The unpredictable and chaotic beauty of the Giro d’Italia

The unpredictable and chaotic beauty of the Giro d’Italia

The first edition of the Giro d'Italia took place in 1909 after the local newspaper, La Gazzetta dello Sport, organised the race to increase their sales. The Giro has run every year since except for brief stops for the two World Wars.
The Giro, is the first of three Grand Tours on the World Tour calendar and often considered the hardest in terms of profile and terrain. Riders contest 21 stages over three weeks, covering a distance of 3,518.5km in 2019 and many thousands of metres in elevation gain. The Giro d'Italia route varies from year to year but always includes a mixture of flat stages, mountainous stages and time trials in the form of individual and/or team.

The Giro has bred characters and stories that dramatise what has become known as the worlds toughest, yet most beautiful race.
Here are but a few of such stories that define the unpredictable and chaotic beauty of the Giro d’ Italia and some of the legends behind these stories:

When losing makes you a legend

Luigi Malabrocca, perhaps the worst cyclist in the history of the Giro.

The Maglia Nera was a black jersey awarded as a symbolic prize at the Giro d'Italia, to the rider who had accumulated the greatest amount of time in the saddle to finish the race last. The classification was introduced in 1946 and removed in 1951 as some riders would deliberately waste time to claim the prized jersey. The jersey was won twice by Luigi Malabrocca and the last wearer was Giovanni Pinarello.


The first edition of the Race

Crowds cheer as riders power along a gravel track, in 1938. That year the race covered 3,645.8 km (2,265 miles) over 18 stages.
Photographer: AFP/Getty Images

The Giro is considered the most arduous of the three Grand Tours. The first edition of the race covered 2,448km in only 8 stages, at an average of 305km per day! 127 riders started and only 49 riders completed the race.


Giuseppe Saronni

Giuseppe Saronni - Giro d'Italia 1983

The fastest ever Giro was completed at an average speed of 38.93kph in 1983 by Giuseppe Saronni, despite the extreme weather, distance and elevation gain.


Fausto Coppi

Coppi in pink at the 1950 Giro d’Italia

Each year the “Cima Coppi” is declared and represents the highest point of the Giro. The title pays tribute to Fausto Coppi, the great Italian climber who won the Giro five times. The Cima Coppi has been a part of the Giro since 1965.

The 2019 Giro will mark what would have been the 100th birthday of Fausto Coppi. The 11th stage will start in Carpi and travel 200-kilometres to the finish line in Novi Ligure where “Il Campionissimo” lived.

The following day, the Giro pays tribute to one of Coppi’s greatest feats where, at the 1949 Giro, Coppi attacked solo on the road from Cuneo to Pinerolo and won the stage nearly 12 minutes clear of second-place finisher Gino Bartali. The stage was a brutal as it tackled the Maddalena Pass, the Col de Vars, the Col d’Izoard, the Col de Montgenèvre and the Sestriere Pass.


Evgeni Berzin

Evgeni Berzin (Gewiss-Ballan)

Only one rider has managed to win the general classification and the best young rider classification. This achievement was awarded to Evgeni Berzin in 1994 after winning three stages and holding onto the jersey for 19 stages.


Marco Pantani

The controversial and much loved Marco Pantani is considered one of the best climbers of all times. He won both the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia in 1998 and is the last cyclist, and one of only seven, to win the Giro and the Tour in the same year.  He was known as "Il Pirata" (The pirate) because of his shaved head, bandana and earrings he always wore. Although Pantani never tested positive, his career was beset by doping allegations. In 1999, he was expelled due to his irregular blood values. Although he was disqualified for "health reasons", it was implied that Pantani's high haematocrit was the product of EPO use. Following later accusations, Pantani went into a depression from which he never fully recovered. He died of acute cocaine poisoning in 2004.

Mario Cipollini

Mario Cipollini has the most Giro d'Italia stage victories: 42 to his name.

Richie Porte

In the 2015 Giro, Richie Porte was penalised two minutes for taking a wheel from rival Simon Clarke ,spotted in this photo by Graham Watson.
Porte was never able to recover. However in 1922 Giovanni Brunero took a wheel from a teammate and was penalised 25 minutes! Remarkably Giovanni went on to win the Giro that year despite the hefty penalty.

Chris Froome

It was one of the most dramatic days of sport in recent memory: Chris Froome, after three weeks of injury, uncertain form and struggle, staged a spectacular 80km solo break on stage 19 of the Giro d'Italia to overturn a three-minute deficit and snatch an overall lead that he would never relinquish.



Designs by Après Vélo


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.