Giro d’Italia Highlights: Final Weekend

The 2012 Giro d’Italia is over, and what a final weekend it was! Ryder Hesjedal became the first Canadian to ever win a Grand Tour, while also snagging the first overall Grand Tour win for Team Garmin-Barracuda. It was such an exciting final weekend that we had to corral the highlights here on our blog, just so we could enjoy the battle for the Maglia Rosa one more time.

First up was Stage 20, which included an ascent of the fearsome Mortirolo before a finishing climb up the punishing, and legendary, Stelvio. Aided by his trusty lieutenant Christian Vande Velde, Hesjedal powered a select group of GC favorites most of the way up the Stelvio in pursuit of the surprising Thomas De Gendt – who threatened to gain almost five minutes on the chasing pack of GC men. Hesjedal closed the gap to De Gendt in the final kilometers, but a cagey Joaquim Rodriguez sprinted away near the finish to gain a precious few seconds in his quest to keep the Maglia Rosa.

On the Giro’s final day, Hesjedal lined up for the final time trial 31 seconds down on Rodriguez – but in a display reminiscent of Greg LeMond beating Laurent Fignon in the final time trial of the 1989 Tour de France, Hesjedal powered his way through the time trial to best Rodriguez by a scant 16 seconds in the final tally.

What a race and what a finale to the season’s first Grand Tour – there was drama, a great storyline, and the always impressive Italian scenery. Here’s hoping that the competition for this summer’s Tour de France will be just as exciting!

2011 Giro d’Italia – Riding in the Vittoria neutral support car

Eric, one of the buyers here at Performance HQ, was lucky enough to fly to Italy last week to check out a few days of the Giro d’Italia, and he shot some amazing video footage that we’re sure you won’t  find anywhere else.  Eric was able to score a seat in one of the Vittoria neutral support cars during Stage 9, which ended high atop smoldering Mount Etna, and he was doubly lucky to be in the car that followed the leaders for the entire stage!

Eric was there, video camera in hand, to watch the breakaway, along with the mad dance of cars, motorcycles and fans that accompanied them as they led the way up the mountain.  And he also had a front-row seat as Alberto Contador launched the attack that would put him in the pink jersey at the end of day (the famed maglia rosa of the overall race leader).

So enjoy our behind-the-scenes view into a day in the life of a Grand Tour stage, as seen from inside the race:

2011 Giro d’Italia Preview

The 2011 Giro d’Italia, the first of the 3 Grand Tours of the cycling season, starts on Saturday.  Known for its unpredictability and excitement, not to mention the rabid tifosi, last year’s Giro will be a tough one to outdo.  Don’t remember the crashes, lead changes and climbing exploits that led to Ivan Basso’s victory of the final pink jersey last year? Then check out this race highlight reel to get caught up on what happened:

This year’s route promises more outstanding bike racing, with a route celebrating the Risorgimento, or unification of Italy in the 19th century.  This year’s Giro will roam all over Italy, in a wide-ranging route from the Alps all the way down to the slopes of Mount Etna on Sicily.

Many people are proclaiming this edition of the Giro as one of the toughest Grand Tours in history, and one look at the stage profiles bears out that assessment.  With 8 mountain stages on tap, including an uphill time trial, this is a Giro for the climbers (not that Tyler Farrar, Mark Cavendish and Alessandro Petacchi won’t battle it out in the sprints when they get the chance!).  Alberto Contador has said that this Giro would be the hardest 21-stage race of his life.

And yes, and we did say Alberto Contador; participating in his first Grand Tour since his infamous drug test during the Tour de France, Contador will be vying for his 6th Grand Tour title.  But he’s not the only one with a shot at the final maglia rosa in Milan this year.  Ivan Basso may have opted not to defend his title this year, but his young teammate Vincenzo Nibali (seen below in the pink jersey) will try to build on his triumph at the 2010 Vuelta a Espana, while Italian Michele Scarponi and former winner Denis Menchov will also be contenders for the overall (and don’t rule out Menchov’s Geox-TMC teammate and 2008 Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre).

But knowing the Giro, all we can be sure of is that the race will be filled with the twists, turns and surprises that make the Giro d’Italia so entertaining.  If you want to dress the part while watching the race, you can always pick up a pro jersey from Katusha, Vacansoleil or (a personal favorite) the always distinctive Lampre-ISD kit:

And you might as well pick up a pro-level helmet while you’re at it, like the sleek Lazer Helium or the brand new, and super-light, Giro Aeon:

Or you could just go all out and pick up a pro-level ride in honor of the Giro, such as the Fuji Altamira 3.0 road bike, or the race-tested Focus Izalco Team Replica road bike:

So are you excited for this year’s Giro d’Italia yet?  We sure are, and we hope to have so extra-special, behind-the-scenes footage and stories to share with you during the second week of the race!  Stay tuned for details!

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