Giro d'Italia | Here come the mountains

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The Giro d’Italia is one of three cycling events comprising the Grand Tours, which also includes the more globally renowned Tour de France and Vuelta a España.  Typically held late in May or early in June each year, the Giro is arguably one of the more grueling cycling events, pushing climbers to extremes of climate and topography, ultimately testing their limits, physically, mentally and emotionally.  

The Giro has a long and vibrant history, and both its participants and fans would agree that having the strength to move mountains (or climb them, as the case may be) is partly what the Giro is about.  That, and, of course, winning.  Over the past 100 events held since its inception, the Giro has seen three five-time overall winners, including Alfredo Binda (1925, 1927-1929, 1933), who was the first to win five editions of the Giro; Fausto Coppi (1940, 1947, 1949, 1952-53); and Eddy Merckx (1968, 1970, 1972-74).  Gino Bartali won the Giro three times (1936-37, 1946), as did Fiorenzo Magni (1948, 1951, 1955), Felice Gimondi (1967, 1969, 1976), and Bernard Hinault (1980, 1982, 1985).  A host of other climbers have also had favorable turnouts throughout the years, and all undoubtedly have some amazing stories to share about the Giro.         


From its first win by Luigi Ganna in 1909, the Giro has been a climber’s challenge, facing bitter cold temperatures, lingering snow and ice, steep and treacherous mountain passes, and difficult road conditions.  This year’s route will travel through some of the more famous mountain passes in the history of the Giro, including Stelvio Pass.  Deemed the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps at 2,757 meters (9,045 feet) above sea level, Stelvio Pass features a narrow, winding roadway that traverses over the pass.    


Why do climbers enter the Giro each year? Each one has their own reasons to take on the challenge.  Perhaps it is the desire to test their limits on an unforgiving landscape, or the sheer joy of cycling.  Maybe it is the need to experience the world in a way very few people can, or it might be an innate part of their competitive nature to accept a seemingly insurmountable challenge.  Whatever their reason, climbers enter each race with a zest for adventure and desire to compete, hoping to best each other while pushing themselves to the limit.  

And, this year just under 200 climbers started the race, each with their own goals in mind and personal expectations in their hearts.  Some will race farther and faster than they have ever done, and others will fall far short of their best for circumstances sometimes beyond their control.  Some might feel the need to surrender to the elements of time, weather, and landscape, and others may capitalize on those elements to their benefit.  All will challenge themselves to keep going forward, upward and onward, even when it seems they can do so no longer.  How many will finish, and who will don the pink jersey this year?  Time will tell.  

Matt Franks