The 2010 Giro d’Italia may be history, with Ivan Basso reclaiming the pink jersey for Italy after a two-year interruption. But its legacy will live on throughout the season and into the future of professional cycling.
This year’s edition was a complete wild card from the start nearly to the finish. Day after day unforeseen circumstances, from wind and crashes in the anticipated placid flats of the opening Netherlands stages to the rain-soaked breakaway that nearly won the race for unheralded Spaniard David Arroyo, conspired to make this one of the most thrilling Grand Tours in history.
The Giro raised the bar the season’s coming races, most of all the 2010 Tour de France. We can only hope this year’s Tour avoids the mind-numbing predictability and one-team dominance that plagued last year’s race and was blessedly absent from this Giro. And indeed, all signs point toward a more wide-open Tour.
So many Giro memories will stick with us:
So many jersey changes day in and day out, completely uncharacteristic of a Grand Tour.
Basso and Aussie Cadel Evans duking it out in the mountains.
Arroyo’s daring descent down the backside of Passo del Mortirolo, showing how riding down can be nearly as strategic as going up.
The emergence of 25-year-old Vincenzo Nibali to the elite ranks of pro cycling.
The elegance and drama of the Italian Alps, capped by Gavia Pass.
Basso’s and Nibali’s Team Liquigas as a potential superpower, especially in the upcoming Tour de France.
Perhaps the biggest legacy of the 2010 Giro, though, could be its benchmark as the beginning of the post-doping era in pro cycling. Starting with Basso, riders emphasized in this year’s Giro that they were riding clean, and wanted to use their example to help erase the past, move cycling forward and restore the glory of one of humankind’s great competitive pursuits.
The verdict is still not in on this as a clean Giro. No on-course suspensions were made — a significant first step given the Giro’s drug-soaked past — but testing will continue in coming months and even years as the biological passport screening procedures do their work.
And we don’t mean to overstate the Giro’s impact even if it does prove to be dope-free. Substance abuse unfortunately has made its way down into the amateur ranks, permeating not only cycling but all sports almost from the time a youngster shows promise while still pursuing an education. The institutionalized heritage of doping has to stop not just in cycling but throughout sports culture.
In all respects, the Giro will be a tough act to follow. But if a post-doping era is emerging, it could not have chosen a better place to begin its campaign than the 2010 Giro.