Giro Or Tour? Which Is Tougher?

As far as I can remember cyclists have debated whether Le Tour de France or Giro d'Italia - two majestically legendary races - is tougher. As a whole, Giro gets the nod notably because of the tougher climbs and unpredictable weather. It's definitely grittier as the BBC notes.

Like in soccer, volleyball and basketball, Italian cycling fans tends to be more knowledgeable and passionate about the sport - so much so they're known to be aggressive as riders pass by. People show up on race day because they love cycling. In France, they entice people by giving out stuff to get them to come out.

And last but not least, the food is better. I'm not surprised by this having traveled in both countries. Always felt you could find better food easier in Italy. 

See the list for the toughest climbs in cycling here.

Here are some quotes:

"Italian food is arguably the most popular ethnic food in the world. And while most of what's sold outside of Italy would be barely recognized by an Italian, people all over the world love it. Can anyone say the same about French cooking? Years ago, after so many complaints by riders in LeTour (who must stay in hotels and eat in places chosen by the race organizer) the TdF organization brought ITALIAN chefs in to oversee meal preparation. Bikeraceinfo.

"There might be more spectators on the roadside of Le Grand Boucle in any given year, but when you look at TV or photos of the Giro you'll see thousands cheering for their heroes. More of them have ridden their bicycles to their choice viewing spot in many cases. The crowds lining the roads in France are quite often made up of foreigners rather than French folks. France seems only to take interest in cycling during July." Bikeraceinfo.

Does LeTour have anything as tough as Passo Mortirolo with 12.4 kilometers with an average grade of 10.5% and maximum of 18.5% or Tre Cime with almost 8 kilometers at an average of more than 9% and a maximum grade of 17%? Compare TdF's fearsome Col du Tourmalet, 17 kilometers and average grade of 7.4% with max of 10% to the Giro's Passo Stelvio, 25 kilometers averaging 7.2% and a max of 14%. I have ridden all of these climbs during my 20+ years of cycling in Italy and France and can without fear of contradiction—the Italian climbs are generally more difficult. Bikeraceinfo.

La Corsa Rosa is a smaller affair overall than Le Grand Boucle. I remember seeing LeTour when the official cars were from Peugeot and official water from Perrier, but it has become a multi-national, corporate affair dominated by Nestle, Nike and the like. Il Giro rarely gets the huge, international corporate sponsors. Instead, the Giro's start village promotions are smaller and mostly Italian concerns, which give a more intimate feel to the atmosphere. Foreigners are heartily welcomed based on that "hospitality gene" I noted earlier and everyone, no matter where they're from, feels more a part of the goings-on rather than just a spectator.  Bikeraceinfo

Make no mistake, France is a beautiful country with spectacular mountains, seacoast, lakes and vineyards along with picturesque villages, castles, cathedrals and more. But Italy has…well, ITALY! Bikeraceinfo.

First there are the fans. It’s impossible to express what the Giro means to Italians. This arterial race is seen as a unifying thread for a country barely 150 years old.  Shortlist(World's toughest race)

Then there are the riders. Watch the Giro and you’d assume they were stark, raving pazzo. The 21 stages in 23 days comprise gruelling mountainous climbs, sprint-inducing flats and city-based time trials, all of which add up to a distance of 2,177 miles – roughly the equivalent of London to Damascus. The Tour de France may be more famous, but he Giro makes it look like freewheeling.
“It used to be known as the riders’ tour,” says Cavendish, “but it’s recently become so hard. It’s so, so hard.”

“Over the years the stages have got more and more extreme,” adds David Brailsford, general manager of Team Sky and stupendously successful performance director of British Cycling. “The climbs in Italy are quite different from France. They are steeper, harder. So it’sa tough race.” Shortlist.

Much better at the Giro. We have our own chef, but every once in a while, they don't let him in the hotel kitchen. If you're going to be stuck with hotel food, much better to be stuck in Italy. ... We eat so much, it's a pretty big portion of our lives." ESPN (Leipheimer interview)

"There are great crowds at the Giro -- every little village is decorated in pink. But the race goes to sleep at night. The Tour is like Las Vegas. A lot of electricity. It never sleeps." ESPN (Leipheimer)

"The Giro is harder. There are some massively long stages, and this year, a time trial that's 60 K." ESPN (Rogers)

"Some might argue this, but I feel some traditions are a bit stronger in the Giro. There will still be stages where the townspeople make cookies or hand out ice cream. Everyone stops and eats a ton, then gets back on the bike and starts racing again as if that were normal." ESPN (Vande Velde)

"It's (food) paradise at the Giro ... much better and healthier than at the Tour. Most of the hotels are small, family-run places with modest rooms and absolutely crazy-good restaurant." ESPN (Hampsten)

(Food) "Better in Italy. There's a tradition that when a local rider passes through town, their family will prepare dolce or some dessert and everyone will stop and have a bite." [Note: Phinney admits some bias, as he and his family lived outside Venice for several years."  ESPN (Phinney)

"The Tour has become so much more global. Talent will win out in any bike race, but none so much as the Tour. In Italy, the Giro is the race that gets the biggest PR, and as a good Italian rider, you're always going to focus on that first. Once you've mastered that skill set, then you go on and try to win the Tour." ESPN (Phinney)

You never have to worry about getting good pasta in the hotels! The [Tour] organization has made efforts to improve the level of hotels and food, but there are a few times during the race when you have an absolutely miserable experience." ESPN (Julich)

 "No one uses the Tour for 'training.' The stress in the race is second to none because there is so much at stake. Winning a stage or taking the pink jersey in the Giro looks good on your résumé, but a stage win or even one day wearing the yellow jersey in the Tour can change your career forever. There is no other race in the world where a good result is worth more." ESPN (Julich)

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