FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — The Giro d’Italia celebrates its centenary edition in 2017, and as race director Mauro Vegni says, “It will be one for the history books.”
The 2017 edition, the 100th since the race first rolled out of Piazzale Loretto in 1909, will visit most of the “Bel Paese” and pay homage to its cycling elite. And that is not all …
1. Happy 100th!
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One hundred years means something in a country deprived of historical institutions. Italy only became a republic on June 2, 1946. The Catholic church is the longest-running thread through Italian society. The few remaining industrial giants like Fiat and Pirelli popped up in the late 1800s. It leaves the Giro as Italy’s key annual reference point, a three-week pink party celebrated every May — minus the war years — since 1909.
The Tour de France reached the 100th edition in 2013. Only a handful of races, such as the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Paris-Roubaix, the Giro di Lombardia, have reached such an important milestone.
“I’m happy to arrive here for the 100th edition,” Vegni told VeloNews. “I was there for the 100th edition of Lombardia, the 100th of Milano-Sanremo. It’s a pleasure to be here and to design the route.”
2. Embracing Italy
The Giro has begun in Northern Ireland and Greece, but this 2017 edition embraces Italy.
“These are particular years, editions that remain in the history,” Vegni said. “We are putting in all the aspects, and being able to have a Giro that touches much of Italy. There are only four or five regions that are missing: Campania, Lazio, Liguria, Val d’Aosta.”
The 2017 Giro starts in Sardinia and transfers to Sicily before traveling north from the boot’s toe to the Alps in the north. Only once, in 1961, did the Giro visit both big islands. The massive undertaking, with Sardinia covering the transportation costs for ferries and airplanes, highlights the edition’s importance.
The 100th Tour departed from France’s big island, Corsica, for the first time. With the logistical difficulties faced, some contended that that the French grand tour would not visit again for another 100 years.
3. Milan — where it all began
La Gazzetta dello Sport began the race to rival the Tour de France. The route started and finished in Milan, the newspaper’s headquarters, and traveled to seven other cities: Naples, Chieti, Rome, Florence, Bologna, Genoa, and Turin. The newspaper later used pink paper and introduced a jersey to match in 1931.
RCS Sport, the sporting subsidiary of the publishing house RCS Mediagroup, still calls the fashion capital home. It will host the final stage, not at the Arena Civica where Luigi Ganna took the first title in 1909, but in front of the city’s iconic cathedral.
“It was important for us to remember Milan, that’s our headquarters and the first edition started and ended there. In Milan, you have to visit the Duomo. Milan’s known for that. We can’t arrive with a road stage due to road complications, and so we needed a time trial.”
Of the original host cities, only Florence and Milan will see stage starts or finishes, Chieti and Bologna are passed during stages. The others were left out to keep the Giro modern.
4. Non solo una pizza Margherita
A simple pizza Margherita with tomato, mozzarella, and basil will do, but not for 21 days. Vegni’s menu shows plenty of variety.
To keep the Giro modern, he limited the historical symbolism in favor of racing. Not so long ago, the Giro featured multiple flat sprint stages. Sprinter Alessandro Petacchi won nine times alone in the 2004 edition. It also suffered from enormous transfers for years.
The new formula works. Top sprinters attend for the early stages and a chance to wear the pink jersey, and the stars stay for a chance to win one of cycling’s most prestigious titles. Because the route avoids some regions, it is able to spend more time weaving through the famous Alps.
Time trials balance the weight of the mountain stages. In fact, this year, the Giro has more time trial kilometers than the Tour. The time trial through the Sagrantino wine zone covers 39.2 kilometers and the final one to Milan’s Duomo, 28 kilometers.
5. The stars align
The Giro should attract cycling’s top grand tour stars. Vincenzo Nibali (with Bahrain next year) and Fabio Aru (Astana) will race. And reportedly, Esteban Chaves (Orica – BikeExchange), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Chris Froome (Sky) are considering it too.
“I don’t want that the Giro’s important because there’s this rider or that. The Giro and Tour make the champions, it’s not the champions that make the races, ” Vegni added.
“A fundamental motivation was to celebrate 100 years of the Giro’s history, our country. To remember some of the famous Italians who’ve participated in this race, with the start in Ponte a Ema for Gino Bartali, Castellania for Fausto Coppi, Mortirolo for Marco Pantani, Bergamo for Felice Gimondi, Forlì for Ercole Baldini … It’s the 100th edition, you have to remember these cyclists.”