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Friday, May 15, 2009
Giro d'Italia, or Giro d'America?

By Jim Caple
Page 2

The best part of cycling is the geography. Almost all other sports take place within arenas, which are practical for viewing the competition, but lack dramatic scenery (unless you count the Laker Girls). The Giro d'Italia, meanwhile, is one week into its centennial edition, with a course that is as much a historical and cultural tour of Western civilization as it is a bicycle race.

How does the Giro stack up against our events in North America this month? We go to the Tale of the Tape …

COLISEUMS

Giro d'Italia
One thing's for sure, the Giro d'Italia takes place against some incredible backdrops.

Giro d'Italia: Finishes outside the nearly 2,000-year-old Roman Colosseum, which once held up to 50,000 spectators for gladiator fights, mock sea battles and other spectacular exhibitions.

Giro d'America: The Oakland Athletics play in the 43-year-old Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, which regularly seats up to 12,000 fans to watch Jason Giambi take a 3-1 pitch for a walk.

Edge: Giro d'Italia

ELEVATION GAIN

Giro d'Italia: Next Tuesday's Stage 10 includes climbs totaling more than 15,000 lung-bursting feet, higher than any point in the lower-48 United States.

Giro d'America: Cleveland's LeBron James has a vertical leap of 44 inches, and during breathtaking 360-degree jams will soar even higher than his salary.

Edge: Giro d'America

COURSE LAYOUT

Giro d'Italia: Stage 19 will cover 100 miles, winding along the cliffs of the Amalfi coast, passing near the ruins of Pompeii and climbing to a finish atop Mount Vesuvius.

Giro d'America: Indianapolis 500 drivers will race around and around and around the same 2.5-mile concrete oval for more than three hours.

Edge: Giro d'Italia

JERSEYS

Danilo Di Luca
C'mon, you know you love the pink.

Giro d'Italia: The race leader wears a skin-tight pink top. Yes, pink.

Giro d'America: CC Sabathia, fortunately, wears figure-flattering pinstripes.

Edge: Giro d'America

TESTS OF ENDURANCE

Giro d'Italia: Cyclists will ride more than 2,100 miles in 21 stages, riding as many as 156 miles in one afternoon while averaging about 23 miles per hour overall.

Giro d'America: Golfers at the Byron Nelson will walk 18 miles over four days, averaging close to 1 mile per hour while caddies carry their clubs.

Edge: Giro d'Italia

CATHEDRALS

Giro d'Italia: St. Peter's Basilica, Brunelleschi's Duomo and the monastery at Monte Cassino.

Giro d'America: Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Camden Yards.

Edge: Giro d'America

SCANDALS

Giro d'Italia: Performance-enhancing drugs.

Giro d'America: Performance-enhancing drugs and NBA referees.

Edge: Giro d'Italia

VOLCANOES

Giro d'Italia: Mount Vesuvius.

Giro d'America: Lou Piniella.

Edge: Giro d'America

CONCESSION FOOD

Giro d'Italia: Pizza, wine and gelato.

Giro d'America: Hot dogs, beer and Dippin' Dots, the ice cream of the future.

Edge: Giro d'Italia

PREFERRED RIDE

Giro d'Italia: A 15.6-pound Trek Madone SSLx carbon bike.

Giro d'America: A half-ton, 15.1-hand gelding in the Preakness.

Edge: Giro d'America

FANS

Giro d'Italia: Tens of thousands line the roadway for hours and hours, drinking and waiting for the cyclists to pass by them for a total of 15 seconds.

Giro d'America: Tens of thousands fill ballparks for four hours and 36 minutes, drinking and waiting for the Red Sox and Yankees to play nine innings.

Edge: Even

HAIR

Lance Armstrong
Lance Armstrong has never raced in the Giro before. Hope he's enjoying the view.

Giro d'Italia: Shaved legs.

Giro d'America: Stanley Cup playoff beards.

Edge: Giro d'America

STATUARY

Giro d'Italia: Stage 13 ends in Florence, near the museum which houses Michelangelo's David -- perhaps the world's greatest single piece of art.

Giro d'America: Cincinnati's ballpark has a statue of Ted Kluszewski, displaying the former Reds slugger with his biceps and shoulders bared.

Edge: Giro d'Italia

KEY PLOT LINE

Giro d'Italia: Can Lance Armstrong return from retirement and a recently broken collarbone to win his first Giro?

Giro d'America: Can A-Rod return from injury and go consecutive days without appearing in a tabloid headline?

Edge: Giro d'America

OVERALL

Edge: Giro d'America. But can we have the wine and gelato anyway?

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.