Twenty-one stages that take riders and viewers through the mesmerizing landscape of Italy. An internationally renowned race. A cycling competition awaited by enthusiasts each year. This is Giro d’Italia, one of the most famous cycling races.
While hundreds of enthusiasts are watching the race on TV, only a few know these 17 surprising facts. Check them out and see how many you can thick off the list.
1. A Bricklayer Won The First Edition of Giro d’Italia
Nicknamed “Corsa Rosa” in its original language, Giro d’Italia inaugurated its first edition in 1909. The race was invented by the Italian newspaper Gazzetta Dello Sport and the first pink jersey was won by Luigi Ganna, a Lombard bricklayer.
In the same year, Ganna also won the Milan-Sanremo race, despite not being a professional cyclist.
Since 1909, Giro d’Italia is organized every year and it was only interrupted during the two world wars, specifically from 1915 to 1918 and from 1941 to 1945.
2. Giro d’Italia’s First Stage Debuted In The Night
The inaugural stage of Giro d’Italia’s history, a trait from Milan to Bologna raced on May 13 1909 started in Loreto Square in Milan at 2.35am. There were 127 cyclists at the start, five of which were foreigners. The stage comprised 397 kilometers and was won by Dario Beni after over 14 hours of racing.
3. Merckx Is The Pinkest Rider
Eddy Merckx is a Belgian cyclist famous for his performances in the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia but not only. Known under the nickname of “the cannibal”, Merckx holds the absolute record in wearing the pink jersey for 78 days in a row. Merckx is seconded by Alfredo Binda, who wore the pink jersey for 59 consecutive days and by Francesco Moser with 57 days.
Merckx, together with Binda and Fausto Coppi are the most successful riders of Giro d’Italia, and each of them won five races. Yet, Merckx and Binda are the only racers who registered three consecutive victories (between 1927 and 1929 Binda and between 1972 and 1974 Merckx).
4. First Stage Outside The Italian Borders: 13 Times
2018 marked the thirteenth time when Giro d’Italia started outside the Italian borders. The first time this happened was in 1965 when the race started in San Marino. In the following year, the organizers chose Monaco as a starting point, while in 1973 the race started in Verviers, Belgium.
The other cities outside Italy that hosted the first stage of the race were the Vatican City in 1974, Athens in 1966, Nice in 1998, Groningen in 2002, Seraing in 2006, Amsterdam in 2010, Herning in 2012, Belfast in 2014, Apeldoorn in 2016, and Jerusalem in 2019.
The innovation in 2019 was that not only the first stage but the first three stage were hosted by Israel.
5. A Woman Participated In Giro d’Italia
Like Tour de France, Giro d’Italia is a male’s race. Yet, a woman made her way into the event and concluded 12 stages in 1924. The participant was Alfonsina Strada, a feminist standing at the forefront of female emancipation in Italy.
Originally from Emilia Romagna region, Strada was excluded from the classification after concluding the first 12 stages because she crossed the finish line after the maximum time allowed to finish the stage has passed.
Strada apart, Giro d’Italia also saw a famous Italian football player crossing the start line. Giuseppe Ticozzelli participated in the race in 1926.
He retired after the first four stages because of a wound but his participation inspired the choice of a black jersey for the last in the standings due to the fact that he has competed wearing his football team’s uniform, a black jersey with a white star.
6. Coppi the Young And Magni the Old
Fausto Coppi is the youngest winner of Giro d’Italia – he was only 20 years and 268 days old when he won the race in 1940. The oldest cyclist to ever receive the pink jersey is Fiorenzo Magni who was 34 years and 180 days old when he won in 1995.
7. The Red Devil At The Start
The Red Devil is the nickname of Giovanni Gerbi who won the third place at Giro d’Italia in 1911. But he didn’t attend in 1911 alone and presented himself one last time at the start of the race for the pink jersey in 1932, at the age of 47.
Although he retired in the eighth stage, Gerbi is still a pioneer of the Italian sporting cycling and received his nickname due to an impressive curriculum that includes winning the Milan-Turin race in 1903, the Tour of Lombardy in 1905, and the Tour of Piedmont in 1906 and 1907.
8. Mario Cipollini Won 42 Stages
The absolute stage winner of Giro d’Italia is Mario Cipollini who registered 42 victories between 1989 and 2003. Right behind him is the legendary Alfredo Binda with 41 total stages, including 8 consecutive and a total of 12 stages out of 15 in the Giro of 1927.
Learco Guerra is the third in the top with 31 won stages between 1930 and 1937.
9. Gianni Bugno Wore The Pink Jersey For A Whole Race
Gianni Bugno was the last cyclist able to win the Giro d’Italia holding the pink jersey from the first to the last stage, in 1990. Before him, the record was registered by Merckx, Binda, and Girardengo. The record for the largest number of holdings belongs to Wladimiro Panizza who held the pink jersey for 18 times.
10. Five Foreigners At The First Start
The first race held in 1909 counted 127 cyclists but only five of them were foreigners. And none of them ended the race, retiring for various reasons during the stages. Four foreign attendees were from France, while the fifth was Austrian.
11. Giro d’Italia Counted Only 54 Racers In 1912
Gazzetta Dello Sport, the official sponsor of Giro d’Italia, proposed in 1912 a Team Tour instead of the classic race. The news wasn’t well received and the competition saw only 54 racers at the start line. The absolute minimum in the competition’s history.
12. Why Is The Pink Jersey Pink?
The pink jersey is undoubtedly one of the symbols of Giro d’Italia. A bit like the yellow jersey for the Tour de France. But why is it pink? Assigned at the end of each stage to the first cyclist in the general classification, the pink jersey owes its color to the color of the newspaper that organized the first edition of the race.
However, the pink color was only assigned to the jersey in 1930, as a sign of gratitude towards the main sponsor of the time.
13. The Endless Trophy
All competitions have a trophy but when it comes to Giro d’Italia, the trophy is a complete innovation. Awarded along with the pink jersey to the winner of the race, the trophy is called in its original language “Il Trofeo Senza Fine”, which roughly translates to the Endless Trophy.
The peculiarity stands in the fact that the trophy, shaped like a spiral that rises upwards, contains the names of all winners of the previous editions engraved on the spiral. This stretches the spiral each year, as a new name has to be engraved on it.
The trophy was designed at the end of the race in 1999 and was awarded for the first time in 2000. It consists of a copper core plated with 18-carat gold.
Not only the trophy is peculiar, but it also has a statue. In fact, the community in Val di Fassa owns a 3.30-meter replica of the Endless Trophy that is displayed as a way to celebrate the efforts of all the participants in the competition.
14. Giro d’Italia Boasts 4 Jersey Colors
Giro d’Italia boasts four jerseys attendants aim to achieve. The most important is the pink one, introduced for the first time by Armando Cougnet to distinguish the leader of the race from all the others. The jersey was created for the sole reason that the race didn’t have a symbol for those who were at the head of the general classification.
The color represents a sign of gratitude towards Gazzetta Dello Sport, the official sponsor of the time. And the first racer to ever wear the pink jersey was Learco Guerra.
Although Benito Mussolini didn’t like the color much, considering it too feminine, the sponsors didn’t change it and the pink jersey became a symbol of the race.
The green jersey is a symbol of the Tour of Italy representing the Alps and the Apennines. This is why the green jersey is awarded to the best climber. Gino Bartali holds the record of this category with 7 green jerseys.
Magenta jersey is reserved for the leader of the points classification; the winner of each stage gets 25 points and who gathers more receives this jersey. Mario Cipollini holds the record of winning the magenta jersey for three times.
Lastly, there is the white jersey which is awarded to the riders under the age of 24. The youngest rider who is the best placed in the general classification receives this shirt.
15. Giro d’Italia Is The Second Most Famous Cycling Race In The World
After Tour de France, Giro d’Italia is considered the second most prestigious race in the world. No wonder why so many cyclists train to attend it and why so many enthusiasts spend sleepless nights in front of their TV to watch the various stages.
16. Milan-Cuneo: The Hardest Stage In Giro d’Italia’s History
Wondering which was the most challenging stage in the tour’s history? It was the Milan-Cuneo trait in the edition of 1914. Not only the trait comprised 420km but the bends, climbs, and descents made this stretch truly challenging for most racers.
In fact, only 37 cyclists out of 81 managed to cross the finish line, some of them pushing their bikes instead of riding them.
17. All Giro d’Italia Editions Have The Finish In Milan
As a homage to the inventor of the tour, all Giro d’Italia editions have their finish line in Milan, the city where Gazzetta Dello Sport has its headquarters.