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"Embarrassing": Giro d'Italia joins NFT game...and fans aren't happy; DSM lorry blocks Belfast bike route; ‘Bikes damage roads more than cars’; Italian pro talks “silent but not silent” Giro protest; Richard Ayoade rides to work + more on the live blog

It’s Tuesday, the Giro is back in Italy, and Ryan Mallon is here with the second live blog of the week…
10 May 2022, 16:57
Fewer NFTs, more dogs watching races content, please…
10 May 2022, 16:21
The S. P. Yates School of Media Training
10 May 2022, 14:35
The Giro Launches maglia rosa NFT - and fans aren't happy

A Giro NFT collection? That’s so 2021…

Obviously it makes sense for the Giro organisers to wait until the race has actually started before launching their own attempt to enter the crypto market, but doing so less than a week after new data revealed that NFT sales have fallen 92 percent since September seems a little misguided, to say the least.

Though regardless of the poor timing I’m sure, just as the founders of Bike Club NFT experienced earlier this year, cycling fans will embrace this new venture with open arms…

… Or maybe not, especially as the announcement was made at the same time the live race coverage was suffering from a lack of on-screen data:

10 May 2022, 15:56
2022 Giro stage 4 Kamna (GCN)
Kämna wins stage and López takes pink as GC battle fails to erupt on Etna

There was a faint puff of smoke, rather than a full-scale volcanic eruption, on the slopes of Mount Etna today, as the general classification battle largely lay dormant on stage four of the Giro d’Italia.

It was a day to remember, however, for 24-year-old Trek-Segafredo rider Juan Pedro López who, despite making a mess of the final corner and almost clipping breakaway colleague Lennard Kämna’s wheel, became the new race leader after a spirited display on the final climb.

Following López’ late error, Bora-Hansgrohe’s Kämna took the stage, to add to his win at the 2020 Tour de France, after timing his effort to perfection on the 22 kilometre climb up Etna, catching the Spaniard with just under three kilometres to go before the pair seemingly came to a gentleman’s agreement to share the spoils and finish with a stage and a pink jersey apiece.

2022 Giro stage 4 Kamna and Lopez (GCN)

Behind in the peloton, Ineos were riding like it’s 2013 – setting a strong but ferocious pace which failed to cause too much damage in the favourites’ group, which was 17-strong by the finish.

Simon Yates – who looked to be suffering from knee trouble after a crash earlier in the day – seemed comfortable despite Ineos’ best efforts, and finished at the back of the GC group.

However, the stage turned out to be a disaster for both Astana and Jumbo-Visma. After Miguel Ángel López was forced to abandon in the opening kilometres due to a pre-existing hip injury, Astana’s new de facto leader, two-time Giro winner Vincenzo Nibali, riding on his home Sicilian roads, lost nearly two and a half minutes to his rivals for the pink jersey.

Jumbo-Visma’s Tom Dumoulin, whose GC hopes looked so promising during Saturday’s time trial, was also dropped with 10 kilometres to go, while his young teammate Tobias Foss, ninth at last year’s Giro, finished alongside Nibali.

10 May 2022, 14:28
‘Cyclists should ride on the right-hand side of the road’: Stupid anti-cycling arguments, part 786

Just when you thought John’s belief that cyclists damage the roads more than motorists was the most bonkers anti-cycling argument you would read today…

Well, feast your eyes on this corker from the comments section of the Plymouth Herald, where one reader has come up with an ingenious solution to the dangers cyclists face on the road – by making it compulsory for them to ride on the right-hand side of the road, towards traffic.

Yep, that’s right – apparently riding towards traffic will increase safety for “all road users”, because cyclists will stop the “dangerous practice” of riding two abreast and will – wait for it – “be more able to take evasive action if necessary”.


10 May 2022, 13:46
Record-breaking Scottish endurance athlete aims to become fastest woman to cycle North Coast 500

Endurance cyclist Christina Mackenzie, who last year became the fastest woman ever to ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats, covering the length of Great Britain (all 839 miles of it) in 51 hours, five minutes and 27 seconds, has set her sights on a new long-distance record – the North Coast 500.

Mackenzie will set off from Inverness Castle in the early hours of Friday morning, and must ride the 516 mile Highland loop in under 35 hours to take the record.

“It has been a tough six months with training and battling the Scottish winter, but also good preparation for any conditions we may encounter,” she said ahead of her attempt.

“It is a challenging course with over 10,000 metres of elevation, the clock does not stop from the time I start so there will be no non-essential stops, all nutrition will be consumed on the bike through hourly hand-ups from the support team at the side of the road.”

As part of her ride, Mackenzie will be raising money for Cruse Scotland, a charity that provides free professional bereavement support to children and adults struggling to cope with grief.

She continued: “Now all the hard work has been done, I am looking forward to getting started and hopefully I can enjoy some of the fabulous scenery the course has to offer, but I am excited to see people roadside supporting.”

10 May 2022, 13:21
Cargo bikes, Strasbourg style
10 May 2022, 12:49
‘Bikes damage roads more than cars’: Stupid anti-cycling arguments, part 785

As far as anti-cycling bingo goes, if this now-deleted doozy of an argument doesn’t score you a full house, I don’t know what will:

Luckily, quite a few were on hand to explain to John where he went ever so slightly askew with his maths…

10 May 2022, 11:27
Richard Ayoade makes headlines – for riding his bike to work

Another reason to love Richard Ayoade...

Though next time you’re on your commute to work, pat yourself on the back for ‘shunning the glitz and glam’… of traffic jams presumably?

10 May 2022, 11:13
2022 Giro d'Italia stage 4 crash (GCN)
Action at the Giro – at last!

After a relatively benign (alright, boring) start to the Giro in Hungary, it’s all kicking off on the roads of Sicily this morning.

The lumpy opening kilometres to the stage to Mount Etna have already seen plenty of action – the break has taken quite a while to establish itself, pink jersey Mathieu van der Poel and Biniam Girmay have been in the thick of the action (we should get used to this in the next few years), even putting in a few digs themselves, while Sunday’s stage winner Mark Cavendish has been struggling off the back of the bunch, though he is being shepherded by trusty lieutenant Michael Mørkøv.

2022 Giro d'Italia stage 4 Van der Poel and Girmay (GCN)

Crashes have also played a role during the frenetic opening kilometres: a pileup in a narrow street saw Alejandro Valverde and Monte Zoncolan conqueror Lorenzo Fortunato hit the deck, while a moto rider – who seemed to clip the wall at the side of the road – took down Lotto-Soudal’s Roger Kluge and Bardiani’s Luca Covili.

2022 Giro d'Italia stage 4 moto crash (GCN)

Simon Yates – the pink jersey elect in most pundits’ eyes, with Van der Poel expected to suffer on the summit finish – also appears to have crashed and has been treated back at the medical car for what appears to be a knee injury.

The Giro has also confirmed that one of the pre-race favourites, Astana's Miguel Angel Lopez - known for a dramatic abandon - has already stepped off the bike. His team says he has been suffering from a left hip injury.

As I said, it's been a bit dramatic.

The stage finally seems to have settled down now, with a break eight minutes up the road, though I'll keep up updated when the stage surely erupts once again on the slopes of Mount Etna (last one I promise!).

10 May 2022, 09:59
Count the cyclists
10 May 2022, 09:49
Get ready for a pun eruption as the Giro visits Mount Etna

Ah, the Giro is finally back on Italian soil for its now almost customary trip to Sicily’s Mount Etna, one of the most active volcanoes in the world.

The climb has certainly been an active one in the Giro in recent years – of the race’s seven visits to Etna (including today’s), five have been since 2011, and four since 2017.

While the race has often failed to ignite [sorry] on the volcano’s long and steady slopes (largely due to its early position in the race), in recent years it has been the scene of some explosive GC action [again, sorry].

In 2018 Simon Yates took the pink jersey with a devastating late attack (a portent of things to come today, perhaps?), while in 2020 Geraint Thomas’ neutral zone crash put paid to his GC hopes and eventual winner Tao Geoghegan Hart lost over two and a half minutes.

But if the favourites, worried about what’s to come, just decide to enjoy the cloudy ambience and ride up together on today’s stage, at least the GCN guys will have time to think up a few more dodgy puns…

So, once more with feeling, will the battle for pink erupt today on Mount Etna, or will some of the favourites’ legs turn into lava?

I’ll stop now…

10 May 2022, 09:22
“It was a silent but not silent message”: Jacopo Guarnieri speaks out about Giro Hungary protest

Last week on the blog we reported on the Giro d’Italia organisers’ mealy-mouthed response to concerns about the grand tour starting in Hungary, where far-right prime minister Viktor Orbán has refused to support sanctions targeting Russian oil and anti-LGBT+ legislation has been passed in recent years.

In 2020 the Hungarian government made it impossible for transgender or intersex people to legally change their gender, while last year the country’s parliament unanimously voted to prohibit the dissemination of any content to minors which depicts gay or transgender people.

However, the CEO of Giro organisers RCS, Paulo Bellino, told reporters last week that he hoped to draw a line between sport and politics (and also, presumably, the real-life effects of those political decisions on gay and transgender people in Hungary).

“I think that I would like to go out and not to take into consideration politics,” Bellino said.

“I have no barrier and I think that our intention is to create an incredible event, in an Italian style, with the best riders in the world competing and giving the opportunity of a great party. I’m not entering in any political or different situation.

“I’m a sports organiser, I think that sport is the only moment in our lives as a society where everybody is free to demonstrate their capabilities, and their passion. There are no barriers. I would like for the Giro d’Italia in Budapest to do the same thing.”

> Enjoy the Giro...just don't mention politics

Groupama-FDJ’s Italian Jacopo Guarnieri, well-known for his support of LGBT+ rights, took a decidedly different stance, visibly displaying a trans rights wrist band at the Giro’s team presentation last week.

Guarnieri, who only spoke to reporters upon the race’s return to Italy for far of retaliation, said the protest was “a kind of silent but not silent message”, and admits he isn’t sure whether the race should have started in Hungary.

“Basically, this was a topic in my mind for a long time because, as you all know, the law was approved in Hungary in the middle of 2021,” the 34-year-old said during Monday’s rest day.

“I spoke about it already in December with [Hungarian teammate] Attila Valter, and I asked him how the feeling was in the country and so on. It was my idea already a long time ago.

“In the beginning, I was thinking to have something with the rainbow flag on it. But coincidentally, two weeks before leaving for the Giro, a friend of mine came up with this bracelet, which is more of a trans flag. They told me the story from the cyclocross world championship [where activists protested the host state Arkansas’ anti-trans legislation], which was probably seen a bit more worldwide. 

“I didn’t know what kind of support to use, but when I saw there was a bracelet, I decided to wear one during the presentation on the stage, so it was a kind of a silent but not silent message.”

> UCI world cyclocross championships under fire due to anti-trans laws in host state Arkansas

He continued: “We’re not superheroes, but you think they cannot say so much in public against a foreigner. I took the chance, and I took advantage of the fact that I was in a position where I was a little more safe.

“I thought maybe it could piss off somebody off, but I was thinking of the public more than the politicians.

“I thought maybe in the time trial somebody might try to punch me. But I thought about that and then I thought, ‘Well, a punch I can sustain.’ So I said, 'OK, why not.' After all, it’s Europe, so let’s try. I was confident I could pass the message without taking a risk.”

While Guarnieri admitted to feeling “a bit afraid” about the protest before the team presentation, he said that the support he received on social media convinced him that it was the right call, though he says he has not heard from the organisers about their thoughts on the issue.

The Italian lead out man also said that he hasn’t received much in the way of feedback from his fellow riders, but argued there are many reasons why pro cyclists – who were noticeably late to the party in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement which permeated sport – tend to be hesitant regarding their political views.

“With cycling, we don’t see so many, I think there are many reasons, I don’t think there’s just one explanation,” he said. “Some maybe don’t have any idea and maybe some are against.”

“Personally I’ve always been clear what my ideas are and I’m always clear to respectfully explain to someone some topics.

“Not everything can be brought into the discussion but for sure, I’m a person too after all. Let’s say, we’re not experts on international policy so I try to be more positive, I don’t have a solution for what Hungary can do for transexual people, I can just share my support and share a positive vibe. That’s me, simple as that.”

When asked if it was right that the Giro’s Grande Partenza took place in Hungary (after accusations of sportswashing also surrounded the race’s trip to Israel in 2018), Guarnieri replied: “I don’t know actually, it’s hard to say. There are many things involved, and things also came from three years ago, when the laws weren’t already in place. I’m not an organiser so I don’t know what’s behind those decisions.

“If I look on the other side, I can say I was there and I could show support while I was there. It’s hard to say, I think it’s a mix in between. Isolate and try to fight from the inside. It’s not my decision, like what you said before, try to be 100 percent honest with yourself, there are many places we shouldn’t go. It’s not easy.

“It’s a balance between fighting for what is right, and try to survive in your own job. It won’t be any easier. It’s not my role to decide what’s behind this but I can have my personal view. On some things, I think it was right to honour the contract, on the other hand maybe not.”

10 May 2022, 08:04
“Just an average day on a cycle route through Belfast”

For university lecturer and unrepentant Spurs fan Dom Bryan, this morning’s commute showcased the best of what Belfast has to offer to its cyclists – cold temperatures, rain, and… lots of cars and lorries brazenly parked in or blocking bike lanes.

To add insult to misuse of infrastructure, the offending lorry proudly displays the logo of DSM, the sponsor of the men’s and women’s WorldTour squads.

Maybe Romain Bardet will have a word…

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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