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Grand Tour team presentations are, on the whole, not best described as scintillating affairs. Teams of tanned athletes roll up a big ramp onto a pink (or yellow, or red) carpeted stage. Local dignitaries applaud. Someone in a suit asks formulaic questions. Someone straddling a bike gives formulaic answers.
The legs are good. We’ll see what the road has in store. Isn’t Budapest beautiful. Thanks for showing up. Let’s give the cyclists a big Hungarian hello.
Having sat through most of the 2022 Giro d’Italia presentation – I mean, I skimmed through a lot, let’s be reasonable – I can report that it was largely generic, with a few exceptions.
On the cycling front, the most dramatic events were clothing-related – like when Alpecin-Fenix spiced things up with a special new jersey design in the colour of baby poo, and EF Education-EasyPost chased it with a jersey that looks like public transport upholstery. Otherwise, the formula played out as you’d expect. Teams rolled up the ramp, gave brief interviews, and rolled off again.
On the ‘entertainment’ front, things were a little more eventful.
Let’s start with the mascot. Did you know that the Giro has a mascot? I did not, and yet, there he is, bobbing around rhythmically. There was no music playing at the time. He has a name, I learnt, and that name is – imaginatively enough – ‘Wolfy’. He was a lone wolf without a Wolfpack, but QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl were on the stage soon enough to show him what he was missing out on.
After a few teams roll up – straight after Groupama FDJ, and soon after Wolfy leaves the stage – the mood shifts. Time to boogie.
Ominous music drones. Video projections of Roman soldiers wielding spears. Lots of slap-heavy dancing. People in black leather vests, shaped along the back like an enormous duty-free Toblerone. Nobody claps.
We segue into the next dance vignette. A quartet of willowy men in hessian cardigans twirls about while a reindeer man with an antler hat sternly waves a stick. The music suddenly shifts from pentatonic strings to a lively jig and suddenly it’s Magyar Riverdance. Reindeer guy doesn’t bring much energy to the table, but he has a certain brooding presence:
An emperor comes on in a lurid yellow cape. A swarm of forest nymphs wafts about. A dozen stern-faced men in black singlets drum their hands on their legs, bodies, chests. It’s a frenzy of slaps and local atmos. My favourite bit is this:
All in all, it’s like that bit in Eurovision Song Contest where the votes are counted and you go to the toilet.
After several eternities, the performance ends and the dance school graduates of Budapest collect their payslips backstage. It is all, we learn from a commentator, “about the establishment of Hungary through the medium of theatre”.
AG2R-Citröen has been watching bemused from the side of the stage, and roll up for their moment in the limelight:
Order is restored. Team upon team, the presentation of the Trofeo Senza Fine, more speeches, and then, then … another dance interlude to close things out.
This one’s more contemporary, less atmospheric. It starts with a lot of men in little cycling caps running around on stage waving flags:
After the final flap, there’s a synchronised trainer section. Five dashing young people grind themselves back and forth on the saddle of five mid-range Bianchis. Rhythmic gymnasts in gold leotards come out waving ribbons. The flag boys come back again for the big closer. I feel like I’ve just ridden up the Mortirolo.
How do you follow something like that?
The answer, according to the organising committee of the Budapest Grande Partenza, is with an indie-pop band called Margaret Island. They have seven members, including a keyboardist with little sunglasses, a guitarist that looks like Kasper Asgreen, and a bongo player. The applause stops before they’ve left the stage, and hundreds of Hungarians disperse into another beautiful Budapest afternoon.
In summary: 4.5/10, needed more Reindeer Man, would not watch again and can’t honestly recommend that you do either. On to the racing.