Edition 19 April 2019, by John Mahnen
In case you haven’t noticed or for that matter don’t read newspapers or watch television, the cycling season is well and truly upon us and the cycling fanatics in The Netherlands are reveling in the spring classics. These early season morsels serve as the Aperitivo and Hors-d’oeuvre for the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France. Those ‘Grand Tours’ enthrall the fans in low lands during their three-week sojourns in to the Italian and French country sides. It seems the whole country is following the riders and teams churn through the arduous kilometers chasing the iconic pink jersey on the way to podium kisses. The Giro holds a special place in the hearts and minds of the Dutch cycling faithful as fellow countryman Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) is fancied as the favorite for this year’s edition. He has enjoyed recent success having taken fi rst and second over the past two years respectively. Dumoulin, who hails from the southern province of Limburg, has done for Dutch cycling what Max Verstappen has for the Formula One in this country and all eyes will be on him when the Giro gets underway from Bologna on the 11th of May.
This year’s Giro would seem to favor Dumoulin. It features three time-trials which is his specialty. Even the profi les of the time-trials play into his hand and while he is an accomplished climber, the 2019 Giro will not be a particularly diffi cult uphill battle. His performances to date in this new season are promising with very respectable fi nishes in the Tour of UAE and Tirreno- Adriatico already notched. In what may be a misstep in the run-up to the Giro, teammate Wilco Kelderman took a spill in the Tour of Catalonia leaving him with a broken collar bone and a fractured vertebrae. Kelderman was seen as the rider who would play a major role in shepherding Dumoulin to the podium in Verona. Giro fever in the Paesi Bassi actually predates Dumoulin. Part of the resurgence of interest in the Italian tour were the forays of the Giro on Dutch soil dating back to a start from Groningen in 2002. In 2010, the Grande Partenza took place in Amsterdam while the Dutch province of Gelderland played host in 2016 – this time with the name ‘Big Start’ as apparently the organizers at RCS in Milan thought that no one outside of Italy could understand the Italian language! Despite the ill-advised name, the weather gods truly outdid themselves and bathed Gelderland in some of the best cycling weather this country has ever seen and the event turned into a three-day celebrazione of the Italian way of cyling. One of the lasting legacies of the 2016 Giro start is a cyclo-sportive or tour ride called Gran Fondo Rosa. The GF Rosa is now one the most popular rides in the Netherlands and offers participants to the opportunity to traverse parts of the same course ridden by the pros during the 2016 event. The cycling village in Oosterbeek offers a fantastic way to prepare spiritually for the Giro with plenty of Italian food and entertainment on offer. This year, the organizers are putting together yet another Giro-themed event on the last day of the race in Italy. Mission Pink, as it is called, will be a combination of a cycling tour ride and public viewing all coming from the Markt in Arnhem. Details on both events can be found at GFRosa.nl
For those not inclined to climb on a Bianchi, Colnago or Pinarello and pedal some 100 kilometers, just watching the Giro is a perfectly suitable way to get into the spirit of the race. Here in the Netherlands, Eurosport has the exclusive broadcast rights. For those still in fi rst gear with the Dutch language, the TV audio can be switched to the Eurosport UK and their expert commentary. Our Italian readers will of course be fi nding their way to RAI Sport and who can blame them with all the fantastic side programming closed out each day by Alessandra De Stefano who brings a serious female presence in the race which serves to counter the images of women parading in tight pink jerseys at other times. Wherever you watch, you’ll be happy to know that a pizza and a perhaps a Birra Peroni are the perfect accompaniments. Last but not least, nothing gets you more involved than a fl utter. Cycling bets are becoming more popular with more of the major bookmakers providing betting lines on the bigger events. Dumoulin will more than likely go off as the favorite but will pushed on the roads and the odds by the likes of Simon Yates (Mitchelton- Scott), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Egan Bernal (Team Sky). So you don’t have to speak Italian or even care that much about cycling to enjoy the Giro. Rest assured, if Tom Dumoulin is wearing the Maglia Rosa on and holding the Trofea Senza Fine, it will be time for a big festa in Paesi Bassi! See, you’re already speaking a bit of Italian…Ciao!