Friday, May 9, 2014

Giro Stage 1: A Team Time Trial in Belfast = Whiskey

Where are we: Belfast, Northern Ireland. Indeed, this year's "Big Start" has 2 days of racing in Northern Ireland before the riders head to Dublin for the third stage 3. Why? Well, why not? Seriously though, in recent years, the Giro has a tradition of starting abroad every other year. This time, Belfast, where I expect perhaps far too many twitter jokes connecting the Titanic shipyard and the sinking ships of certain teams. We shall see.

The route: Starting things off a 21.7 km team time trial, with the stage starting in the Titanic shipyard. I've explained team time trials before, here and here, essentially though, in a TTT,  each team rides together with the time taken as the fifth rider crosses the line. As I've also said before, a TTT rarely wins a Grand Tour for a rider, but a loss of time to rivals can be significant. This course looks to be flat and fast, though weather may be an issue. 

For the record, my fantasy cycling team at the race is making me miss Cav. Team Oolongcat is bringing: Adam Hansen, Alessandro Petacchi, Ben Swift, Bernhard Eisel, Brent Bookwalter, Ivan Basso, Johnny Hoogerland, Manuel Quinziato, Moreno Moser, Ryder Hesjedal, and Steve Morabito. 

Also for the record, my race "rules." 

 Before we start: 

The race: Yes, that is the city hall of Belfast all lit up in pink to celebrate the start of the Giro. See also: sheep with their wool colored pink. 
True story: On the walk to school this morning, my daughter told me what she was happy that the Giro was starting today. It turns out she did not enjoy my rendition of "The Giro Starts Friday/Tomorrow," that I had been singing all week. Sung, by the way, to the tune of "Tomorrow" from Annie.

The order of the day:
17:50 Colombia
17:55 Orica-GreenEdge
18:00 Tinkoff-Saxo
18:10 Team Katusha
18:15 Movistar Team
18:20 Lotto-Belisol
18:25 Trek Factory Racing
18:30 Belkin Pro Cycling Team
18:35 Team Europcar
18:40 Lampre-Merida
18:45 Team Sky
18:50 Cannondale
18:55 Team Giant-Shimano
19:00 AG2R La Mondiale
19:05 Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela
19:10 Garmin-Sharp
19:15 Bardiani-CSF
19:20 BMC Racing Team
19:25 Omega Pharma-Quick Step
19:30 Astana Pro Team
19:35 Neri Sottoli

Great crowds along the road. And what is that, rain at the finish? That may make things more interesting. As expected, Orica GreenEdge took the early lead. First to cross the line for them, and the likely first wearer of the pink race leader's jersey, is Svein Tuft, the birthday boy. The first possibly significant news though was the really poor showing by Katusha. How much time will J-Rod/Purito have lost to his rivals by the end of the day? 
Halfway through and the top five were:

1 @ORICA_GreenEDGE 0:24:42
2 @tinkoff_saxo 0:00:23
3 @Movistar_Team 0:00:55
4 @TrekFactory 0:01:00
5 @TeamBelkin 0:01:01

A negative split by SKY brought them into third. If only they had a GC rider here. Alas, injuries and illnesses have them with a rather odd team here this year. 
inrng 11:11am via web
Joaquim Rodriguez after Katusha's team time trial: "muy jodido" ("really f*%ked") via @JAEzquerro
And then as the roads seemed to be drying out, a big crash for Garmin. Dan Martin went down and stayed down. Early signs pointed to a collarbone injury. 
From twitter:
So sad. Nothing to be done. Professional bike racing is cruel.

Back on the road, as the Garmin stragglers continued to finish, BMC came in with the second best time, seven seconds down on Orica. A good day for the GC hopes of Cadel Evans. That second place lasted only briefly as OPQS came in two seconds ahead of BMC. 
At the end of the day, our top 10:

1Orica Greenedge0:24:42 
2Omega Pharma-QuickStep0:00:05 
5Team Sky0:00:35 
7Movistar Team0:00:55 
9Ag2r-La Mondiale0:00:58 
10Trek Factory Racing0:01:00 
Maglia rosa: Svein Tuft (Happy birthday indeed!)

Wine: Well, whiskey of the day. Rather than engage in a likely to be fruitless search for Irish wine, for the Giro's opening weekend, why not try some whiskey? I naively assumed that I would have no problem finding bottles made along the daily routes. Instead, I discovered, thanks to Serious Eats and several whiskey salespeople, that there are only ten distilleries either operating or under construction, but that two of the ten aren't open yet, and three have whiskey stocks not sufficiently aged for sale. So I opted for as close as possible, which meant skipping a few highly recommended bottles. As always, price is also a consideration, which means no $100 bottles.

The first of the three I'll be drinking while the race is in Ireland. I meant to start out with Bushmills, but tomorrow's route rides right by.  So for today, Michael Collins. How could I resist a bottle with a bike on the label to start the Giro? Made at the Cooley Distillery. 
 Note: Like during the Tour de France last year, my picks will be on the Podium Cafe website, along with their stage previews. The write-up for the first three stages can be found here.

From the importer website: Traditionally, Irish whiskey is a triple-distilled product, but Michael Collins switched things up by double-distilling and using peated malted barley in its single malt. Made at the Cooley Distillery, which was recently acquired by Jim Beam for $95 million, both the blended Michael Collins Irish Whiskey ($22) and Michael Collins 10 Year Old Single Malt ($40) are double-distilled in small, long-necked copper pot stills. Both are aged in bourbon casks.
The Single Malt earned Best Irish Whiskey and Double Gold at the 2011 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, earning critics’ admiration for its sweet nose of caramel, rich ripe fruit, peat and white flowers, followed by a clean palate with a smoky finish.

The blended Michael Collins might be the best value in all of whiskey. It earned the 2011 Chairman’s Trophy at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge. Both Michael Collins whiskies are a great tribute to the man on the bicycle who negotiated Ireland’s 1921 Treaty of Independence. 

I say: I'm drinking the 10 year single malt. It is the smokiest of the three Giro offerings, with vanilla on top of fruit and honey. To me and I am far from an expert on such things, it tastes kind of like Scotch. Turns out that the Whiskey Advocate did not love it. On the other hand, it has also won awards
Since it is our opening stage, I decided to try a cocktail.  After some consideration, I suggest an Emerald, which I found on Serious Eats.  What is in it? Irish whiskey, sweet vermouth and orange bitters, in this case, homemade from a long ago bitters making project.

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