Giro d’Italia 2010: The Beginning of the End?

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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.

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2 thoughts on “Giro d’Italia 2010: The Beginning of the End?”

  1. The next big thing in bicycle cheating and sports in general will be things like the use of Human Growth Hormone, and gene therapy, where by in the off season athletes just make their bodies grow in the way that best suits their sport. It won’t be chemically detectable because it will use the athlete’s own body cells to change.

    after 40 years of doping, one round of “clean” riding will not change this sport. As long as there is big money to be made by wining, Athletes with encouragement from coaches and sponsors will do what it takes to win.

    Go watch “Bigger Faster Stronger” it’s a good documentary on the whole business.

  2. This Giro has been a delight to watch and provided scenes that we haven’t seen for years, maybe even decades; the top riders crossing the line on time trials and mountain top finishes in a state of near physical and emotional shutdown. These heroic sporting grimaces give me hope for cycling, clean riders riding at the edge of their physiological capacity. Basso won it, but there were moments where he exuded great discomfort, which the Basso of old never seemed to experience. I applaud Ivan for coming back and riding clean, teaming with an integrous coach, being transparent about his physiological levels and being willing to lose as a team leader or subject himself to the duties of a domestique. The only thing I wish is that Basso would have been the Landis and have been the one that came clean and divulge the actors and methods behind his doping antics.

    What next… well, I can do without the drama of the Tdf, especially in light of Landis’ accusations and the soon-to-be Armstrong v. Contador TdF build up. The only thing that might fuel my interest in the TdF is if I catch some news that Basso or Evans are in yellow… then I’m tuning in, otherwise interest will return with the Vuelta and culminate with Evans fighting to repeat as the Rainbow Jersey holder.

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