History of Giro d’Italia


PART I. : 1909-1922

On 7 August 1908 Gazzetta dello Sport announced on its first page that they would organize the first Giro d’Italia aiming for becoming one of the most significant international cycling race. The competition started at 2.53am on 13 May 1909 in Milano. The riders had to complete 8 stages covering 2447 kilometres. Luigi Ganna claimed victory ahead of Carlo Galetti and Giovanni Rossignoli. It is interesting to know that at the end of Bologna-Chieti stage 4 riders were disqualified, because they completed some parts of the stage by train. Looking at the success of the inaugural race the bicycle manufacturers asked the organizers to lengthen the distance, so the second race already included 10 stages covering 2987 kilometres. The second edition of Giro was won by Galetti, silver medallist of the previous year, while the defending champion finished third, French Dortignac became the first foreign rider to win a stage. In 1911 the start of the Giro moved to Rome due to the World Exhibition. The race highlighted the rivalry between French Petit Breton and Galetti, the defending champion. The latter won due to the former’s technical problem. The route of the race went up over 2000 m for the first time, during Stage 5 in Sestriére. By the request of the teams in 1912 Giro was transformed to a team competition, but the spectators did not like the race of the four-man teams, so this format was soon cancelled. The young Carlo Oriani won the 1913 edition, who later died in the World War I as a soldier. The next edition in 1914 was the first race to be calculated on a time-based system, finishing times of all stages were accumulated. Five of eight stages were longer than 400 km, and 44 of 81 riders gave up the race. This was the Giro with the lowest average speed (23.437 km/h). After the World War Giro resumed in 1919. Costante Girardengo claimed victory by winning 7 of 10 stages, although he was struggling with Spanish Flu during the race. The next edition in 1920 was almost marred by the rain (only 10 riders finished the race). It was the first Giro that crossed the border of Italy by briefly going into Switzerland. In 1921 Girardengo won the first four stages, then he crashed and quit the race.


PART II. : 1923-1932

In 1923 Girardengo won 8 of 10 stages, but finally he beat Brunero by only 37 seconds. It was the first time that the overall prize money exceeded 100.000 Italian Lira. The 1924 edition missed the best riders, but a lady called Alfonsina Strada entered the race and although over the time limit, but she completed the whole race distance. Alfredo Binda debuted in 1925 and he won the race in his first attempt. In 1926 a national team football player, Giuseppe Ticozzelli entered the race for a bet. No wonder he could not finished it, because only 40 of 205 riders completed the race due to the bad weather conditions. In 1927 the length of Giro was extended from 12-day to 15-day, but the stages became shorter. Binda won 12 stages and claimed overall victory confidently. In 1928 he defended his title, and foreign riders entered the race again after six years. In 1929 Giro began in Rome again, and it took place mostly in South Italy. Binda, undisturbedly, gained 8 stages wins and certainly the overall victory. The following year organizers did not let him enter the Giro that was an invitation race in 1930, but Binda was paid 22.500 Lira as a compensation, the same amount of money the winner of Giro would get. In the 1931 edition of Giro Binda and Learco Guerra fought for victory for long, but later both withdrew, so Camusso took the win. This was the year of introducing the pink jersey for the overall leader. Guerra was the first rider to put on ‘maglia rosa’. In 1932 almost all top riders of the era entered the race, but the final victory was claimed by a relatively unknown Italian, Pesenti.


PART III. : 1933-1947

The individual time trial and the mountain classification were both introduced in 1933. Alfredo Binda won the race with almost 300.000 Lira overall prize money. In the 1935 Giro the young Gino Bartali became the king of the mountains. It was the year when the organizers removed time bonuses, so they calculated the real times for everyone. Bartali claimed overall victory in 1936, while the 40-year old Girardengo withdrew after Stage 3. At the end of the Roma-Napoli stage Bini and Olmo had the same time on top of the standing, so on the following day they both started the stage wearing the pink jersey. In the 1937 Giro the organizers included the team time trial for the first time, and in the overall classification Bartali defended his title. In 1938 he was ordered to race in Tour de France instead of Giro to represent the fascist Italy (he won the French race), so Giovanni Valetti won Giro d’Italia. Then Valetti won his second consecutive Giro in 1939, even though the field included Bartali. In the 1940 Giro a young rider emerged. Fausto Coppi left the field behind in the Apennines and went on to win the race. After the World War II the Giro resumed in 1946. The edition was headlined by Bartali and Coppi. Bartali beat Coppi by 47 seconds while finishing the race in Milano. In 1947 they contended again for the title, but this time Coppi won.


PART IV. : 1948-1957

The Coppi-Bartali rivalry continued in the 1948 Giro, but Fiorenzo Magni won the race, who participated in a successful breakaway and gained a 13-sec lead. Magni missed the next year’s race due to illness, and in the Coppi-Bartali rivalry this time Coppi won thanks to a 192-km breakaway. Coppi withdrew from the 1950 Giro due to a big crash, but Bartali could not win either. The Swiss Koblet became the first foreigner to win with his great strategy. In 1951 Coppi could claim only stage wins, the overall victory went to Magni, but a year later Fausto won again ahead of Magni and the Swiss Kübler. Although Coppi already had a 3-minute gap behind the leader in the overall classification, he smashed the whole field in the cruel Stelvio, and became the Giro winner again. In the 1954 Giro the Swiss Clerici beat Coppi thanks to a great breakaway, while the already 40-year old Bartali said farewell to Giro with a seventh place. At the beginning of the 1955 edition the young riders excelled, but when Magni attacked, only Coppi could keep the pace with him, so they finished first and second in the overall classification: Magni beat Coppi by 13 seconds. The 1956 Giro was hindered by the icy wind and driving snow, finally the Luxemburgish Charly Gaul claimed overall victory.


PART V. : 1958-1967

On the first six days of the 1958 edition, six different riders wore the pink jersey, and finally the overall victory was claimed by Baldini. In the following year Italian riders totally disappeared, ‘maglia rosa’ went to a foreign rider after each stage and Gaul won the final classification. The 1960 Giro started in Rome in the honour of the Olympic Games, and the French Jacques Anquetil, the greatest rider of all times claimed victory. In 1962 and 1963 Franco Balmamion won the race, so by the age of 23 he became two-time Giro winner, while in 1964 Anquetil claimed his second victory in Giro d’Italia. In 1965 Giro began from abroad, San Marino, for the first time, and in the absence of the top foreign riders Vittorio Adorni won the race. Anquetil tried to get the treble in 1966, but the young Gianni Motta finished first, while in 1967 another great Italian rider, Felice Gimondi won the overall classification.


PART VI. : 1968-1976

A young Belgian rider, Eddy Merck won the 1968 edition of Giro, but at that time nobody thought he would dominate the future years. Merck was disqualified from the race in 1969 due to drug issues, so Gimondi finished first. However, Merckx returned to Italy in 1970 and certainly, he won again ahead of the defending champion Gimondi. In 1971 surprisingly a Swedish rider, Gösta Pettersson triumphed due to his consistent performance. Then came Merckx’s years: the „Cannibal” won in 1972, 1973 and 1974 as well. (In the latest year he beat the young Baronchelli by only 13 seconds.) In 1973 in the honour of the European Union the Giro included stages in Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Germany, too. In 1975 Merckx suddenly withdrew before the start, but his Belgian compatriots won altogether 11 stages, though the overall victory went to Italian Fausto Bertoglio. The Belgian riders won 11 stages in 1976, too, but the final victory again went to an Italian, Gimondi won his third Giro.


PART VII. : 1977-1987

Merckx retired, but the Belgian riders still played important roles in Giro: in 1977 Pollentier, in 1978 De Muynck won the race. The most memorable stage of the 1978 edition was the finish in Venezia. In 1979 two Italian greats of the next decade, the time trial specialist Francesco Moser and the mountain specialist Giuseppe Saronni fought against each other, and the latter claimed the final victory. Saronni won 7 stages in 1980, but the overall victory went to French Bernard Hinault. Italian Giovanni Battaglin won the 1981 edition only two months after his success in Vuelta, and in the following year Hinault won his second Giro, nobody could catch him in the final time trial. In 1983 two Italian riders, Visentini and Saronni contended for the first place, and although Visentini’s overall time was 10 seconds less, Saronni claimed victory due to the time bonuses. In 1984 finally Moser claimed his Giro win, partly because one of the mountainous stages, that he did not prefer, was cancelled due to bad weather. Hinault gained his third Giro wins in 1985, while in 1986 Visentini collected his own overall victory. The 1987 Giro winner, Irish Stephen Roche won Tour and the World Championships, too, in the same year: the treble that even the great Merckx had never achieved.


PART VIII. : 1988-1997

In the 1988 Giro many stages were cut off due to crashes, injuries or bad weather. American Hampsten became the first non-European rider to win the Giro. In 1988 French Laurent Fignon won the race, in 1990 an Italian dominated again, Gianni Bugno lead and wore the pink jersey from start to finish, a feat that had only been done three times before in the history of Giro: Girardengo (1919), Binda (1927) and Merckx (1973). Three Italian mountain specialists finished top three in 1991, Chioccioli, Chiappucci and Lelli, though two mountainous stages had to be transformed due to bad weather. In 1992 the time trial specialist Spanish Indurain beat Chiappucci and Chioccioli, then he defended his title in 1993. In the 1994 Giro highlighted two young riders: Russian Berzin, who excelled in time trial stages and Italian Marco Pantani, who performed well in the mountains. The Russian claimed overall victory. In 1995 Swiss Rominger beat the defending champion Berzin, the Italian riders did not even get on the podium. A Russian mountain specialist, Pavel Tonkov won the 1996 edition that started in Athens, while in the following year Italian Ivan Gotti triumphed.


PART IX. : 1998-2007

The 1998 Giro went to Marco Pantani. The short Italian mountain specialist beat Tonkov and Guerini. Pantani went on to win Tour as well that year. Pantani dominated the 1999 edition of Giro, too, but later he was disqualified from an excessive haematocrit level before one of the stages. The overall victory went to Gotti, it was his second Giro win. Another Italian, Stefano Garzelli won the race in the following year. The 2001 edition was also won by a home rider, Gilberto Simoni beat two Spanish riders, Olano and Osa. The 2002 Giro crossed six European countries and Paolo Savoldelli claimed overall victory, while in 2003 Simoni gained his own second triumph. The Italian winning series started in 1997 continued in 2004, too, young Damiano Cunego won the race, and in 2005 Savoldelli claimed his second Giro win. Ivan Basso confidently won the 2006 edition, and another Italian, Danilo Di Luca finished first in 2007. These years the Giro’s repute was overshadowed by drug issues, many former and later winners produced strange blood results.


PART X. : 2008-2019

The overall victory of the 2008 edition was taken by one of the greatest riders of the period, namely Spanish Alberto Contador. In 2009 Lance Armstrong was expected to become the champion, but Denis Menchov claimed victory as the third Russian winner of Giro. Ivan Basso returned in 2010 and gained his second win, the Italian great was unbeatable in the mountains. Although Contador finished first in 2011, but the Spanish rider was forced to give back the title due to his drug issues, so Italian Michele Scarpioni was delegated the overall victory. The 2012 edition of Giro brought open battle already at the start. Finally, Canadian Ryder Hesjedal won the balanced race even if he did not win any of the stages. In 2013 Italian Vincenzo Nibali claimed overall victory. He is one of the fewest riders, who has won Giro, Tour and Vuelta as well. Another mountain specialist, Columbian Nairo Quintana won the race in 2014, and in the following year Contador returned to victory by beating Italian Aru in a big fight. In the 2016 Giro Nibali finished first, even if he was 5-minute behind the leaders at a certain point of the race. The 100th edition of Giro d’Italia was won by Dutch Dumoulin, he grabbed the pink jersey only at the final stage, such as Moser in 1984 and Hesjedal in 2012. The 2018 Giro started in Jerusalem, and English Chris Froome finished first ahead of the defending champion Dumoulin. It was the first time since Pantani’s victory in 1998 that the overall winner also became the king of the mountains. In 2019 Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz won Giro, so five years after Quintana’s success in 2014 another South-American rider triumphed.