By Andrew Hood

Fausto Coppi

Fausto Coppi

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Alessandro Petacchi and Mario Cipollini aren’t the first to spar in the Giro d’Italia. The first great Giro rivalry was between Constante Giradengo, a Giro winner in 1919 and 1923, and Alfredo Binda, Italy’s first cycling superstar.

Nicknamed the “Man from Novi,” Giradengo became furiously jealous when the handsome Binda came along to dominate Italian cycling. Binda, who won five Giri and held the stage-win record of 41 until Cipollini broke it last year, refused to even speak to Giradengo. In 1927, Binda humiliated his rival by more than seven minutes to claim the first world-championship title.

The Giro’s last great war on wheels was between Francesco Moser and Giuseppe Saronni, who clashed in the late 1970s and early ’80s when they dueled for the flowers from Milan-San Remo all the way to the Tour of Lombardy.

Moser was the brute from the mountains of Trentino, while Saronni was the cool sophisticate from Novara. Both were proud riders who squared off in the headlines just as much as on the bike. Saronni twice won the Giro (in1979 and 1983) before Moser could score his lone victory in 1984.The Giro’s greatest rivalry, and perhaps the greatest in cycling history, was between Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi.

The two riders split a nation as fans drew sides. Bartali was known as “the Pious” for his strict religious beliefs, while Coppi was an avowed atheist who flaunted his affair with his mistress, the infamous “white lady.”

Bartali was the unrivaled king of Italian cycling until the upstart Coppi came along. Bartali won the Giro twice (1936, 1937) before Coppi won his first after being signed to Bartali’s team as a gregario. World War II robbed both riders of their peak years, but Bartali returned in1946 to win the Giro a final time while Coppi rode on to win four more.