Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The giro - the core and the beauty

There is something about the giro. For many years, my focus was solely on the tour and the classics.  The standard way of approaching the sport as a fan, I suppose. But as in-depth knowledge and interest increases, so does the horizon, right? The sport is constantly evolving, races started as a mean to sell newspapers now evolved into multi-million dollar arenas for business, brands and R&D. All rather neatly tied together in an eternal battle, organisers vs organisers, town vs. town and country vs. country. To the enjoyment for thousands of fans all over the world.
Many have written their reviews of the giro 2012, and probably way better than me so I felt a need to do something a little different, I wanted to explain why the giro has become dear to me.

Development on all sides
For many, being the little brother is a constant struggle, always struggling to gain the upper hand. For others, being that kind of brother is all good, being the "attacker". After all, choosing to set a new course is a lot easier with a small organisation than a big one. I don't know if or how the organizers behind the Giro, the RCS, felt during the years. Plus the fact that the RCS really are not a small organisation as a whole. Just take a look at some of the interests they have on this "wheel of fortune".
Wheel of fortune 

downloaded here

The giro organisers have set a new course. Those of you who know this blog have probably seen the interview I did with giro boss and twitter nice guy Michele Acquarone before he became giro general, as well as the one with marketing and communication manager for the giro, Marco Pansana. In these interviews we get to know more about the individuals working there and the ideas that formed into strategy for the RCS.

True to the core
For what is worth the giro hasn't changed much. From the outside that is. Still considered the second largest of the GTs, still taking place in Italy (mostly), and it features many of the climbs the race has given us epic memories from. So far so good. In business, this is called "true to the core". The giro has found its place so to speak. It is not the pinnacle of the sport, that is obviously the tour, but why pick a fight when there is plenty for both? 

As Acquarone tweeted earlier; "the giro is the toughest stage race in the world." How is that for a vision? I'm sure it will have an appeal to riders, not only the ones originating from Italy. It can tip both ways, as the RCS learned during and after  the 2011 edition of the race, which ended in Zomegnan's exit. The RCS claims to have found the balance this year, but still say the giro is "the toughest race in the world's most beautiful place."
As a sidenote I remember a conversation I had with the eminent photographer Jered Gruber during RVV. Knowing that Jered is deeply connected to G'bergen I asked what he thought about the route change this year. His response was something like this: "It's not that I disagree with the changes, it should change from time to time, but there are so many other beautiful places in Belgium!" This is one of the many challenges an organiser face, how let people (the TV viewers) see different parts of the country, while being true to its core?

Much have been said about the RCS' social media strategy, and I see no point in repeating my post from before. The basics is that they have made themselves available, both to me who has interviewed some of them, and to everyone else. Not only clever and by no doubt a strategic choice, both interviews and everything else they do related to media, but at least they are open about it.
Being able to navigate in the technological landscape of today will benefit the RCS, reaching out to fans and communicate with them will strengthen both the brand, build loyalty and keep the interests from fans without much hassle than a mobile phone. At least I have kept my interests in the giro and even wanting to learn more.

Seeing is believing
Another reason I like the giro because of the country. Being one of cycling's holy grails, Italy has been a home to not only champions but bike manufactures for decades. Some of the finest riders the world has seen origin from Italy, Coppi, Bartali, Binda and Moser to mention a few. Historical climbs and roads frame a race from a spectator point of view, bringing the Dolomites, Alps and Apennines to the TV. Breathtaking scenarios, spectacular descends. However, I truly believe the RCS can learn a lot from Jean-Maurice Ooghs, the gentleman responsible for the TV images from the tour. With 260 cameramen, 2 control rooms (one international), 4 helicopters, 5 motorbikes 1 aeroplane and 27 TV cameras the possibilities to get more out of the lenses then previous years should be there.

With the news today that RCS may be sharing tv rights money with teams, this economical aspect should have high focus. As the eminent INRNG once wrote, the majority of the viewers don't tune for the cycling but for the scenery.

The Dolomites

Photo by Rüdinger Kratz, downloaded here.

With as much as 2085 (2011 numbers) media representatives present, divided as 1021 accredited journalists, 433 photographers, 371 operators and 260 TV-radio operators, a big chunk of the effort needs to be to take care of those. The last thing an organiser wants to deal with angry and fed-up journos.

Culture, food art and fashion
These are some of the things I associate with Italy. These are matters I hope the giro is able to provide during the three weeks of racing. Because the giro, to me at least, is far more than just racing. Small clips from Italy's hidden treasures, with famous food, small mountain villages and white roads will without doubt boost my interest and enthusiasm to Italy as a place for my future vacation. With a slogan saying the world's most beautiful place, it sort of commits, doesn't it? Development in business says that those who are able to combine two or more specialities and use the synergy effects, will make it big. So that's next then, combining fashion, TV image rights, food, art and culture.

I have much respect for the organisers of the giro, not only because they have been available for me and every other cycling fan, but because of a mix of different things. They have managed to find their place which they seem to be standing comfortable in, being true to their core but still keeping a modern touch. A balanced giro with time bonuses in the beginning of the race will amp up the sprinters, giving a extra touch to the race. I'm hoping to be able to get to the opening, after all it takes place in Denmark. The giro might find it useful to really take advantage of the possibility to showcase the whole country. Displaying culture, art, geography, food and fashion needs to be taken seriously too.

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