Yeah, you guessed it. The Giro d’Italia was first staged in 1909 to help promote the Italian newspaper produced on pink newsprint, La Gazetta dello Sport. Somewhat curiously, the Pink Jersey or Maglia Rosa wasn’t introduced until more than two decades later, in 1931. (I’m sure there’s a very good reason for this, but I haven’t had the time to find out what it is. Feel free to share if you know.)
Like its French and Spanish siblings, the Giro is an epic three-week pain fest featuring all of the world’s top Pro teams (but much to the chagrin of the organisers, not always its top riders, as many prefer to wait for the TdF, whilst the world’s top commentators, Messers Liggett and Sherwin will also be absent, at the Tour of California instead).
An Italian travelogue on two wheels, the Giro takes in some of the host nation’s most famous roads and feared climbs (the highest point of the Giro each year is known as the Cima Coppi). That said, the mighty dollar speaks volumes at the Giro as it does elsewhere– maybe more than any other race given Italy’s recent financial woes? – and saw the first three stages of last year’s race start, of all places, in Denmark. Next year’s race will start in the UK, as will the TdF incidentally. Who’s copying who? Hmmm.
Regardless, the good news for Italian purists is this year’s edition starts nowhere near foreign soil. Stage 1 starts and ends in Naples under the history-laden gaze of Mount Vesuvius from Pompeii fame. By the time it’s all finished, 21 stages later on 26 May, the remaining riders will have covered an impressive 3,405km.
Boasting such iconic names as Coppi, Bartali, Moser and Pantani, Italian riders have won the Giro a whopping 67 times. Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali is their best chance this year. But don’t hold your breath. On back of five wins by the legendary Eddie Merckx, Belgium riders are the second most successful, way back on seven wins. Canada’s Ryder Hesjedal is the reigning champion.
2010: a Giro Odyssey
An Australian has never won the Giro, but several have worn the Maglia Rosa including Team Sky’s Richie Porte for three stages in 2010. Despite not being a sprinter Cadel Evans won Stage 7 as well as the overall points jersey, the Maglia Rosso, in the same year. Whilst another Aussie, Matthew Lloyd, took out Stage 6 and the overall Maglia Verde for the mountains classification proving himself to be a true mountain goat. The human powerplant, Matt Goss, also won Stage 9, making 2010 one of the best ever all-round performances by Aussie riders at a Grand Tour.
From a GC perspective, Cadel will be back for another crack at pink in 2013, but looks to have his work cut out keeping Wiggo and the Sky Train at bay. Time (trials?) will tell.
Like the Tour and Vuelta, the Giro also demands an epic staying performance from Australian cycling fans. Three weeks of late nights, coupled with early morning starts if you intend to keep riding yourself, will place your body under considerable stress. A sound nutrition and recovery strategy is vital.