Friday Feature: A to Z of the Giro d’Italia

A = Apps! Stay in touch with all the racing with the Giro d’Italia app, available for iPhone and Android.

B = Gino Bartali. Giro champion in 1936, 1937 and 1946, and Fausto Coppi’s great rival. Road to Valor tells the story of Bartali’s heroism in the Second World War.

C = Fausto Coppi. Giro champion in 1940, 1947, 1949, 1952 and 1953, and dubbed Il Campionissimo (champion of champions). Gino Bartali’s great rival. Fallen Angel, The Passion of Fausto Coppi tells the tumultuous story of his life and death. The highest point in the Giro every year is known as the Cima Coppi.


The great rivals: Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi (Image: Wikipedia)

D = Dolomites. This mountain range in the north-east of Italy is home to the most iconic – and thigh-busting – climbs of the Giro.

E = Earrings. His shaved head, bandana and gold hoop earrings earned Marco Pantani the nickname Il Pirata. Thrown off the 1999 Giro for irregular blood values, his career never recovered and Pantani died of acute cocaine poisoning in 2004. He was the last rider to win the Giro/Tour double (1998). Matt Rendell’s The Death of Marco Pantani: A Biography is widely considered one of the best books on the man.


Il Pirata, Marco Pantani (Image: Wikipedia)

F = Frozen Hell. The legendary stage 14 of the 1988 Giro was so-called because the riders rode through a wretched snowstorm. Andy Hampsten was second to Erik Breukink on this stage and went on to win the entire race, the first American and non-European to do so.

G = La Gazzetta dello Sport. The Italian sports newspaper took inspiration from the Tour de France and sponsored the first Giro d’Italia in 1909, won by Italian Luigi Ganna. The newspaper is printed on pink paper – thus the colour of the leader’s jersey.

H = Hashtags. Last year’s Twitterstream was filled with #GiroLoveStory – Taylor Phinney‘s hashtag for his flirtations throughout the Giro while #GiroRumble was coined to signify the bust-up between Frank Schleck and Alex Rasmussen. (Both were fully documented in Tweets of the Week, 16 May 2012.)

GiroRumble 2

I = Miguel Indurain. In 1992, Indurain became the first Spanish rider to win the Giro.

J = Jerseys. The maglia rosa (pink) – leader’s jersey, maglia rosso passione (red) – points classification, maglia azzurra (blue) – King of the Mountains jersey, maglia bianca (white) – best young rider jersey. This year’s jerseys were designed by Sir Paul Smith.


Paul Smith designed this year’s Giro jerseys, including the maglia rosa. (Image: RSC)

K = Hugo Koblet. This Swiss national champion was the first non-Italian to win the Giro, in 1950.

L = Liquigas. This Italian, well, liquid gas company started sponsoring a second division cycling team in 1999, moving up to Pro Tour sponsorship in 2005. From the 2009 Giro to the 2012 Tour de France, the team finished every Grand Tour with all nine riders. The company discontinued its sponsorship support at the end of 2012.

M = Eddy Merckx. The greatest cyclist ever™ won the first of his five Giros in 1968. Alfredo Binda and Fausto Coppi also won the Giro five times.

N = North/South divide. The north of Italy, with its economic powerhouse of Milan, accounts for most of the country’s wealth, while the south has traditionally been much poorer. The Giro is a way of uniting the country through sport, if only for three weeks. The great Coppi (northern) /Bartali (southern) rivalry personified this divide.

O = Carlo Oriani. He won the fifth edition of the Giro in 1913. This year marks the centenary of his victory.

P = Papal blessing. Every year, the Pope blesses the maglia rosa a week or so before the beginning of the race.


Pope Francis I performs one of the duties of office – blessing the maglia rosa (Image: AP)

Q = Quickest. Denis Menchov won the 2009 Giro at an average speed of 40.3kph, the quickest ever – despite falling off his bike during the concluding time trial.

R = Rosa. The Corsa Rosa is the route of the race. The maglia rosa is the leader’s jersey.

S = Stelvio. One of the iconic climbs of the Giro, the Stelvio has 48 signposted hairpin bends and is the highest finish of any Grand Tour climb. It first featured in 1953, when Fausto Coppi attacked Hugo Koblet to win the stage. Last year Thomas de Gendt launched an audacious solo attack, winning the stage and moving himself into a podium position.

Giro 2012 podium Hesjedal Rodriguez De Gendt (Giro website)

Thomas de Gendt’s Stelvio exploits helped get him on the final podium last year. (Image: LaPresse)

T = Tifosi. Italian cycling fans, who display great passion for their country’s grand tour. The entire country is painted pink for three weeks in May.

U = Unrelenting. Stage 19 of this year’s Giro features 4,300m of climbing in just 138km, including the Gavia and Stelvio passes.

V = Vajont. Stage 11 of this year’s Giro ends in Vajont, to commemorate the thousands who died when a landslide caused the Vajont Dam to overflow 50 years ago.

W = Wouter Weylandt. Belgian rider for the Leopard Trek team who suffered a fatal crash on stage three of the 2011 Giro. His number 108 is retired forever from the race.

Wouter Weylandt, 27/9/84-9/5/11. RIP. Gone, but never forgotten (image courtesy of RadioShack-Nissan)

Wouter Weylandt, 27/9/84-9/5/11. RIP. Gone, but never forgotten (Image: RadioShack-Nissan)

X = X-ed out. The Giro was cancelled from 1915-1919 during the First World War, and from 1942-1946 during the Second World War and its aftermath. Which is why this year’s Giro is the 96th edition, not the 104th.

Y = Youngest. Fausto Coppi won the 1940 Giro when he was a fresh-faced 20-year-old. (The oldest winner is Fiorenzo Magni, who won the 1955 Giro at the ripe old age of 34.) This year’s youngest rider is Orica-GreenEDGE’s Luke Durbridge, who turned 22 last month.

Z = Zoncolan. One of the iconic climbs in cycling, Monte Zoncolan has featured in the Giro four times. The first rider to conquer this stage was Gilberto Simoni in 2003.

Header Image: Ryder Hesjedal from Giro 2012, ©Davide Calabresi

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