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The history of the Giro d’Italia

Italy's answer to the tour de france

It is one of the three most important cycling races in the world, the so-called Grand tours, and heralds the start of the professional cycling season every May. Those who manage to win the famous Trofeo senza fine can count themselves among the best cyclists in the world. With a challenging mix of flat, medium and high mountain stages, the Giro d’Italia has managed to become almost as famous as its big brother, the Tour de France, and every year attracts thousands and thousands of enthusiastic cycling fans to Italy or to their tv screens. Find out a little bit more about the most important cycling race in Italy and get to know a participant whose face might already be familiar to you.

Where it all began

It was in May 13, 1909 when 127 cyclists started in the middle of the night near Milan to cycle the race that over time would develop int the second most important in the world. The first Giro d’Italia took participants from Milan to Naples and back again in eight days. That is a daily average of 300 kilometres. That alone is an outstanding achievement. If you then take into account the fact that technology at the time was far away from that of today, the performance of these cyclists can almost be described as superhuman. The bikes were very heavy and also had no gear shift, so they had to pedal even going downhill.

The idea for this cycling race in Italy, based on the Tour de France, came from the most famous sports newspaper in the country, the Gazzetta dello Sport, and its editors. It was their intention to win more readers and to win against their French counterpart. The race has been exclusively for men since 1909, but since 1988 there has also been the Giro Donne, the women’s event, which takes place in July, two months after the men’s event. The first and unforgettable winner of the Giro was of course an Italian – Luigi Ganna. But the race has changed since his victory. The 21 stages, which extend over three weeks, are now a little shorter. The participants must cycle between 120 and 250 kilometres per day to reach the next stage. Until the 1960s the race started in Milan, at the headquarters of the Gazzetta dello Sport. Now the Giro also starts in other cities, or even countries, but mostly ends in Milan.

The pale pink winner’s jersey

Hundreds of men scramble to be allowed to wear the pink jersey – the famous Maglia rosa which identifies its wearer as the leader in the overall standings. But why is the jersey pink? The Gazzetta dello Sport has been printed on pink paper since it was founded in 1896. And since the Giro would not exist without the newspaper, tribute is paid in this way. But wearers of the azure blue, burgundy red and white jerseys can be proud. The blue one distinguishes the leader in the mountain classification, the red the best in the points classification and the white is worn by the best young rider under 25.

Special moments of the Giro d’Italia

In the third year of the race, in 1912, a group of participants got lost. Hard to imagine when you see pictures of people-lined routes, right? Despite this, the group of cyclists did not turn back and look for the right way, instead they jumped onto a train to the next stage. Of course, this stage was not recognised for the cyclists. A few years later, only eight of eighty participants made it to the finish line of the Giro d’Italia. The daily stages of up to 400 kilometres brought most of the excellent riders to their knees. What is also remarkable is that the Giro has always remained firmly in Italian hands – more than half of the races were won by Italians. In the 1940s there was another jersey – a black one – which marked a special achievement. It marked last place, there was real competition for this jersey, so it was scrapped in 1952.

Eurobike goes Giro d’Italia

Two years ago, our product manager Andreas Schintlmeister came out of his office very confused and told us he had just been asked if he wanted to take part in the Giro d’Italia. Of course not the professional competition, but the Giro E – the competition for e-bike riders. You can read about how Andreas fared in Italy and what an impressive experience the Giro d’Italia was for him on the blog.

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