100th Giro stage 21: Torino - Milano 206 km
Giro 1909 stage 8Climbs:
Final parade for the peloton.
Giro of the stage:
[For those who want an extremely detailed report by Mauro Facoltosi, you have it here, although Italian-only: http://www.ilciclismo.it/dev/index.php/app/ilciclismo/ilciclismoID/12ruk1v4g496td2gblj2ttceo0/mod/chapters_explorer/chapter_id/796/title/IL-GIRO-DI-CENT-ANNI-FA-di-M--Facoltosi
What follows is my short summary of it]
It was August 5th, 1908, when Angelo Gatti, founder and co-owner of Atala (a bike-manufactor), got the rumour that the big Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera was planning to imitate the Tour de France (started 5 years earlier) by creating a stage race in Italy. Gatti didn't hesitate and called (I mean telegraphed) his friend Tullio Morgagni, chief editor and associate of La Gazzetta dello Sport, a newspaper based in Milano that had already created the Giro di Lombardia and Milano-Sanremo, just a few years earlier. Morgagni urgently called all the other associates, and the following day, August 6th, they held a meeting, and decided to act and announce the race before the Corriere (that later will graciously agree to sponsor it). The official announcement was printed on the Gazzetta on Friday, August 7th. Il Giro d'Italia had been created, the first edition planned to start in less than a year, on Thursday May 13th, 1909.
The first route of the Giro included only 8 stages, to be held in non-consecutive days, in order to let the riders rest after stages that were on average 300 kms long.
1 May 13th Milano > Bologna 397 km
2 May 16th Bologna > Chieti 378.5 km
3 May 18th Chieti > Napoli 242.8 km
4 May 20th Napoli > Roma 228.1 km
5 May 23rd Roma > Firenze 346.5 km
6 May 25th Firenze > Genova 294.1 km
7 May 27th Genova > Torino 354.9 km
8 May 30th Torino > Milano 206 km
The format was quite different to what we're used to. The GC was placements-based, with no time gaps at all: simply, the rider with the lowest aggregated position (1st -> 1 point, 2nd -> 2 pts and so on) in all stages would win the GC.
166 riders signed in, 146 Italians and 20 strangers, the most famous of which was Lucien Georges Mazan, aka "Petit-Breton", winner of the Tour in 1907 and 1908 and of the first ever Milano-Sanremo (1907). Of the Italians, the most prominent ones were the famous Giovanni Gerbi, aka "Diavolo Rosso", Carlo Galetti, multiple winner of the Giro di Sicilia and the Milano-Roma, and Luigi Ganna, winner of the 1909 Milano-Sanremo.
Only 128 riders showed up in Milan for the first stage. The start took place at 2.53 AM (yes, AM), in front of a pretty impressive crowd, considering the circumstances. The first stage wiped out the two most famous riders already: after just over a km there's a mass crash and Gerbi destroys his bike, causing him to look for mechanic at 3 o'clock in the morning
He will find a Bianchi shop and will manage to ruin the sleep of a mechanic, but he'll be able to restart only 3 hours later. Later in the same stage, Mazan crashes. He'll manage to finish, badly injured, the stage but he won't start stage 2. In Bologna a sudden shower starts just a few minutes before the first selected group of riders (12 units) arrive, and the massive crowd panic and fill up all the covered spots they can find, including the jury stand. In the mess, the judges can barely identify a couple of riders sprinting. The winner is Dario Beni, that much is clear to everybody, while for the other positions the judges have to investigate, asking here and there, to the crowd, to the guys in the cars and to the riders themselves
The Giro the proceeds, full of puntures, crashes, mechanicals and all sort of weird and sometimes funny stuff, like riders taking the train for a part of a stage, and being busted by the jury with a surprise checkpoint in the middle of it... Giovanni Cuniolo wins stage 2, where Ganna takes the lead in GC. Giovanni Rossignoli wins stage 3, with Carlo Galetti taking the lead from Ganna, who will retake it, this time for good, after winning stage 4. He will also win stage 5 and 7, while Rossignoli will win stage 6. An interesting anecdote happens at the start of stage 7, in Genova, where the crowd is so big (it is, again, around 3 AM), that the organisers are afraid to let the race start in there, so they decide to let the riders parade until just outside the city, where they will give the actual start. It was the first neutralized start in history, something that will quickly become standard, even today.
Stage of the stage:
The peloton is reduced to only 51 riders starting the final stage. The GC is still open, as Ganna leads with only 3 points of advantage over Galetti. Immediately the race lights up, when a selected group with all the best breaks away. Two of Ganna's teammates, who had retired days earlier, try to sneak in the race and help their captain, but the other riders notice them and call the jury. Nice try though
Shortly after Arona, the race blows up: Ganna punctures, and the others attack him. He quickly finds himself 2 minutes behind, and it seems all is lost. However, the front group gets stuck behind a rail crossing, in perfect Roubaix style
, and Ganna manages to catch them.
At the finish the crowd is massive, and the finishing straight is "secured" by the army, with lancers charging at the sides of the peloton. Apparently, one of the horses panics and causes a crash in the sprint, and the two that are least affected are Beni, who wins, and Galetti. Ganna arrives third, and even if he's not aware of his position, he wins the Giro with a total of 25 points, against Galetti's 27 and Rossignoli's 40. He will celebrate the triumph with a huge, delighted crowd, parading the city center. The Giro d'Italia was history already.Protagonists of the stage: