Since it’s the penultimate day of this year’s Giro d’Italia, I thought I would focus foremost on bicycle racing this morning, even though it might be my 200th day of blogging. It might not — I’ve lost track of the small number of “updates” I’ve added post-post. This is post #205, at any rate.
[In an aside I’ve probably already posted, but maybe you haven’t committed all my posts to memory, a friend of mine asked the high school principal for a college recommendation letter. He proudly wrote that she was “the penultimate student” — I’m not sure she used that in her application to Stanford.]
Today was the 20th stage of 21 stages of bicycling around the northern half of Italy. The last few days they have been in the Tyrol, a mountainous region where many of the residents feel an ethnic pull over a nationalist one. They are Tyrolean first and Italian or Austrian second. And I would hazard a guess that the locals speak a patois, but while I can write “Spanglish” and you know what I mean, I might muddy the waters if I suggest they speak “Australian.”
The color of the Giro d’Italia, for whatever reason, is pink. The Tour de France features yellow, while the Vuelta a Espana (Spain) opts for red. Pink does not strike me as a macho color, but I believe the sporting newspaper that sponsors the Giro comes with pink pages. I could do research to confirm this, or we can just pretend I know what I’m talking about.
There are a lot of aspects to Grand Tour bike racing, and when I first started spectating it took literally years for me to figure out exactly how it all worked. But one rider, out of the 190-ish that start each race (I think they’ve cut teams down from nine riders to eight due to safety concerns), emerges as the ultimate (not penultimate) winner.
Whoever has the “fastest” cumulative time over however many stages have taken place gets the “honor” of wearing a jersey in the race color. So the leader of the Giro (jeer-oh — at least that’s how I pronounce it) wears pink.
Now maybe it’s just Americans who are so bound to their macho image that professional rodeo athletes have to brand themselves “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” (as a highly successful nationwide breast cancer fund-raising campaign), so the Europeans who frequent the top of the standings of Grand Tours may not regard pink as anathema for men.
T-Mobile used to sponsor a men’s bike team, and they wore a lot of pink, and now there’s Education First, whose jerseys are the same shade as Giro pink, making it difficult to distinguish the race leader from these also-rans — although American Joe Dombrowski remained in the top 10 until this week.
Personally, I’m not a pink fan (and particularly not enamored of the Giro shade), but my business partner loves loves loves her pink, so I have learned to live with it over the years. When Kara goes to lunch, I take over her desk, and there I am, using a pink ruler, helping myself to her pink pen, whiting lines out with a pink-encased tool . . . We did have to give up on the pink staples, because they didn’t work well. (And they were just regular staples badly coated with pink that came off and got on everything else.) I reach for the order notebook, which is pink, and I track my sales and income tax obligations in a folder that is not only pink but sparkly as well. Pink paper clips, regular and spiral. Scissors with pink handles. Pink pink pink.
So you’d think by now I would be embracing my “inner pink,” but I still don’t love it as the race color of the Giro.
Maybe riders don’t care. It’s the color of winning, so you wear it no matter what you think. And again, maybe pink doesn’t carry the macho stigma in Europe as it does in the United States. Although the current leader, who is likely to emerge as the winner with only 17.4 kilometers left to race, hails from Ecuador. I have even less idea what Latin Americans think of pink than I do of Europeans, but I’ll bet that in Ecuador right now, pink is king.
Richard Carapaz, to my knowledge, is the first Ecuadoran to make a noticeable in-road to the upper echelons of professional cycling. A few years ago a tiny rider from Colombia, Nairo Quintana, became a huge national sensation when he went to the Alps of France and showed all these Europeans how to ride up mountains. And now Richard Carapaz is poised to do the same for Ecuador.
After riding more than 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) in the course of 89 hours 38 minutes and 28 seconds, Mr. Carapaz holds a lead of one minute, 54 seconds over Italian Vicenzo Nibali (“the Shark of Messina” — who says bike racing isn’t colorful in every aspect?) and six hours, 31 minutes over Sho Hatsuyama of Japan, who will receive acknowledgement for his 140th place. He may be last, but he stuck with it and finished, which is more than 40 or 50 other riders can say.
But now, after first watching the Giro stage and then regaling you with its very pinkness, I am off to a slow start on a day that needs to be very busy. I have to go spend a portion of it at Kara’s desk, surrounded by more pink, because for some reason employees expect to be paid.