As with any Grand Tour, there has been a host of tech stories from on the ground during the first 10 days of this year’s Giro d’Italia.
Even before the race began, fans were eagerly anticipating EF Education-Nippo’s chanegout kit – a now annual occurrence by virtue of their usual pink threads clashing with the race leader’s jersey. But many would argue that Israel Start-Up Nation overshadowed the EF kit with a classy looking changeout kit of their own, much to the delight of their Italian wine sponsor Vini Fantini.
As the racing got underway, Filippo Ganna took to the startline aboard an all-new, all-blue Pinarello; his second custom bike for his second Giro d’Italia in seven months. Giaccomo Nizzolo went one better, though, with the unveiling of his second custom bike in six weeks. It appears to pay to be champion of both Italy and Europe simultaneously.
We saw a host of tech highlights in the opening time trial, mainly comprising watt-saving hacks and new equipment in the pursuit of free speed. Although ‘free’ is far from the truth when you consider the overshoes worn by Alex Dowsett cost £600 per pair.
Let’s take a look at all the other highlights we’ve found in the peloton during the ten stages of racing.
The maglia rosa has changed hands four times in ten days. Starting with Ganna after his monstrous TT effort, it soon went to Alessandro De Marchi when the road pointed up, then Attila Valter when the road pointed up some more, and then Egan Bernal when they hit the stage 9 gravel finish.
Even more changeable has been the maglia ciclamino – the cyclamen-coloured points jersey – which has had five different keepers, for a total of six changes so far.
After the time trial, Edoardo Affini kept it safe for the actual competition leader Ganna. Then when the sprinters did their thing, Tim Merlier took the first honours, before Mr Second Place Nizzolo took it off him. Next up, Ewan won his second stage, took the jersey, and then abandoned citing knee pain, all in less than 24 hours. That handed the jersey to Merlier once again, before Bora Hansgrohe did what Bora Hansgrohe do, ripping the race apart dropping Merlier, Nizzolo and others for Peter Sagan, who duly outsprinted whoever was left, taking the jersey in the process.
It’s not uncommon for teams to supply custom kit to their classification leaders, but the 2021 Giro d’Italia has taken it to a new level with almost every classification leader getting some level of colour-matching. It’s clear that more and more teams are arriving at Grand Tours prepared for one of their riders to lead a classification.
We just wonder what happens to all the pink helmets, sunglasses, mitts and bikes of teams who don’t have quite as big an impact on the race as they’d hoped.
Nizzolo’s COVID certificate
When Giacomo Nizzolo sprinted to another* second place, cycling spectators the world over spent a moment wondering what on earth was pinned to his helmet. Had a piece of paper inadvertently become stuck to the Italian’s head? Was it the dispatch note from buying the helmet at Wiggle?
In reality, Nizzolo had cheekily created a copy of an Italian COVID-19 travel certificate on the front of his helmet. The certificate states that his reason for travel is “winning stages”, and that he is “knowing of the criminal consequences in the case of false statement to public officials.”
*Nizzolo has finished 2nd on 11 occasions in a Giro d’Italia stage but has never won a stage.
Fifty shades of grey… socks
Many pro cyclists have a strangely unwavering affinity for white socks. No matter the conditions, some seemingly believe that the only acceptable colour for a shoe-sock combo is white on white.
However, if ever there was a case for black socks, it was stage 6, where Remco Evenepoel, Alexander Vlasov, Bauke Mollema and countless others stuck with their tried and tested white, only to see the weather turn them into a disappointing shade of grey.
The stage was likely the final outing for many a pair, because as our own Laura Weislo put it, no amount of Oxiclean is bringing those back.
Interesting tech finds
Grand Tours are always a hotbed of new and interesting tech tidbits, and the Giro d’Italia is no different. Whether it’s custom helmets, brand new bikes, or prototype saddles, the lap of Italy has seen it all.
Dan Martin’s got some custom shoes, Alberto Bettiol won’t let us forget about that time he won the Tour of Flanders, and Evenepoel succeeds where Froome failed to make those Oakley Kato sunglasses look cool.
And of course, no tech gallery would be complete without a picture of George Bennett’s custom shoes, which get updated every five minutes courtesy of his partner Caitlin Fielder’s shoe-designing abilities.
Bennett himself is a rolling tech gallery at this race, sporting a new Cervelo R5, as-yet-unreleased Shimano wheels and his custom New Zealand champion’s jersey.
Remembering Wouter Weylandt
To finish on a more poignant note, on the 10th anniversary of Wouter Weylandt’s death, stage 2 was a day of remembrance.
The occasion saw an huge 108 race number placed on the start line and the stage was capped off with a classy ‘W’ hand celebration by stage winner Tim Merlier.
Trek Segafredo, meanwhile, added subtle but meaningful stickers onto the top tube of their Trek Emonda race bikes. The 108 being his race number, which out of respect has never been used since. Rest in peace WW.