With a whole century behind it, the Giro de Italia is one of the most important cyclist events on an international level, and the second oldest competition of its kind, only being topped by the Tour de Francia. Many legendary names haveheld the Senza Fine trophy, such as Italians Fausto Coppi and Mario Cipollini, Belgian Eddy Merckx or Spaniards Miguel Hinduarin and Alberto Contador. We will now delve into some of the history and most important sport representatives of this legendary sporting event.
More than 200 participants, 21 stages – One challenge. An event that is like no other, most noted not only for its intensity but also because of its fan base; a road full of challenges that has cost the lives of various cyclists.
During the three weeks of intense competition which culminates in Turin, cyclists must brave arduous terrains travelling through the most symbolic corners of Italy, climbing the summits of Mortirolo, the Paso de Gavia and the Stelvio. One of the curiosities of this event is the classification of said places, being classified according to their difficulty by colors instead of numbers, as is the case with the Tour de Francia and the Vuelta.
July hosts the Giro Donne AKA Giro Rosa, the same competition for women. During 1920, however, the presence of women within this competition was obsolete, making Afonsina Strada the first woman to participate and was received with open arms in the capital Lombarda. We cannot forget about the first winner of this event, Luigi Ganna, who after winning, immediately admitted that his backside was hurting .
History On Wheels
It would be in 1909, when the Plaza milanesa of Loreto would celebrate the first edition of the Giro. Strongly united with the Gazetta dello Sport since its beginnings, the Italian newspaper has had a pivotal role not only in the creation of the Corsa Rosa, but also in the Giro of Lombardy and other cycling events – It has been stated that it’s pink colored pages influenced the aesthetics of this event. Ever since, it has been held on frequent occasions with notable success discovering a significant number of international athletes.
During the first years, the competition was bombarded with unusual complications, such as the rain of tomatoes, where participants were pelted with tomatoes in 1912 or in the previous edition, the running of the bull, which set bulls chasing after the participants. On the other hand, the organization wasn’t very influential, although it was very imaginative – When during 1924, the assistance of the event would reward you 600 chickens and 4,000 bananas.
During the first decades, the event would be dominated by Italian cyclists up until around 1950. Alfredo Binda, Fausto Coppi y Gino Bartali amongst others, would receive the majority of the trophies,
until French Charly Grul and unbeatable Belgian Eddy Merckx would put this reign to a definitive end, which would once again be beaten by Spanish cyclists.
Hindurain, Contador and Botella – Spanish Heroes of the Giro de Italia
Spanish presence has had a great influence on this Italian competition, even though being quite discreet until Hindurain burst onto the scene. Salvador Botella would be the first to come to the public’s attention, with the Maglia Rosa in 1958. Previously Manuel Fuente would be considered the clear candidate to win the event, but with Merckx and his unbeatable stamina, would be beaten on every occasion.
Miguel Hindurain would be the first Spanish victor to win the Giro in 1992, something he would once again repeat the year after. We would have to wait until the XXI century to once again see a Spaniard in the high ranks – Which would turn out to be Alberto Contador in 2008.
To this day, no other Spaniards have managed to hold the prized Senza Fine trophy but who knows what awaits in future editions of this competition; Maybe Contador will make an epic comeback, or maybe new participants will take his place. In any case, the Giro de Italia will continue to prosper, enriching its history and preserving its future – It’s safe to say this is an event that is not to be missed.