Velominati Super Prestige: Giro d’Italia

Bugno leads the 1990 Giro

In the 1990 Giro, a relatively unknown cyclist named Gianni Bugno lit the cycling world on fire by winning the first stage, thereby taking the Maglia Rossa. That wasn’t so surprising in itself; what was surprising was that the little bugger managed to hold the jersey all the way to Milan, a feat previously only accomplished by Binda and Merckx postwar, and prewar legend Costante Girardengo.

This all happened in the age before smartphones and social media; while these days a stealth strike on the World’s Most Wanted Dude gets live-tweeted, in 1990 it took until well after I knew Greg LeMond had won the Tour de France before I found out that Bugno had won the Giro. Reading about the feat in Winning magazine, Bugno instantly became one of my heros and went on to cast himself into a bronze statue of Rad by being one of the few riders able to challenge Indurain in the following years. (He also possessed the mental frailty that seems to be common among my favorite riders.  There’s something Shakespearean about heros with flaws that I simply can’t resist.)

The Giro d’Italia is just prestigious enough to be the maker of champions. It’s isn’t made up of a downgraded field like the Vuelta, but it also ins’t as popular as the Tour where only the best riders on the best teams seem to stand a chance. Every Giro produces a revelation that goes onto great things; that’s one of the key reasons this is my favorite Grand Tour: the field is strong enough to have serious contenders, but weak enough to let an outsider play. It’s perfect.

Aside from a well-balanced field, the geography of Italy lends itself to a better three week race than do France or Spain. Many European companies are defined by natural borders such as mountains or water, which generally means the mountains and great bodies of water lie at the borders with plains in between. (Or, as is the case with the Netherlands, beneath.) Italy is unique in that it is narrow and has mountainous terrain in nearly every region. Whereas the first week(s) of the Tour and Vuelta feature mostly flat stages suited for the sprinters and little else, the Giro’s first week generally contains several mountaintop finishes. The difficulty of a typical Giro’s first week means that riders who ride strongly there typically fade towards the end, while riders who were weak on the first climbs may come on strong as the race closes down.  The result is a tight race from start to finish with regular changes in leadership. Except in 1990. And whatever years those other three guys who did what Gianni did.

This year’s Giro will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy by making strong men cry. Forty major climbs, and 7 mountain top finishes, one of which involves climbing Mount Etna twice. (Welcome to Sicily, assholes. You get to ride up the most active volcano on Earth twice.) I have it on the excellent authority of a man down the pub that Contador is stocking up on extra drugs even as I write this in an attempt to quiet the rattle of his skinny little bones in his spanish boots.

With that we kick off the best Grand Tour of the year, and the first test of our Grand Tour VSP Software.  The other VSP editions have been a piece of cake. Grand Tours include free “swapping of the picks” logic whenever a rider in a contestent’s pick list drops out. We have rest day swaps for 2 or 4 points each, depending on which rest day it is. Our system is supposed to handle all of this smoothly and seamlessly. We’ll see.

Read the scoring guidelines, work out your strategy, dope up on clairvoyance drugs (alcohol) and chuck your picks up. As usual, the winner of this VSP edition will earn an “Obey the Rules” bumper sticker and all reader’s points qualify towards the final prize of the free personalized Velominati Shop Apron. If you are inclined to enter, simply post your predictions for the top five placings in the designated area above the posts section, bearing in mind that entry/modification of picks closes at 5am Pacific time on the day of the race. You are eligible to swap picks at no penalty for your picked riders who drop out; rest day picks each come at a 2 point penalty for the first rest day, 4 points each for the second.

Good luck.

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786 Replies to “Velominati Super Prestige: Giro d’Italia”

  1. You gotta admit, when you look past the dude wearing it, the Maglia Rosa ensemble right now(pink jersey/helmet/oakleys/gloves coupled with black shorts, regular bike, white shoes and socks) looks fucking pro. Way better than an uber-pink everything rolling along.

  2. @Marko
    Totally. Bjarne’s influence? Fab and andy wore black with their leader’s jerseys last year eh? Lets hope (CAS somehow allowing) he keeps it up should he lead the Tour, rather than looking like a really tanned banana like he usually does.

  3. @CJ
    There’s the hint of another Lexicon entry there somewhere: “Rotting Banana – a douchebag in the maillot jaune who underscores his douche status by dressing entirely in yellow”.

  4. Totally confused on how the scoring works. I substituted 2 riders on first rest day, riders only, not finish positions. I assumed that would be 4 points overall, but I’ve lost 9 and my rider standings are all negative. This is too complicated.

  5. @sprider

    riders only, not finish positions

    Not sure what you mean by that; all we’re doing is predicting finishing positions. It appears, though, that what has happened is that on the second rest day, you switched email addresses, which means your picks were considered late entries, all taking a two-point penalty. Your other email address has the right scoring. Unless there are two Spriders.

  6. Scarponi -5, Rodriguez -6 and Kreuziger -2. I get Kreuziger’s score but buggered if I understand the others…maybe I’ve got it all Ron?

  7. Maybe we should each treat our VSP points a bit like our bank balance – quite how it is what it is is at best a mystery and frequently wrong, it is usually depressingly low, but whatever there is is nice to have and every now and again you get a nice surprise when there’s a little more there than you thought. And the best bit is that, unlike the bank balance, it can’t be overdrawn.

  8. @G’phant
    Sorry, Frank – on re-reading I see that I implied (inadvertently) that the VSP points are frequently wrong. Not what I was trying to say. Perhaps my point could be better expressed as “C’mon, lads – it’s a shop apron”. (I would add “let’s all just get a grip on ourselves”, but then JiPM would link to some further icky page from Livestrong and I’d feel sick again…)

  9. @Oli

    Scarponi -5, Rodriguez -6 and Kreuziger -2. I get Kreuziger’s score but buggered if I understand the others…maybe I’ve got it all Ron?

    These are all good questions – and I’ll reiterate that I’d love any feedback on revising the layout so it makes more sense. I’ll be making revisions to it fairly soon – hopefully this week, so if someone has any ideas I’ll look at that, otherwise I’ll just steam ahead and make it Dutch. (Not the language – Awesome.)

    For you, Oli, we’re looking at this – I hope you don’t mind me breaking down your score for Merckx and Country to see:

    Scarponi: 1 point for getting him in the top five, but in the wrong place. You have him in third place, and you made changes to third place on the first rest day for two points as well as on the second rest day for 4. That’s a total of 6 penalty points, giving you 1 – 6 = -5.

    J-Rod has the same scenario, except he’s not in the top five, so no points. 0 – 6 = -6.

    Kreutziger: he’s also not in the top five and you only changed him in the first rest day: 2 penalty points with no points cuz he ain’t in the top five.

    Hope that helps. I think at the minimum, I might just add a link that explains the scoring, or break down the math somehow on the screen. I’ll also add something that shows who your rider is mapped to.

    Would it make sense if that information was provided via a popup when you hover over the rider and score? When you hover over the rider’s name, it would show the rider we mapped it to, and with the score, you’d see the math that made it up?

    By the way, I love fact that Ron has become our punching bag for anyone questioning their score.

  10. @il ciclista medio

    Well when you’re relativity new to cycling and don’t have much to offer in the way knowledge of historic riders, etc. at least you can try and entertain folks with witty quips and quick Photoshop hacks.

    @frank

    Frank, I think it would be interesting to know what exactly has caused my score to fluctuate by almost 15 points between days, because the scoring system for the VSP is rather complex. I’m sure other people would like to see it as well.

    On the other hand, I understand this is all for fun, and you’re doing this during your own free time so I almost don’t care if the time is spent to make it more clear or not.

    Maybe the easiest way would be a page (perhaps when you log into your Velominati account), where you can see a running tally of your score day-by-day, that way you can kind of figure out the math yourself – “oh, this day I got 5 pts because of Contador, and this day I lost 3 pts because of J. Rod, etc.”

    I’m not a programmer, so I’m not really sure what a truly elegant and easy-to-implement solution would be, and I’m not sure it would be worth the time. But that’s your call.

  11. Thanks for the explanation, Frank. I guess it’s just that the penalties are difficult to come back from.

  12. @all
    Ok, I overhauled the appearance of the VSP scoring. You may have to hit reload or clear your browser cache in order for this to lay out correctly, but here’s the new layout, so have a look and give me your feedback.

    Click the little arrow next to “Race Results” to see the results, plus the maximum possible value you’d get for correctly naming a place. Click the arrow next to each of your picks to see the rider we mapped them to, plus your score, along with a detail on the value and penalties accrued.

    The default view

    And the view when I’ve expanded the Results and one of my picks:

  13. @Oli

    Thanks for the explanation, Frank. I guess it’s just that the penalties are difficult to come back from.

    Yeah, that’s certainly the case. It emphasizes that the advantage goes to the contestant who can predict it correctly at the start of the event, and rest-day swaps are really only worth making if you will gain more points than you lose. There’s definitely some strategery involved.

  14. @frank
    Mate, that’s a great effort. When do you find the time for all of this? I am beginning to suspect that Seattle has a reliable supply of high quality amphetamines, and that we’ll need to keep buying V-gear so you can afford to keep your supplier happy. But at least that’s old-skool doping, not any of this modern blood-boosting nonsense. Thanks for all the hard work.

  15. In the interests of fairness, I propose that “Ron”-ing be struck from the records and substituted by the apposite phrase “Oli”-ing.

    Sorry to create all that extra work when it’s clear that I am just lacking basic comprehension skills.

  16. @Oli
    Not at all. We’ll await further feedback before declaring victory, but it’s only through feedback/questions that we can improve the system. So the sites better for it. Thanks.

  17. G’phant:
    @frank
    Mate, that’s a great effort. When do you find the time for all of this? I am beginning to suspect that Seattle has a reliable supply of high quality amphetamines, and that we’ll need to keep buying V-gear so you can afford to keep your supplier happy. But at least that’s old-skool doping, not any of this modern blood-boosting nonsense. Thanks for all the hard work.

    Seattle’s amphetamine scene isn’t extraordinary, but it does do good coffee. It also does some terrific green bud, but I don’t see that helping Fränk’s superhuman energy at improving this site.

    At the end of the day, though, I’m surprised he isn’t just invoking Rule V more. Twenty seconds of thought resolves most of the queries. I’d encourage some kind of penalty for inquiring about scores if they turn out to be correct.

  18. Steampunk: It also does some terrific green bud, but I don’t see that helping Fränk’s superhuman energy at improving this site.

    …though it might, perhaps, enhance the “appetite”…

  19. @frank
    I like it, props as always for the amount of work you put in on this. FWIW and in case you are interested how it is appearing to users, my window opened with the “Race Results” drop down closed, and the individual rider drop downs open.

  20. Steampunk:

    At the end of the day, though, I’m surprised he isn’t just invoking Rule V more. Twenty seconds of thought resolves most of the queries. I’d encourage some kind of penalty for inquiring about scores if they turn out to be correct.

    I’m starting to think that maybe Frank intentionally designed it to be complex, so no one can truly “win”. A Kobayashi Maru scenario, if you will.

  21. Nate :
    @frank I like it, props as always for the amount of work you put in on this. FWIW and in case you are interested how it is appearing to users, my window opened with the “Race Results” drop down closed, and the individual rider drop downs open.

    +1, though I am still waiting on my winning lottery ticket, flight to Italy, and getting into the top five solely through riding the remaining time trial into dead last place to play all sorts of merry hell with the scoring.

  22. @Steampunk

    but I don’t see that helping Fränk’s superhuman energy

    Ironically, the umlaut that you placed on the “a” there actually makes the “a” into the long sound, which is the opposite of how one pronounces my name. So Fränk Schleck is actually “Frank” like you pronounce it in English, whereas my name is “Frahnk” how you would pronounce it in Dutch/German/French/Italian/AnyLanguageWithAnyClassAtAll.

    People do that all the time and I feel just spunky enough after putting blood into the blood bank that I feel like pointing it out.

    When I get that blood back, I’m going to be Awesomer.

  23. frank = legend.

    thanks. Now I can clearly see why my carefully chosen selections have put me at the bottom of the ladder. I rule!

  24. @frank
    Ironically, I was aware of this, but so much has been made of the Frahnk/Fronk pronunciation, the umlaut was too much to pass up””bringing it all back home, so to speak, in recognition of Dylan’s 70th. Could I get away with Frönk and plead nasal something?

    And there ought to be a rule about cyclists giving blood””the optics are all wrong, especially when you take some of it home in a frozen baggie. (Kidding aside: good on you. More people should).

  25. heath:

    visconti still seems annoyed about yesterday.

    I think he’s just pissed at the moran leaning over his shoulder.

  26. frank:
    @Steampunk

    but I don’t see that helping Fränk’s superhuman energy

    Dutch/German/French/Italian/AnyLanguageWithAnyClassAtAll.

    I Noticed you left out Spanish. Not cool. This means war!

  27. Woah, I haven’t checked in here in a day or two, as I’ve put my Ron-ishness in check. Been out cycling with the VMH and not overthinking my quest for the shop apron.

    I come back to this?

    You guys really do have many screws loose!

    The really funny thing to me is that I am wound pretty tightly, and it takes all of a few minutes of being around me to recognize this. My friends are kind of used to my energy, contentiousness, and mild neuroses. I like that Oli, via this sweet as site and our banter has picked up on this, though we’re only virtual friends and he’s a Kiwi and I’m a Jan Kee from the U.S. And he’s been busting my chops over it.

    That’s awesomeness. And what’s awesomer is that my eagerness regarding the VSP has now infiltrated Oli’s Casually Deliberate sphere…When Stage 19 of the Giro hits, it’s tough to play it cool in the VSP!

  28. Oli :

    heath:
    visconti still seems annoyed about yesterday.

    I think he’s just pissed at the moran leaning over his shoulder.

    Moran? Like Dylan Moran?

    Muahahahahahahahaaaaa!

  29. I hate to get off topic and mention the race, but we’re got a proper Rule #9 day going on here. Really hoping that my boy Garzelli can manage to win the stage.

  30. In the light of all the shit that’s been going on this year, I’m looking at this stage with fresh eyes today. My Merckx, this is a beautiful sport! The way the guys are sitting on their bikes; they get out of the saddle to dance, they hop over a bump in the road, snaking through turns. Amazing.

    Also happy to Garggles in the Green jersey. He deserves something out of this Giro.

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