Sure, every national tour wants to see home-grown talent on the top of the podium. But I don’t think any other country tries as Italy to make that desire a reality.
An example: the chairs provided to Cadel Evans and Ivan Basso at the post-race show after today’s stage. Basso is clearly sitting on a gilded throne, while Evan’s “chair” could more aptly be described as “a stool with a back”—and this is minutes after the Aussie beat the Italian by 30 seconds!
(via @BMCProTeam, h/t to @mmmaiko)
I should note that this is hardly the first example. As recently as two days ago, Evans recounted fans pushing Ivan Basso while instructing others spectators not to assist “the foreigner”.
Another Australian, Robbie McEwen, has had a rough time with the Giro officials. In 2003, he was stripped of a win for closing the gate on Fabio Baldato, and in 2004, was relegated again for a barely-visible hand-sling in the closing kilometers. Both sanctions were correct within the rules, but it’s tough to imagine similar punishments being handed down against Cipo’.
In the ’84 Giro, Laurent Fignon lost the overall to Francesco Moser on the final day’s TT. While Moser had the advantage of a futuristic aero machine, Fignon claimed the deciding factor was the camera helicopter, which had used its downdraft first to push the Italian, and then to impede him. It’s worth noting this was a claim Fignon did not level after losing the ’89 TdF in similar fashion.
And perhaps most notoriously, Eddy Merckx was booted from the 1969 Giro after essentially wrapping-up the GC win. The reason? A dope charge. In days where stimulant use was all but accepted, and drug testing poorly monitored, the ejection is widely considered to have been unfair, or at least suspicious. Certainly, the mostly-clean, entirely-dominant career Merckx went on to have is a vote in his favor.
So no wonder then that the Giro has seen only two foreign winners in the past 14 years, a home-court advantage at least as favorable as any other major cycling event, let alone any Grand Tour— and one that may become even more lopsided, pending the fate of Alejandro Valverde.