Once again the Giro d’Italia is on us, to be followed by the Tour de France in a few months. This year’s Giro is exciting because there is no firm favorite; the race is wide open.
Even in a race where there are favorites and the end result is somewhat of a foregone conclusion; on any given day an outsider can win a stage, sometimes in spectacular fashion like a solo break away.
The art of a solo breakaway win is often all about timing, choosing the right psychological moment to attack. Often this comes as a chasing group catches another group or an individual.
Everyone in that chasing group gives a sigh of relief and eases up after many miles of chasing at flat out speeds.
At that precise moment someone else attacks and everyone goes, “Oh no, not again.” There is often hesitation as the riders wait for someone else to take the initiative and chase, and in that moment of hesitation a gap opens up.
Whether the solo break is successful depends on things like, how far it is to the finish, or is the chasing group organized. However, the deciding factor often is the shear strength and courage of the man out in front, on his own.
My reason for outlining such great performances that can happen on any given day is to point out that fifty years from now history will remember the top riders in the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France, but these lesser riders not so much.
Yet without such riders there would be no sport of cycle racing, there would be no Grand Tours. Out of the 150 or so riders who make up the field of the Giro or TDF, only ten or so are in with a chance of winning.
The rest are the team members who work tirelessly for those who will win, all the way down to the domestiques and water carriers. Among these are some really good riders who are capable of pulling off a spectacular performance on any given day.
The same in any amateur club race held throughout the season, there will be maybe five or maybe ten riders who will be in with a chance to win, and the rest make up the field.
Some are young riders who will be the champions of the future; some are past champions. Some are those who will never aspire to greatness but enjoy the challenge of just taking part. But without them there would be no race.
Then there are those who never race, but just ride for the joy of it, or commute to work on a bike each day. Without them and the money they spend on bikes and equipment there would be no bicycle industry, and therefore no cycle racing.
In fifty years, history may not remember all the riders who on a certain day performed above their standing, and it will certainly not remember today’s average Joe on a bike, but without either of these there would be no cycle racing; no Giro d’Italia or Tour de France.
And without these theaters for the riders to perform in, there would be no great champions for history to remember.