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25 interesting facts about the Giro d’Italia

Together with the Vuelta a Espana and, of course, the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia is one of the three most important and highly regarded cycle races in the world. This year, the route comprises three trials that are timed, seven challenging sprint stages and nine tough summit finishes. The grand tour is due to kick off in The Netherlands and once in Italy will head north from the toe of the boot. It will include a scenic detour into France and will conclude in Turin.

Here are some fascinating facts about the race over the years:

1. The concept of the Giro d'Italia was first mooted May 1909 as a way to boost the sales of the local pink hued paper La Gazzetta dello Sport.

2. Ever since 1960, the departure location has been different every year. A variety of nations have hosted the race, including Austria, Belgium, France, Greece and Northern Ireland to name but a few.

3. The overall victor is established by looking at each ride’s total time over the three week duration of the race. This means that it is perfectly possible for an individual to win the Giro d’Italia even if they have not won a single daily stage.

4. The cyclists travel over 400km during each Giro d’Italia, and the routes are known for their beautiful scenery.

5. At least 800 million people from approximately 174 countries will watch some of the stages on TV.

Group of professional cyclists riding uphill as a group

6. Back in 1987, Stephen Roche was the first Irishman to be crowned winner of the Giro d'Italia. It was an amazing year for him as he also won both the World Championships and the legendary Tour de France.

7. To date, three men have each won the Giro d’Italia on three separate occasions. They are Fausto Coppi, Alfredo Binda, and Eddy Merckx.

8. In Italian ‘Big Start’ translates to 'Grande Partenza' and that is always the term used for the beginning of the race, regardless as to which country the race originates in.

9. During the race, the overall leader is given the maglia rosa (pink jumper) to wear, to signify their status. Pink was chosen because of the race’s relationship with the La Gazzetta dello Sport. This is a very similar set-up to the Tour de France, with the exception of the colour of the jersey. As everyone knows, during the Tour de France, the leader wears yellow in homage to the French sports newspaper L’Auto.

10. During the The Giro d'Italia’s impressively long history, it has only been suspended twice, and for two very good reasons - World War One and World War Two.

Road cyclist taking a corner on a winding road in pursuit of a competitor

11. The first English speaker to win the race was Stephen Roche, who took the crown in 1987. Amazingly, this former dairy worker only learned to ride a bike at the grand old age of thirteen!

12. The youngest ever winner of the Giro d’Italia was Fausto Coppi. He famously won in 1940 - at the incredibly tender age of just 20. In contrast the oldest ever victor, Fiorenzo Magni, was aged 35 although by then he had already won it twice.

13. Unlucky for some - the highest altitude reached by the competitors is the terrifying Cima Coppi. Named after the cycling legend Fausto Coppi, this was established back in 1965.

14. In order to cope with the gruelling physical demands of the Giro d’Italia, cyclists must eat at least six thousand calories per day, with many choosing to consume seven thousand.

15. The Giro d'Italia has a huge Twitter following.

Lone road cyclists riding downhill surrounded by hills

16. As with most major sporting events, the race has been at the centre of a number of controversies. To cite one example from 1922, a competitor ‘borrowed’ a wheel from another member of his team. For this he received just a twenty five minute penalty and despite this, he still won the event. If that happened today, it seems likely that the penalty would be rather harsher!

17. Talking of scandals, during the 1920’s, the race was largely dominated by Alfredo Binda. Indeed, in 1929, he won an astonishing eight stages in succession, and was the overall winner. This perturbed the sponsors, La Gazzetta dello Sport, who were so worried that the lack of competition would impact negatively on their circulation that they accused Binda of spoiling the race. They then offered him the princely sum of twenty tow thousand lira in return for him dialling his performance down a little in 1930. While Binda rejected this somewhat bizarre offer, he did not win the Giro d’Italia again for several years.

18. More Italians than any other nationality have won the Giro d’Italia. Following in their footsteps are the Belgians and the French.

19. The first ever winner of the Giro d’Italia was Luigi Ganna in the inaugural race in 1909.

20. In 1988 an American competitor by the name of Andrew Hamsten was ultimately victorious. He hailed from Ohio, and raced for Team 7-Eleven.

Image of the handle bars and road ahead from a cyclists perspective

21. The Giro d’Italia’s route changes every year. The hardest stages are almost always those that run through the Apennine and Alpine passes.

22. It is quite normal for riders to experience conditions right across the weather spectrum.

23. In 1988 riders had to contend with severely snowy weather conditions.

24. In the history of the grand Tour, the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France have only had the same winner in the same year ten times. This impressive feat has only been achieved by just six cyclists.

25. Winning both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France is clearly a magnificent achievement. The preparation lead time in terms of achieving peak levels of fitness for each race is huge, and the recovery period required is extensive, meaning that there is a huge pressure on riders who aim to be crowned in both. The last rider to achieve the double was Marco Pantani back in 1998. Many riders don’t even consider going for gold in both - and Lance Armstrong famously never attempted it.

Image of a lone road cyclist drinking water whilst riding on the road surrounded by trees