Little Bits of History

Tour of Italy

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 13, 2015
Luigi Ganna

Luigi Ganna

May 13, 1909: The first Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy) begins from Loreto Place in Milan. The stage race bicycle race continues to this day and remains primarily in Italy but does occasionally pass through nearby countries. The race was first proposed in 1908 when the newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport was hoping to increase sales. The paper’s rival, Corriere della Sera had just been successful holding an automobile race and Tullo Morgangni sent telegrams hoping to institute a similar race for bicycles. La Gazzetta lacked the funds but the paper’s owners realized previous successes in the field made it possible. The race was announced on August 7, 1908 with the race date the following May.

Organizers needed 25,000 lira to fund the event. Primo Bongrani, a friend of the organizers and an accountant at the local bank, was able to go around Italy and ask for donations to help fund the race, an early gofundme. He was successful and the operating costs were met. The prize money came from a casino in San Remo after a former Gazzetta employee convinced them to contribute to the race. Even Corriere gave 3000 lira to help the race effort. On this day, 127 riders began the eight stage race covering 1,521 miles. Only 49 riders finished and Italian Luigi Ganna was the first race’s winner. He won in three stages and the General Classification and won 5,325 lira. The last rider in the general classification won 300 lira. The race’s director was paid 150 lira a month – just as a point of comparison.

The race has been held yearly, except when interrupted by the two World Wars. The general classification is the most important of all classifications (including points and mountains classifications) for this race. Since 1931, the leader of the general classification has worn a pink jersey. Over the years, the classification system has been challenged and altered – and reverted back to the original method. The most wins of the general classification is a three way tie with Alfredo Binda, Fausto Coppi, and Eddy Merckx each winning five times. The first two are Italian and Eddy is Belgian. The most recent winner is Nairo Quintana from Colombia.

Luigi Ganna was born in 1883 and lived to be 73, dying in 1957. His biggest achievement in biking was this win, although he had also won prior to this event in the classic Milan – San Remo race. The 2014 Giro d’Italia was held from May 9 to June 1 and covered 2,141 miles. There were 21 stages with the race starting from Belfast with a 13.5 mile team time trial and ended in Trieste with a 106.9 mile flat stage. There were 198 riders from 22 teams entered. Quintana was the first Colombian to win the Giro. After three days in Ireland, the fourth day (a rest day) had the bikers moved to Italy where they were then able to ride from the “heel of the boot” up to the top, at Trieste for the finish.

Life is like a bicycle; you don’t fall off unless you stop pedaling. – Claude Pepper

Life is like a ten speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use. – Charles Schulz

Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race. – H. G. Wells

The bicycle is just as good company as most husbands and, when it gets old and shabby, a woman can dispose of it and get a new one without shocking the entire community. – Anna Louise Strong

Also on this day: Knork? Spork? – In 1637 Cardinal Richelieu changes table settings.
Star Light, Star Bright – In 1861, the Great Comet was first discovered.
Red Fort – In 1648, construction on the Red Fort was completed.
RFC – In 1912, the Royal Flying Corps was established in Britain.
Freedom Sails – In 1862, Robert Smalls sailed away in the USS Planter.

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