Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Bike fitting - what is possible?

Nowadays everyone wants carbon, preferably the same brand as the professional riders use in the peloton. Many seems to forget there exists several other materials to use, and that feel is way more important than weight.

A popular trend the last years is customised bikes. Many do not have a clear understanding just how much that can be achieved. How much can you do with steel, aluminium, carbon or titanium? If the proper measurements of a rider is taken, talks about the use, ride style and so forth have been done, you can have the dream bike made exclusively for you. Having a bespoke bike will be way better than a "fresh-off-the-belt-bike" in a shop. Naturally the prize differs a bit, depending on shop, what material you choose, wheels and of course the components. It is even possible to mix different materials as well, having a steel frame and a carbon fork for comfort.

Take a look at this video from @Aleksikoskinen showing just how many different possibilities Condor have to fit a custom bike to a customer:

Bike Fitting - Condor Cycles from Condor Cycles on Vimeo.

Here you will find a couple of brands who will make a bespoke bike to you. Feel free to add shops/brands in the comment field too, if you have experiences with bike building or bikefitting please add those too.

http://www.crisptitanium.com/ (with a lovely intro video)

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Cavendish - should he be Norwegian?

Whithersoever you throw it, it will stand

Nowadays, Norway has not got many UCI points. We had more last year with especially riders Hushovd and Boasson Hagen bringing them, so far this year there have been little luck. That is why I'm exploring different methods to get some more points, the Worlds in Copenhagen is not far away.
I've landed on Mark Cavendish. Not only because he is a good rider who is known to win a race or two, he is from Isle of Man. It's not like he is from the US or France, two nations with high ambitions on a global scale, he is from a small island between England and Northern Ireland. Vikings from Norway "assisted" the people on Isle of Man in the 9th century and we stayed for a while. Vikings also established the "Tynwald", the oldest continuous parliament in the world. Luckily, the Manx people didn't rose up against us, but the Scots. Nowadays only 80000 people resides on Isle of Man. There must be some way we can reach an agreement on this Cav issue?

The Manx missile
You either hate him or you love him, nothing in between. Mark Cavendish has the superpower of a fearless sprinter, he has won a spectacular amount of bike races. His tongue is sometimes quicker than his legs, some people can find it inappropriate, others find it colourful. To me he is the equivalent of the Norwegian skier Petter Northug, both fast and world champions, both known to add an extra edge to their sport, saying things some people don't like.
Paris 2009 - a sight we are familiar with

Photo by Bas Czerwinski

Always a person with stamina and mental strength, Cav started riding BMX and competed against people riding on MTBs. He got dropped constantly until he got himself a MTB as well, he started beating the other the very next day.

I remember Cav best from his fights on and off the bike with Hushovd, starting in the tour in 2008. I really didn't like him back then. Over the years my respect for him has grown, as a rider and as a person. Last years performance in the tour showed his character in many ways, having been under such intense pressure from everywhere, media, team and himself, he wins stage 5 after having struggled most of the season. His behaviour on the podium was a great moment. Notice after finishing interviews with Cav, he always talks about the team and gives them credit. Battling others in 60-70 km/h on the road is demanding, being able to get the proper adrenaline and aggression up is one thing. To be captain and leader of a team like HTC is another. Take into the equation his age is well, that is some responsibility for a man 25 years old. Make sure to see him be right up there on the flat stages of the giro.

So Mark, here is to you and your birthday on the 21st of May. And if you decide to stop by the Norwegian embassy to apply for a citizenship, we'll not stop you - your UCI-points will be appreciated.

Hypocrisy in the sport - those who were left out in the cold

Those happy days...

Photo by AFP, downloaded here.

Today I woke up to the news that George Hincapie allegedly has talked to the grand jury, exposing that Armstrong did use banned substances. The story from Velonews can be read here.

Now, it doesn't take a Nobel prize winner to guess what today's story will be about, both cycling fans, bloggers, analysts and every media outlet keep hammering their keyboards at a frenetic pace all day, keeping everybody up to speed.

My perspective will be a bit different. Not that I don't want to discuss if/when/how/what Armstrong doped, but there are others who can write better than me about that subject. Instead, I want to comment on those who deliberately were left outside in the cold. Not only by Armstrong, but by the cycling industry as a whole.

The good, the bad and the ugly
Over the years Armstrong's reputation as the patron got bigger. In addition to ride everybody off his back wheel, he drew attention to the sport back in the US. Road cycling became very popular, not that it was unpopular before, but Armstrong really brought cycling back in spotlight. He was the American hero, surviving cancer returning to the sport taking seven consecutive Tour de France wins. His market value is one of the greatest in cycling, due to his own personal history and his achievements on the bike.

Everybody who mattered, or who wanted to be something in the sport could be seen wag their tale and went along. Armstrong was known to be harsh on people not supporting him 100%, so it was important to stay on his side. What these people didn't know, is that by doing so, one automatically puts Armstrong in that position and actually reinforce his position, whether he had it or not.

What happened to those who crossed Armstrong? Where did they go?

More importantly, who out there supported Armstrong openly in putting people out in the cold or even worse; those good people who did nothing but witnessed it all take place over two decades.

There are quite a few out there now, people in powerful positions who deliberately closed their eyes when others were thrown out. For what reason? How do these people see themselves today, knowing what they "know" now? How do others see them now?

Tough questions, but are they fair? Everything is easy in retrospect, we all know second guessing is an art. Perhaps is it a lesson about human nature, that we need to stand firm in our believes on what is right or wrong. And to appreciate second opinions for what they are and what they could be. For the likes of
Frankie and Betsy Andreu, Emma O'Reilly, Philippo Simeoni, David Walsh and Paul Kimmage, time has gone by, giving at least some of them a kind of compensation. Not as much as it could have been, and maybe not as much as they deserve.
British cycling fans, bloggers and analysts have been critical to Armstrong and co for many years, giving credit to Walsh and Kimmage. Those stuck in the US, like Emma O'Reilly and the Andreus, have probably suffered more. I'm not addressing who of the parties lying here, just to make that clear.

Armstrong and Andreu -  Motorola Team

Perhaps I shouldn't mentioned those above, there are probably others out there who do not have a voice today. If you know any, please feel free to comment on that.

Cycling needs to get it all out in the light. This is the chance to give all of us who believe in a clean sport a helping hand, address the problems - move on. Only then can cycling regain trust amongst them who need it the most; the fans.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

OK to quit mid-giro?

V for victory - not quitting

Today Mark Cavendish and Allesandro Petacchi quit the giro for this year. Cavendish said this to the press after today's stage:
"Yes, I'm going home this evening. The last week has no sprints. I'm a pro, I need to recover for the Tour de France."

Many reacted to Cav's statement, some amused while others believe it is sad that riders only do the stages they want or stages they have a decent chance of winning. One perspective is that the Giro is indeed a stage race, indicating that going only for a few stage wins is not good for the sport. Some stated on twitter that they would leave their job half-time tomorrow, if the workload proved to be too much.

From the organiser's point of view, they want the big shots coming. To have Cav, Petacchi, Contador, Nibali et al present, draw audience and TV coverage to the race, translated to income for the race organisers. The Giro celebrates the climbing goats, the last week, as Cav's mentioning, are not flat.

A part of every Grand Tour is to have a variety of stages. Not only to give riders the time to recuperate properly before the hard mountain-top finishes, but also to attract world class sprinters. A variety in terrain is also good the regions the race is passing through, for tourist purposes. And I don't believe any was surprised by Cav leaving, it was scheduled long time ago.

This doesn't make it right to those who believe it is wrong, I know that.

To me, watching Cav and other sprinters struggle up extreme mountains over three weeks is not much fun. It doesn't even make me feel better as a cyclist either, because Cav vs me up the Gavia would make me loose ten out of ten times. The last week is all about the GC riders anyway. Who cares if Cav finish 87th or 176th place in the Giro? Still, it his job as Cav is saying in this video. Is he doing his by quitting?

Those riders going all out on the climbs or the riders not ment to climb like mountain goats, will have trouble recuperating in time for the Tour. And that is Cav's primary target this year.

I have heard many say that cycling is a metaphor for life, sometimes it is hard and uphill, sometimes easy and downhill. 

Suffering, never give up. The words people associate cycling with are many, this is what makes it difficult to accept Cav et al quitting the Giro.

Perhaps is this a sign that the Giro is too hard? Perhaps does this mean that teams should play a bigger role than before and that team effort should be rewarded more somehow. More money to teams who finish the race as many riders as they were at the beginning?

Still, both HTC and Lampre have riders capable of finishing the Giro within GC top seven. If they didn't, I would be worried for the sport too.  

What do you think?

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Contador riding the giro - correct decision or who to blame?

Alberto Contador - again in pink after an impressive ride
Today we saw Alberto Contador powering to the stage victory in Sicily, really putting the pressure on the other favourites. Many have critized his presence in the giro, among them Angelo Zomegnan, the race director of Giro d'Italia. After his win today, many commented on twitter that he shouldn't be there and referred to his doping investigation.

I have also been very negative towards his participation in this year's giro, today he demolished the other favourites in a powerful way, what if he wins and CAS find him guilty? My concern is mainly the sport. Cycling does not need another episode of a rider who takes the glory from someone else, imagine being on that second place if Contador doped.

Who to blame?
Let me start by saying I don't know if Contador doped. I can say much of his background, his previous teams, trainers and culture, but no evidence comes from that. However, there are evidence that he doped, clenbuterol was found in his urine, that is what I have to relate to. What is the right thing to do? From Contador's perspective, if he doped or not, by not attending the giro he automatically has admitted he doped. 

From Riis' perspective, he has the best GT rider the recent years in his team, he has obligations to the sponsors, to the commercial actors in the game. He's running a business, and business as of now, is ran best with his price rider in the spotlight. What if Contador get a get out of jail card by CAS? By not using Contador, Riis could have lost money and sponsors lost valueable time on air. 

There are many potensially losers in this. The biggest loser is the sport's reputation and fans.  It should not be Riis' or Contador's decision, not even Zomegnan to make. It should be mandatory by the UCI laws that riders under investigation should not race until a final verdict is made. Even bigshot names like Contador, the stakes are too high. This is why sport needs governance. There will always be opionions, always secondguesses. I have mentioned many would-could-ifs I have named here in this post, the outcome is sensitive and should be treated that way. I really don't think Contador should have been allowed to race. Just in case. I don't know if he doped, but facts per se is per se and I'd hate to see someone lose their well deserved glory. 

So in my opinion, the UCI need to step up and govern, in a matter who will bring the best conditions possible for the riders, teams, fans and organizers.

The uncertainty is something this sport does not need.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Wristbands - in memory of Wouter Weylandt at ATOC

Alex Dowsett wristband - from his twitter

The American company, Road ID, who make ID wristbands, has given personal wristbands to the peloton of Amgen Tour of California in memory of Wouter Weylandt, who lost his life in a tragic accident during the giro. This is a good thing to do and will probably be an object many will use in the years to come. Weylandt was a popular rider in the peloton, the riders all know eachother and know the small margins that is out there on the road.
Wristbands are known to be popular in cycling, Livestrong wristbands have long been a familiar sight in the peloton. All riders in the World Tour is rumoured to get a wristband, not only those competing in ATOC.

Road ID wristbands is ment to tell a story in case of an accident where the owner can't speak his/herself. They may have the owners name, telephone number to the rider and a designated point of contact, bloodtype and other important data. Wristband is not the only solution either, they have ankleband and ID for the shoe pouch. Not only for cyclists here, runners and triathletes co use one of these as well.

Many cycling fans have asked whether these wristbands will be available to the others as well. As of yet, this has not been the case. This could be a nice thing to do, establish a charity or organisation in cooperation with his family. The money from the sale of these wristbands could be given to a purpose they decide.

Safety first.

RIP Wouter Weylandt.

Friday, 13 May 2011

The UCI list - just a list

Today the French newspaper L’Equipe present an article that says the UCI had a list over riders who had unusual high values before the tour in 2010.

The reporter behind the story is the famous Damien Ressiot, the French journo who had the famous headlines back in 2005 stating: Le mesonge Armstrong – Armstrong’s lie. According to journalist Anders K. Christiansen, Ressiot proved some good investigation skills back then, even getting Lance Armstrong’s approval for getting Armstrong’s permission to see his number code used by the UCI in dpoing tests, by saying he wanted to help Armstrong get rid of rumours.

What does the list mean
Some have raised questions regarding the fact that the UCI has a list, others don’t mind. My personal opinion is that the list need to be shared with WADA, unless no point in havig one. The L’Equipe article says AMA (WADA-AMA) agents have had access to the list. Upon giving riders a number between 0-10, where 10 is the highest, based on their biological passport and the values they tested just before the start of the tour.
The good and at the same time sad news is that the list doesn’t necessarily mean much. All those involved with sport, at least endurance sport, knows that the variations within blood level is high among the athletes. The list is merely an overview over different riders’ bio passport on the 1st of July 2010. 

Some have criticized the biological passport and says that there are circumstances where the hemoglobin level is high, both naturally and because of an illness.
The questions I’m left with are many, and the UCI have some explaining to do. Some of my questions are:

  • Is there such a list today? Rumours in the cycling world have indicated this and the work of Ressiot further adds fuel to that fire.
  • Who is responsible for the evaluation and analysis?
  • Is it WADA-AMA or the UCI who has the responsibility for putting that list together?
  • Who decides which rider to be tested?
  • Do the UCI cooperate with the different nations’ drug agencies to test riders with suspicious values in hemoglobin and hematocrit?

Friday, 6 May 2011

The Giro - expect gruppettos

The Dolomites

I am not going to give a complete guide to the giro, that is rather late for that now. The guys at Pavé are doing a better job at it. Instead I'll give a quick shout at some of the things to expect.

Gruppettos- a necessity 
Expect Gruppettos to be everywhere, with this race, Angelo Zomegnan has really found the most brutal climbs. There is no Cipollini to scream "gruppetto!" to form one this year, this time it will happen automatically due to the mountains. Riders hoping to reach the finish line within the time limit, some of them hope the group is so big, or carrying some big-shot names so that the organizers won't kick them out of the race. In France the ASO has a rule that says that if 20% or more are outside the limit, the organizers might drop the time limit on that particular stage. 

Photo by Robert Strahincjic

Many call the gruppetto for the "laughing group". For those who find themselves in one, it is not. Sprinters like Mark Cavendish find themselves in a gruppetto or autobus often. Some say they try to save some energy, others that the they are trying not to use as much energy. Before you start attacking me and say "what's the difference", maybe it is just semantics? Mark Cavendish once said this: 

"I never have easy days. If there are mountains, I need to suffer like a f..g dog to get to the finish witin the time cut. People think we are lazy, that we depend on the team and only accelerate the last meters. I get to the room completely dead every night. When all the climbers rejoice that the stage is flat and they can recover, I need to amp myself up. I can never relax. Ever." 
From "le Métier".   

Expect cities dressed in pink. Expect pink food, expect the Gazzetta dello Sport taking full advantage of the race which they in many ways are entitled to. 

Expect the riders who really want to bring the Trophy back home to be up there, all of the time. Despite that many hold Contador the favourite, everybody can be beaten. Who thought Cancellara could be after riding people off his wheel in the E3? A strong team tactic can make it happen. At the same time, if a leader don't have the legs one day in the hard montains - it is over.    

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Michele Acquarone - Managing Director RCS - about the Giro

On Saturday the 94th Giro d'Italia begins. The majestic race with long traditions and the characteristic, if not legendary, maglia rosa, will bring riders across 17 Italian regions. This year's race is considered the hardest race in many years, maybe ever. Riders are nervous, some even scared. Everything is primed to be an experience for life, for everyone involved, from riders, fans and spectators to organisers.

I got in touch with Michele Acquarone, Managing Director of the RCS, to get his view on the Giro and cycling in general. Here is the interview:
Michele Acquarone

Photo downloaded from RCS official homepage, here.

PDR: Michele Acquarone, you are the Managing Director at RCS, how long have you been working in RCS and what made you move into the RCS in the first place? 

MA: I have been working for the RCS MediaGroup for over 10 years. For the first 8 years of my career I was in charge of marketing for the “la Gazzetta dello Sport” and thus until September 2008 when I was entrusted with the management of RCS Sport. 
If I wished to take stock of the last two and a half years, I would say that the 3 most rewarding opportunities have been: 1. the chance to work in the sport business, a very different market compared to the traditional media. 2. the international approach, after many years at the Gazzetta I felt the need to go beyond the Italian boundary. 3. the chase for leadership, the Gazzetta is the unquestioned leader [media-wise] in Italy, while the RCS Sport products’ portfolio offers large margins of growth and the challenge [working there] is very exciting.

PDR: In addition to hosting cycling events, the RCS also organize different sports, but I guess since you're from Sanremo cycling is dear to you? What do you like best by working at the RCS?

MA: I am a great sport’s fan. Watching a match with Messi and Ronaldo or observing children playing in a courtyard gives me the same thrilling emotion. Tennis and football have always been my favorites. Tyson made me discover boxing, Tomba did the same with skiing and I am a basketball fan thanks to Jordan. Some years ago I began to enjoy the sense of effort brought by the running world.

As far as cycling is concerned, I have a very special relationship with this sport. I was born in Sanremo in 1971. My oldest memory brings me back to a Merckx victory, I was a very young boy at that time and I remember how much I enjoyed my hometown stopping all activities for a full day, the tribunes being set up in the Via Roma, the helicopters flying around and thousands of people struggling for hours in order not to loose their first row place. I was a little boy and everything seemed so big to me. That was real fun. Today I truly appreciate to be part of that world which became more and more global in the course of the years.

PDR: Nothing like working with the things one love, right? 
The RCS organize many sport events in many genres (cycling, basketball, running etc). You also organize cycling races like the Milan-Sanremo, Strade Bianche, Lombardia to mention a few, nowadays I guess the focus is towards the Giro. When did you start planning towards the Giro?

MA: As you certainly know, the prize for the brave rider who wins the Giro is the “Trofeo Senza Fine” (the never-ending trophy). Well, planning and organising the Giro is [also] a never-ending task: as the 94th Giro d’Italia Grand Opening will take place in a few days from Turin, we are already preparing in detail the 2012 edition that will start from Denmark, the most northern spot a major stage race has ever started from.

At the same time we are considering the candidates for La Grande Partenza and l’Apoteosi Finale for the coming years 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. As far as the drawing up of the route is concerned, Zomegnan and his working team are doing their best to proceed one year in advance.

At the end of the 2011 Giro during the summer, we shall put the final touch to all details regarding the 2012 Giro in order to be fully ready for the presentation due to take place on October 22nd.

This regards the technical and organization part. As far as marketing is concerned our action takes place also when the event is closer at hand. Actually some ideas have been finalized only last week.

Trofeo Senza Fine

Downloaded here.

PDR: The last week you say? Well, I guess many details need attention right to the start of the Giro. 
France has the Tour, Italy has the Giro. For readers not originating from Italiy, can you explain how big is the Giro in Italy and what it mean to people living here?

MA: The Giro is the most popular event in Italy by far in terms of on-site attendance. The route will be 3500 km long, as we will cross 17 regions out of 20, over 60 provinces out of 110 and more than 550 cities and villages.
In every place the race starts from, arrives or rides across people lining up along the roads to acclaim both international champions and local young riders. All through the Giro d’Italia on-site spectators will be more than 10 million. Could you imagine how many sports grounds will be necessary to hold all those people in?

The history of the Giro d’Italia is more than 100 years old. People is waiting for the event which is experienced as a national heritage. For the Italian people the Giro announces the opening of the summer season and the beginning of a wonderful holidays period as school time is finishing and beaches are getting more and more crowded. It is not fortuitous that for 15 years now Estathè is the sponsor of the Maglia Rosa.

The Giro is also a global event. Just to give you a hint, our potential TV audience (home reach) for the next Giro is 350 million people in 167 Countries all over the World.

PDR: That is an incredible amount of spectators, I'll give you that! Zomegnan is responsible for organizing the Giro, and that is a mighty task with many different aspects to consider. On what basis did he choose the route? 

MA: Our goal is to make “the Toughest Race in World’s Most Beautiful Place” and Angelo Zomegnan is the very creator of each edition of the Giro. His experience in designing the race route is like the inspired trait of a modern Michelangelo sketching a new masterpiece. As I have already mentioned, planning the Giro is a non-stop activity and Angelo knows exactly the perfect balance between tough climbs and speed stages, long rides across beautiful Italian landscapes and spectacular arrivals in the largest cities. Besides that experience, very often we give to the Giro a main trait. In 2011, for instance, the Giro d’Italia has been appointed “official celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the national unification” and the route has been designed accordingly to touch a number of places that hold a significant historical heritage.

PDR: He managed to get the climbing stages alright, I hear riders are afraid of them.. From my perspective, the Giro has been gaining on the Tour this recent years when it comes to followers and reputation, both among fans as well as riders. As well as growing, you have also been earning money. How have you planned this strategically?

MA: I fully agree. In my opinion a success story has to be built, year after year, having clearly in mind a strategic vision of what has to be done. The Giro d’Italia presents all the required characteristics in order to feature a big event with a worldwide appeal and it is our duty to make the most out of this opportunity. Old cycling tradition. Great enthusiasm. Important tourist accommodation facilities. A morphologically speaking perfect landscape for the construction of a successful stage race: the Alps, the Dolomites, the Apennines, the volcanoes. A territory which runs from sea level to an altitude of 2,000 meters. Our small and big cities are true masterpieces able to artistically  emphasize the passage of a cycling race. Let’s only mention Rome, Florence, Venice, true paradises on earth.

Our entire strategy can be expressed into the following five points:
Think Global: our reference territory is the “world”; Think Video: sport has a strong emotional content, sport means passion and the video is the best way to convey passion and whatever we are doing has to be fascinating on the screen; Think Brand: there are not anymore “events”, the event has to be changed into a brand able to extend its life all year-round by using the most available platforms; Think Customer: the customer is always our central thought and our success is the result of the highest degree of satisfaction reached by each customer. The customer is whoever feeds our brands, through his enthusiasm, his time, his investments (racers’ chasers, sponsors, media, agencies and all the right holders who entrust our group with their products); Think Community: there are everyday fewer barriers between producer and consumer and this is particularly true in the sport world where passion is an important factor and the consumers are striving for involvement. The community is our most valuable possession and if we wish our brands to be successful we have to take care that each and every our move is “shared”. Thanks to the web the communication with the community is nowadays global and immediate and such a wonderful opportunity has to be taken advantage of.

Business aspects of the Giro d’Italia are key of course, both for RCS Sport and for the local communities that host the race. The total earnings of satellite industries of the Giro is € 500 million. ROI [Return on investment] for hosting cities and towns stretches between 3.65% and 10.25%. Last year’s Grande Partenza in Amsterdam and the Netherlands (3 stages) accounted for € 7.4 million to the local community, with 49% of the amount coming from the hospitality industry, 27% from daily visitors and 24% from partners. Plus depending on the entrepreneurial capabilities of each local government, we reckoned that the Giro d’Italia leaves behind the so called “legacy” of the event which consists in medium and long term returns for local communities that get in touch with the race.

PDR: Recently there have been many Italian cyclists, including Visconti, under investigation by Benedetto Roberti and the police for allegedly having a link to Dr Ferrari. How, if any, will this affect the Giro?

MA: The Giro has been through much worse crisis. Currently cycling is the most monitored sport in the world and during the Giro d’Italia the tests are growing in an exponential way. More than 200 competitors registered to the Giro are coming from all over the world and both athletes and teams are perfectly aware of the rules of the game. He who cheats pays the fee. At this point teams and athletes are conscious that the risk of damaging their good name is too serious for daring incidents. 

It is my opinion that sanctions are still too soft and I am not swearing when pronouncing the word radiation in the heavy doping cases. If you cheat you are out. Forever.

PDR: Well that is a view I can relate to! What will, in your opinion, make the Giro a success?

MA: It is the ability of the Giro to be so close to the people that builds up its success every year. Everybody can feel part of the sport event, part of the entertainment, everybody can enjoy the natural beauty and historical heritage of our Country, either on the road or through the TV. Moreover, thanks to the amazing communications opportunities of the social media, cycling fans can now let their voice be heard, can provide opinions and share ideas with a community of 50,000 followers of the Giro d’Italia in 5 continents.
Acquarone and Basso 2010

Photo from Michele Acquarone's twitter

I wish to thank Michele Acquarone so much for his time, I really appreciate him taking the time to answer my questions right before the Giro starts.  

Michele Acquarone twitter profile you'll find here to follow him.
RCS Sport you'll find here.

Monday, 2 May 2011

The Giro and cigarettes

This years Giro is just 4 small days away. What a race it will be, this Giro is the tough, steep and brutal. What more can we wish for? At least from a spectator's view, everything look great. Rumours claim that some of the riders actually are afraid of the mountains and this years route.

The organizers of the Giro d'Italia, RCS Sport, have partnered with the Fondazione Veronesi for the Giro this year. They have established a project called La tappa della salute, or "stages for health" if you like. This is nothing new by the way, the partnership was disclosed in April. The project is to shed some light on the dangers of cigaret smoke, will emphasize the importance of correct dietary education and course educate the masses of the benefit from cycling.
The foundation will use the Giro as a stand to clearly address the problem and will do so every day in close cooperation with RCS and the Gazetta dello Sport.

Of the 60 million inhabitants, some 14 million Italians smoke. Italy was the 4th country in the world to introduce a smoking ban in public places in 2005. That will be bars, clubs, discotheques and cafés, all the places the Italians smoke. Immediately the number of heart attacks in Italy dropped significantly. 11.2% decrease in heart attacks in the population from the age of 35 to 64 years old. Cigarette consumption was down some 8% in 2006. This is great news but the country as a whole do not necessarily agree. There is a huge difference how people living in the north of Italy follow the ban to a much greater degree than those residing in the south.

Hopefully the campaign will make some smokers more aware of the dangers related to smoking. I know the riders won't smoke, those mountains do not accept those who do.