The centenary edition of the Giro d'Italia has been described as "monotonous" by the race's record stage winner, Mario Cipollini, who, in an interview in Saturday's L'Equipe, argued that "the riders lack personality. They all seem programmed by technology, earpieces."
The 42-time Giro stage winner bemoaned the lack of action in the fight for the maglia rosa so far, criticising most of the GC riders for being afraid to take their chances.
On the climb up Mt. Etna on stage 4, "For the first time, I saw the leaders going up a climb with their feet up," he said. “Nibali attacked using the slipstream of a moto. To test himself? For the fans? I didn't really understand it."
The 50-year-old unfavourably compared today's riders to those of an earlier generation. "On Etna, there was wind. And…? Is that a reason? Do you think Pantani or Hinault would have stayed in the wheels because it was windy? I fear we may have to wait until the Stelvio for everything to unfold because even the time trials won't see many differences between Quintana, Nibali, Pinot, or Thomas.
"By waiting, Quintana is rolling calmly to his safe haven [the third week], and when he goes on the attack, he won't worry about whether it's hot or cold, or if it's windy. He'll drop everyone and win the Giro smoking his pipe."
The only other rider Cipollini praised was also a Colombian, Fernando Gaviria of Quick Step Floors. The sprinter's support team is, he says, "a reserve squad," but they were the team "who, at Cagliari, split everything up, which goes to show the poverty of the peloton.
"Gaviria himself is classy, elegant, with a fine physique and a prodigious change of pace. And I know that he climbs quite well. For me he's the photocopy of Sagan…but better."
As for the role of technology, which has seen Velon providing live data from riders at the race, Cipollini has little time for it.
"We know everything about their watts, their heart rates, but of what interest? That doesn't tell us anything about them. If we knew that a rider cannot produce more than 450 watts, then yes, that would be interesting to see on a screen that's he's reached his limit, but then again this is just data, useless gadgets that imitate Formula 1 and can only interest people who know nothing about cycling."
Cipollini rode from 1989 until 2005, with a short return to cycling in 2008. He was known as much for his flamboyant personality as for his win count.