QUINTESSENTIALLY AND EMPHATICALLY ITALIAN, THE GIRO D'ITALIA IS PART RACE, PART PANTOMIME. IN THIS, ITS CENTENARY YEAR, WE CELEBRATE THE CORSA ROSA'S UNPARALLELED PANACHE AND UNPREDICTABLE HISTORY.
It’s tempting to think of the Giro d’Italia as a poor man’s Tour de France. By the time the inaugural edition rolled out of Milan in 1909, the transalpini had been up and running for six years. Whilst the Tour introduced its maillot jaune as early as 1923, Italians had need wait until 1931 for the maglia rosa. Italy routinely produced the better cyclists back then, but the Tour has always had more money and more prestige, and as such more of the world’s most talented riders. It has more of just about everything and as such, for the casual observer at least, it is the bike race. The Tour, as Italians are apt to lament, is the Tour. It’s the one race which transcends mere sport, a commercial juggernaut and a gigantic, high-summer pastiche of French grandeur. Seamlessly choreographed and immensely profitable, it’s everything that the Giro is not. A good deal bigger, then, but in professional sport bigger is very seldom better. For all its money-making acumen and all that it envelops an entire sporting continent, the reality is that the Tour has never been the Giro’s equal as a bicycle race. For over a century its route has been formulaic, its climate predictable, its racing anodyne by comparison.