Like a good book, Grand Tours leave you feeling melancholic when they finish. Regret that the story cannot go on, impassioned by the narrative it has delivered.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

As Grand Tours go this one was unforgettable. Its rhythm never lost from the first days in Ireland, Dan Martin's agonising opening stage crash, Michael Matthews time in pink, the mountains, the homages, the battles between champions new and old, all the way to the finish in Trieste. Even the days that I'd written off as stages of transition kept me alert into the wee hours. Michael Rogers Stage 11 victory spawned from nothing, and oddly, even the time trials had a suspense of their own. I think we'll all miss pink, for 12 months, but before all that, a quick reflection on all that's come before.

1. 'King'-tana


It's been a 27 year wait, but Colombia finally has its second Grand Tour winner in Nairo Quintana. The 24 year old is very much in the mould of the man he succeeds, the equally diminutive, and humble, climber Luis Herrera, who won the Vuelta way back in 1987. Though many have come in between, Santiago Botero, and more recently Mauricio Soler, none have been able to match Herrera's achievement until now.

And as victories go, it didn't come easy. Quintana's form was questionable leading into the race, choosing to remove himself from racing for most of April to prepare better in the high altitudes of Colombia. His start was hardly auspicious. Movistar shed plenty of time in the opening team time trial, slowed by awful conditions, and then he suffered with a hip complaint after being caught in a massive crash on Stage 6. It wasn't until the latter half of the race that the taxi-driving mountain man assumed control of the Giro, or even looked like winning.

On the controversial (we'll get there) Stage 16 to Val Martello, Quintana rode as a champion must. He committed from the bottom of the climb, and unfazed by the tow he was giving Ryder Hesjedal and Pierre Rolland, won the stage. It was the blow, as much psychological than anything else, that saw the tide turn in his favour.

In Rigoberto Uran he had a worthy foe to quash, but while his elder compatriot had an edge in the Barolo time trial, Quintana was far superior in the high mountains, where the Giro was always going to be won. Quintana can now look to a challenge like the Tour de France in 2015 with confidence - where Team Sky's hold on yellow might well be at an end.

2. 'Shambolic success' for RCS

It's hard to criticise a race that ultimately delivered where it needed to, the inherent entertainment of the racing. The climax was held to the penultimate stage, and the highlights, well I could rattle them off all day. But, and it's a big but, the race organisers appeared amateurish, unorganised, and, shambolic on key stages that needed a deft touch, and clear safety and racing instruction.

-On the inundated Stage 4 to Bari, won by Nacer Bouhanni, then maglia rosa Michael Matthews was left to make the call himself of neutralising part of the stage when race organisers refused to - it was probably the right decision considering the carnage that still ensued.

-On the Passo dello Stelvio, Stage 16, RCS went along way to tarring an otherwise spectacular stage by failing to inform teams before the stage of contingency plans that could have avoided the farce on the descent. 'Neutralised or not', RCS (and the UCI) could have quite simply briefed teams ahead of the race as to its plans rather than make one scrambled attempt, miscommunicated in the heat of racing. A lesson for another day.

-And the Monte Zoncolan, in all its grandeur, lost some of its sheen on its final slopes when fans interfered with the racing. Whether the battalion of officers at the the top of the climb might have been better utilised further down the climb, or indeed whether it needs to be made clearer to spectators to respect the riders in future is up for debate, but either way, it wasn't a good look.

Plenty to work on in future Giri.

3. Youth conquers all

Just three of the 21 stages of the 97th Giro were won by riders over 30, two, by Michael Rogers and one from Pieter Weening. What's more, all three major jerseys were won by riders 25 or under; Julian Arredondo (Trek) won the mountain jersey, Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) took out the sprint title, and of course Quintana won the overall.

The 'old man' of the final podium, Rigoberto Uran, is just 27, while third, Astana's Fabio Aru, 23, was one of the revelations of the race. Not to be forgotten are the likes of 24 year olds Rafal Majka and Wilco Kelderman who together rode splendid races.

Considering the accepted wisdom of cycling tends to suggest Grand Tour riders flower post-28, the Giro has offered plenty of food for thought for revision - although Chris Horner would tell you otherwise.

4. Evans ekes out another strong Grand Tour

Little was thought of Cadel Evans's Grand Tour hopes less than six weeks out from the Giro after a misfiring performance at Tirreno. That all changed with an overall victory at the Giro di Trentino, and by the Grande Partenza in Belfast the Australian was a dark horse to win. Though hopes of a second Australian Grand Tour victory were perhaps over-hyped, Evans's eighth, and time in the maglia rosa is another successful chapter in the 37 year old's decorated career.

5. Wildcards prove worth (mostly)

Bardiani-CSF and Team Colombia take a bow. The Giro d'Italia well and truly felt the impact of two teams that not just animated the racing, but snared a fair share of its success. Bardiani walked away with three stages, and while Colombia narrowly missed out, there were few days you wouldn't notice the distinctive black of the Colombian outfit in the day's break or at the pointy end of a stage. Both teams have more than earned their place as wildcards, a return invite all but guaranteed. Not so for Yellow Fluo. A year after the scarring effect Danilo Di Luca and Mauro Santambrogio left on the race, the team was largely absent. Their inclusion highly questionable not just on sporting grounds, but on ethical ones too.

6. Australia embraces the Giro

Did Australia outdo its 2010 performance in which it took three of the four major jerseys? Perhaps. In all, courtesy of Michael Rogers, Michael Matthews and Orica-GreenEDGE's team time trial winning ride, 'Australia' took four stages, and with near half the race in pink; Matthews again and Cadel Evans, the antipodes was a force to be reckoned with.

From an SBS perspective it made for an incredibly successful event as rights holders. Audiences were up dramatically for both online and broadcast, a reflection, I hope, not just of the local success, but of the appetite out there for more and more cycling. We've enjoyed it, and it certainly complements that other event in France well.

Speaking of, only a month to July.