Georges and Danilo DiLuca), certainly did not add any credibility. It is a shame really, I do believe Nibali is a worthy champion, it's just that once he got hold of the Maglia Rosa, he and the Astana team seemed perfectly able to control the race and any potential danger moves. Long live the Giro, but where's Tommy Voeckler when needed?