Why I love the Giro d’Italia…
The 97th edition of the Giro d’Italia starts today in Belfast with 198 cyclists participating in the opening team time trial in the Northern Irish capital. This year’s race will comprise 21 stages and cover over 3,200 kilometers. Most folks know the race was first organized in 1909 to increase sales of the newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport. However, did you know that the inaugural winner, opened up a 7-employee bicycle factory with his earnings…? How cool is that..?!?!
Sure cycling’s most famous race is the Tour de France, but it’s hard to argue that it’s next most famous and arguably grittier grand event is the Giro d’Italia. Although I enjoy the Le’ Tour as much as the next person, I am more attracted to Giro for reasons I can and sometimes, cannot explain.
Ireland or Bust…!
For the first time the Giro will start outside of Europe, commencing in Belfast Ireland. Dan Martin of the Garmin-Sharp team is one of three Irish competitors in this year’s event. There is a great story in that Dan’s Uncle, Stephen Roche, is the only Irish citizen to win the Giro and Sunday’s stage will pass through Roche’s hometown of Dublin. Nothing like having the pressure of fellow countrymen and national pride on the line…!
The character of the Giro to me is what continues to draw attention to this grand event. Yes, the descents on the Tour De France are fast and furious, but it always appears that some roads in the Giro are literally crumbling at the edges,freezing rain is coming down and nasty diminutive stone walls line the bends, making it a BIT more spicy….! On some of the more rural stretches, its fantastic spotting locals taking in the sights of the bike train as it blows by. Sights and sounds of the local culture add to the romanticized image and rich heritage that characterizes the Giro.
I picture old men in wool suits, standing roadside, La Gazzetta tucked under arm, smoking a cigarette and sporting darks shades of course..!
Some other great images over the years include spectators on Vespas or Lambretta scooters rolling along the route, livestock sauntering across roads holding up the peleton, snow, italian podium ladies (sorry..), and Gelato & Espresso roadside cafés…’nuff said.Maybe I am slightly biased to the Giro over the Le Tour because I am half Italian. My grandparents and my Aunt are from the old country and my Mother was born only 3 years after they moved to the United States. One of my Mother’s cousins has participated in a few Paralympics as a cyclist. I guess it was a matter of time that I developed the cycling bug myself and, with my Italian heritage, may explain my preference for the Giro! So much of the rich culture from the amazing food, the beautiful landscape, the legendary motorsports heritage, rich artistic culture…and Sophia Loren…. sorry I digress! By the way, The Giro has been won 68 times by Italian competitors… i miei fratelli …!