From Belfast to Trieste through the lens of Tim De Waele
The first Grand Tour of the 2014 season is now behind us, but we can't stop looking back and reveling in all the exciting moments of the Giro d'Italia. From the opening three stages in Northern Ireland and Ireland, where the spectacular green landscapes only served to accentuate the pink that was everywhere. The rain couldn't dampen the enthusiasm of the fans. Orica-GreenEdge led the way by winning the first stage and holding the maglia rosa for the first seven stages before their luck began to slowly unravel.
The return to Italy was met with more rain, and the slick roads led to the only really dull stage of the race, when the peloton called a go-slow to avoid crashing. Even so, once they got to racing the final sprint was marred by a crash in the final bend. It was the beginning of Nacer Bouhanni's time to shine, as the Frenchman tallied up three wins in the second week.
The rain also gave the first bit of controversy for the race: on a shower-slicked roundabout, most of the peloton went down behind the pace making of the BMC team, and Cadel Evans rode on leaving his GC rivals in the dust. Amazingly, Michael Matthews was able to hang on through the final ascent to Montecassino, but his time in pink ended soon after.
With the sprinters left well behind on the stage to Montecopiolo, the jersey passed along to Evans, but Rigoberto Uran was his shadow. Unable to gain time on the Omega Pharma man, and ceded his maglia rosa in the stage 12 time trial.
That previous day, Adriano Malori (Movistar) was on his way to becoming the first internet meme of the race: a photo of him riding with a mud-coated, shredded team kit on to the finish after a crash in stage 11 went viral after being paired with an image of a melodramatic footballer feigning injury to draw a penalty on the opposing team. "Pretends he is injured" it said of the footballer. "Pretends he is OK", it said of Malori.
The drama came to a climax on stage 16, which would crest the highest altitudes of the race in weather that made roads barely passable. Crews worked day and night to clear snow from the pavement, but the freezing temperatures and fog, sleet, snow and rain the riders encountered on the Gavia and Stelvio passes raised objections from riders and directors alike.
The misunderstandings around the communications regarding the Stelvio descent - was it neutralized? was it not? - only made matters worse, as Nairo Quintana sailed away to the maglia rosa.
The polemics flew for days, but once the race headed to Cima Grappa and the Zoncolan, it became very clear that the time Quintana might have gained on that descent was far exceeded by the time he took heading uphill, and in the end he was crowned a worthy champion in Trieste, much to the delight of the entirety of Colombia.
Enjoy the full gallery here.
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