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Giro d'Italia winners in seven stories

Josh Cunningham
8 May 2019

Remarkable feats, close-run battles and smashed records aplenty in our compilation of Giro d'Italia winners' stories

1909 - The original - Luigi Ganna

The first ever Giro d'Italia was won by Luigi Ganna of the Atala team, who completed the 2,448km race in 89hr, 48min and 14sec. The 25-year-old Lombard won three stages on his way to overall victory, writing his name indelibly into the record books.

1912 - The team effort - Team Atala-Dunlop

Up until the 1913 Giro the General Classification was run on a points-based system, which alone is a curious thing in retrospect.

But in 1912 there wasn't even an individual winner, as for the only occasion in the race's history the competition was team-based.

It was Luigi Ganna's Atala-Dunlop team that won the overall, but had organisers not departed from the individual ranking, Carlo Galetti would have won his third consecutive Giro, with a total elapsed time of 100hr 2min and 57sec.

Unfortunately for Galetti though, on this occasion some were not more equal than others.

1940 - The youngest - Fausto Coppi

While Fausto Coppi can also boast the title of most Giro d'Italia overall wins, a title he shares with Eddy Merckx and Alfredo Binda, it is the one of youngest ever winner that he claim wholly for himself.

Coppi was just 20 years and 267 days old when he won his first ever Giro in 1940, taking advantage of a crash involving teammate Gino Bartali and usurping him as team leader.

Coppi took the pink jersey on stage 11, and kept it all the way to the finish, triggering a career-long rivalry with the senior Bartali.

1948 - The closest - Fiorenzo Magni

11 seconds was all that separated Fiorenzo Magni and Ezio Cecchi at the end of the 1948 Giro d'Italia, a gap which remains the closest winning margin in the race's history.

Magni finished Stage 9 more than 13 minutes ahead of his main rivals, including Fausto Coppi (who complained that Magni was being pushed up mountains by fans, and quit the race as a result).

It was a hard defeat for Cecchi to take though, coming at the end of a career that had included three 2nd place stage finishes at the Giro, as well as an 8th, 7th, 6th, 4th, and two 2nd place finishes in the GC.

Of all people to suffer the closest losing margin at the Giro, it seems it could only have been Cecchi.

1950 - The foreigner - Hugo Koblet

Until 1950, every winner of the Giro d'Italia had been, unsurprisingly, Italian.

If Fausto Coppi hadn't crashed and broken his pelvis on Stage 9, this edition may well have continued the theme too, but with the favourite out, it was the Swiss Koblet that rose to the top of the general classification and put Gino Bartali into second place on his way to a historic victory. 

Koblet would go on to win the Tour de France in 1951, the highlight of his career, but sadly would also fall prematurely from these lofty heights, and lose himself amongst racing, financial, and relationship demons.

He died following a car crash aged 39, in circumstances that some have likened to suicide.

1999 - The dodgiest - Ivan Gotti

Marco Pantani had stormed the '99 Giro, and on the penultimate stage, while almost 6 minutes ahead of second place, was primed to take his second Maglia Rosa.

However, he was ejected from the race on grounds that he had returned a test that showed his haematocrit level to be over 50%, which at the time was the UCI's primary anti-blood doping measure, and therefore grounds for punishment.

Ivan Gotti, himself a former winner in 1997, inherited the race leadership and won the Giro.

But, cycling being cycling, it has since emerged that the story might be more convoluted than first thought, with investigations into a case that says Pantani's eviction was down to mafia involvement.

Presumably large and illegal bets are said to have been placed against Pantani winning the '99 Giro and, not having wanted to pay the ensuing debts, the Camorra mafia group have been accused of somehow finding a way to stop that transpiring.

Dirty blood or dirty money, either way it was a shady edition of the Giro d'Italia that Gotti found himself winning.

2003 - The winningest - Mario Cipollini

On Stage 9, from Arezzo to Montecatini, Mario Cipollini [who we interviewed here] outsprinted Robbie McEwen and Alessandro Petacchi to win his second stage of the 2003 Giro, and the 42nd of his career.

It was a record that began in 1989, was added to in every subsequent year barring '93 and '94, included three points classification victories, and cemented Cipollini's status as the most prolific stage winner of the Giro. 

Of riders that haven't yet retired, Mark Cavendish is closest to supplanting Cipo at the top of the leader board, but even then, he only has a comparatively meagre 17. 

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