The always excellen Inner Ring posted a story with this title. I have five answers:
- Yes, it is boring. At least usually. Remember the Indurain years? A month of magazines explaining why this year, Bugno, Chiapucci or Rominger would challenge for the win. Then the start, one week of sprints, a time trial, and the race was over. Or the Lance years? A month of magazines explaining why this year, Zuelle, Ullrich or Beloki would challenge for the win. Then the start, one week of sprints, a time trial, and the race was over. Sometimes that first time trial was instead the first up-hill finish, and one year the race was even exciting until the last weekend. I think.
- No, this is cycling. It’s hard to create a course that keeps the GC up for grabs until the last days. Sometimes a race organizer is lucky, often they’re not. Somehow the Giro seems to be decided later than the Tour, at least in recent history (and by later I mean towards the end of the three weeks of racing, not 18 months later once CAS has ruled). So the course has something to do with it, but as they say, “the riders make the race”.
- That said, if it is difficult to keep GC interesting, it should be possible to make the stage wins exciting. Flat stages with predictable sprint finishes are part of the race, but we don’t need 10. I’m sure race organizers started adding uphill finishes to the flat stages to prevent Cavendish from winning everything, but of course the problem is that Gilbert (last year) or Sagan (this year) win all of those. I think the best stages in the first week would have a 3rd or 4th category climb at 5-10km from the finish. It makes it hard to calculate catching the early escape, it allows some riders to jump away and maybe stay away, it will allow some sprinters but not others to pace themselves over the top and catch back on.
- Focus on the other classifications. Especially the best climber classification, it rarely provides the entertainment it should. I would really like to see time bonuses at the top of each climb, so the favorites are forced to sprint at the top of each climb. That would shake things up, reveal weaknesses earlier in the stages and maybe entice some riders to stretch their sprints out on the way down and create some opportunities.
- Change how the race is broadcasted. Nowadays, when the broadcast starts, we see a couple of riders “who were allowed to ride away”. Usually nothing could be further from the truth, getting into the break is incredibly hard work and very exciting to watch. Those who saw the stage to Lourdes last year will remember that Hesjedal was all out for the better part of an hour, one break after another, never gaining more than 15 seconds, until finally the break stuck. It would be much better to show the first (tape-delayed) and the last hour of a race, rather than the final two hours.