The Giro vs The Tour ? Which one is more Grande ?

The Giro d'Italia vs The Tour de France, which one is better ? The debates continues into the new millenium.

The Giro vs The Tour, has been a long standing debate for many years.

I’d like to start this blog with this quote.
"The Tour is for fans of a rider. The Giro is for fans of the sport."

I have come to really understand that quote. I believe, in the past few years, the Tour has gone soft and is no longer as demanding as the Giro. The Giro has become a grand tour of more thrilling stages, more time trials and more mountain top finishes. I appreciate the diverse attempts by the Giro organizers to create a dramatic filled race right from the start. Case in point, the 2011 Giro began with a Team Time Trial. That's unheard of in France ?

Italy is by far a more beautiful country. Italy's backdrop of mountains, seacoast, vineyards, coastal villages , cathedrals, are more spectacular than that of France. I personally think Italy is the most beautiful country in the world. But that's just my personal bias. Stages taking the riders through quaint little towns and having them navigate through the narrow roads, and gaps, along the route is simply spectacular.

Italy have steeper more demanding mountain climbs. The Giro has twice the number of mountain stages and mountain top finishes this year than its 2006 edition. The Giro organizers for 2011, seemed hell bent on destroying the peloton.
Monte Zoncolan
Passo Mortirolo
Tre Cime
Passo Stelvio
The Passa Fedaia,
Colle delle Finestre

In my opinion, Italy has the most feared climb in all of Europe, the Monte Zoncolan. As well, if it was not for the death of a rider in 2011, a kamakaze descent of the Crotsis was tossed in for good measure as well. Again, another fine example of organizers trying to improve its spectacle. We always remember images of 1988 and the snow capped mountains where Andy Hampsten rode to victory. Again, I can’t remember ever seeing anything like that in the Tour ?

From the riders perspective:

better food - italian cuisine is better than french cuisine for cyclists
better and cleaner hotels - Riders remark about the hospitality better in Italy overall.

I'm actually quite tired of watching the first boring week of the tour. Its all flat sprinter stages. Tour viewers usually have to suffer 5-6 days of boring flat stages. Unlike the Giro which gives the sprinters only 2-3 days. By the time the Tour leads its riders to the Massif Central for their first taste of ‘proper’ climbing, in the same number of stages the Giro already puts four 16-20km climbs in the peloton’s way.

And then there is the Race of Truth. The Giro, however, won’t even do time trials without extra spice. The Tour places the first serious TT in between sprinter stages, a relatively safe tradition. But the Giro organizers, have got into a habit of sticking a mean TT hill-climb in between high mountain stages. Again, more hurt, more drama. Yet the tour is still the biggest race in the world, and Giro is still considered the "bridesmaid." ??? Despite ‘winning’ so many comparisons with the Tour, the Giro still remains on the second pedestal of the global podium when it comes to the “Greatest Race in the World”. The Tour still remains The Race all (non-Italian) pros want to shine in.

So what factors make the Tour bigger than the Giro ? I think the biggest factors are;

• Place on the calendar
• The Tour has a longer history of racing
• France has their trump card, a little town called Roubaix
• France borders cycling mad nations – Belgium, Spain, Switzerland, etc.
• Tour organization markets their tour and single one day classic races better.
• The UCI appears overly involved in the day to day running of the Tour.

The Tour is bigger than the Giro because of its place on the calendar. July vs May is a significant shift in work vs vacation for many Europeans. This does ultimately play a factor. So I must give kudos to the Tours’ marketing department for ensuring it stays in the “vacation month” and continues its large caravan throughout the entire month.

Much of the reason for the Giro being a “bridesmaid” was that in its formative years, the Giro was a parochial race. It was a local race for local people (and the Giro has never fully lost this feel). It started in 1909 and did not have a non-Italian winner until 1950 (and it only had 2 non-Italian podiums before then).

By contrast the Tour had 'national' teams from 1930. By 1950 it had had winners from Belgium, Luxembourg and Italy as well as podium finishers from Germany and Switzerland and KOMs from Spain. Even an Australian (Opperman) rode it in the 30s. As such its reputation and interest in it branched beyond its borders far sooner than the Giro.

I also think France borders Belgium which we all know Belgium is the land of cycling. As well, France is bordered by Spain, Italy, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, a few of these being true cycling mad countries, while Italy is mostly bordered by water.

When the Tour had started up in 1903, you already had a few established races, including Paris-Roubaix (1896), Paris Tours (1896), Bourdeaux-Paris (1891), Paris-Brussels (1893), L-B-L in Belgium (1892), were already established and had started to become yearly ran in 1900s.

However, with all of world renown status, the Tour continues to disappoint in my view.
I think the turning point for myself would be the 2007 Tour de France. I lost a lot of respect for the tour, during this time. I was disappointed in how the UCI “bullied” the Tour organizers over Michael Rasmussen. They should have held their ground and allowed him to continue. He should have won that tour.

I’ll still refer to the quote ;
"The Tour is for fans of a rider. The Giro is for fans of the sport."

So as we continue over a decade in the new millennium, the Giro continues to be by far, a more challenging route year in and year out.

But when it comes down to it, I think its Roubaix that makes the difference. The Giro doesn't have its own historical icon like France from which to draw from. In Italy, there is no one day classic that even comes to the history nor the mystique of Paris Roubaix.

So the debate goes on..

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