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Tales from the peloton, May 15, 2009

50 Giro facts you need to know

By Greg Johnson

The Giro d'Italia has a historic field taking part in this year's event, a fitting tribute to the race's centenary year. While the peloton tackles the Grand Tour's 92nd running, we take a look back at 50 facts you might not, but should, know about this fantastic event's rich history.

1 Hugo Koblet was the first foreign rider to win the Giro d'Italia in 1950. The Swiss rider has since been joined by two compatriots as Giro winners: Carlo Clerici and Tony Rominger.

2 The Giro held its first individual time trial, now a race-deciding feature of the event, in 1933. Alfredo Binda won the 62-kilometre trip from Bologna to Ferrara.

3 Italian riders, as you would expect, have won significantly more Giro stages than any other country. Some 340 Italians have claimed a massive 1184 stage wins during the race's history. The Belgians rank second, with just 150 stage wins.

4 The longest Giro was held in 1954 – a massive 4337-kilometres over 22 stages. The course included a whooping 352-kilometre stage from Catanzaro to Bari. Carlo Clerici became just the second non-Italian rider to win the Giro on that gruelling occasion.

5 Mario Cipollini has won more Giro stages than any other rider, with 42 wins. The Italian only just managed to pass Alfredo Binda's 41, but the pair is a long way ahead of third placed Learco Guerra's 31.

6 Last year's Giro d'Italia winner Alberto Contador was the first non-Italian rider claim victory since 1996. Russian Pavel Tonkov was the last to win before the decade of Italian dominance.

Robbie McEwen is one of four Australians to have worn the Giro's maglia rosa.
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

7 Four Australians have worn the Giro's maglia rosa. Bradley McGee pulled on pink for two stages, while Cadel Evans, Brett Lancaster and Robbie McEwen have each worn the race leader jersey for one stage.

8 Belgium's Eddy Merckx has worn the leader's jersey on more Giro stages than any other rider has. He donned the maglia rosa for 79 stages, with Alfredo Binda having worn the jersey on 61 occasions.

9 Just two American riders have worn the leader's jersey, with the most recent being Christian Vande Velde in 2008. Andrew Hampsten contested nine stages in pink.

10 The Giro saw its largest field in 1928 when 298 riders took part in the race. That year Alfredo Binda claimed his third Giro title.

11 A woman was invited to contest the 1924 Giro. Alfonsina Strada was disqualified from the general classification after crashing and missing the time limit on the 296-kilometre stage from L'Aquila to Perugia, but went on to be one of just 30 riders to complete the race. Following a spike in sales, the race's sponsor made her the race's highest-paid participant in order to contest the remaining four stages.

12 Andrew Hampsten is the only North American rider to have won the Giro. In 1988 Hampsten spent nine days in pink and claimed two stage victories en route to Giro glory. He returned the following year to finish in third place.

13 Three riders are tied for the most Giro general classification wins. Alfredo Binda was the first to claim five titles between 1925 and 1933, Fausto Coppi took longer – thanks to the war – to claim his five from 1940 to 1953 then Eddy Merckx joined the two legends with his five wins from seven editions between 1968 and 1974.

14 The 1914 Giro featured an average stage length of 407-kilometres. The eight-stage race had just three stages under 400-kilometres in length, and all of those were over 328-kilometres long.

15 The Giro's pink leader's jersey, or maglia rosa, has been awarded since the 1931 edition. The jersey's colour is derived from the pink pages of sponsor Gazzetta dello Sport.

16 The Giro's smallest field came in just its third year. In 1912, just 56 riders took to the event's start line.

17 This year's 61.7-kilometre individual time trial from Sestri Levante to Riomaggiore is the longest time trial in 13 years and nearly double the length of the time trial in 2008. Russian rider Eugeni Berzin won the 62-kilometre effort from Vicenza to Marostica in the 1996 race.

18 Milano has hosted some 77 Giro stage finishes during the race's history. Rome is second in the count of finish cities with 46 visits while Napoli has held 41.

19 Djamolidine Abdoujaparov is the only Uzbekistan rider to have contested the Giro. He contested the event on five occasions, taking home a stage win on the 115-kilometre stage 10 in 1994, the same year he took the event's points classification win.

Marzio Bruseghin is the highest finishing rider from 2008 taking part in this year's Giro is Italia.
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

20 2351 riders have taken part in the Giro's 92 editions. Italians make up 33.9 percent of those that have, or are, contesting the race.

21 Remember that brutal 1914 edition we mentioned? Well, huge surprise, that edition enjoyed the fewest finishers in Giro history. Just eight people crossed the finish line in Milano on June 7, 1914. More than 17 hours separated the top eight riders on general classification.

22 The first Giro has a prize pool of just 25 lire. Race winner Luigi Ganna took home about 5.32 lire for his efforts.

23 While America is still struggling to get a live broadcast of the Giro, its first live broadcast at home was in 1953.

24 The first five editions of the Giro were not decided on overall time, as modern day stage races are. Rather, the winner was decided based on the number of stage victories.

25 Giro organizers also tried to run the race as a teams' event in the early days. As a result, the 1912 edition was won by Carlo Galetti, Giovanni Micheletto and Eberardo Pavesi.

26 Vladimir Poulnikov was the first rider to win the maglia bianca, the white best young rider's jersey, twice in 1989 and 1990. The Ukrainian also claimed three stage wins during his career – in 1990, 1991 and 1994.

Mario Cipollini has won more Giro stages than any other rider, with 42 wins.
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

27 Eddy Merckx and Stephan Roche are the only two riders to win cycling's triple crown – the Giro, Tour de France and World Championships. Belgian Merckx took his in 1974 while Irishman Roche shot to fame with his successful streak in 1987.

28 Only two Spaniards have won the Giro, despite the nation fielding the second largest number of riders during the Italian race's history. Miguel Indurain took back-to-back victories in 1992 and 1993 while Alberto Contador won last year's race.

29 The closest winning margin in Giro history came at the 1948 event. Just 11 seconds separated race winner Fiorenzo Magni and Ezio Cecchi. Incredible when you consider the race was contested over 19 stages with 4059-kilometres of racing.

30 Antonio Menendez is a name many will never have heard, yet his achievement on the 1976 Giro's 11th stage is remarkable. The Spanish rider rode off the front at the start of the 222-kilometre stage, and wasn't see by another rider again until they met him at the finish in Gabbice Mare – giving the little known rider the Giro's longest breakaway title.

31 The 2009 Giro will/is visiting all eight of the original host cities of the first event to celebrate its centenary.

32 Mark Cavendish is Great Britain's most successful rider at the Giro d'Italia, having claimed his third stage victory on this year's opening team time trial. Cavendish joined then passed Vin Denson and Robert Millar as the only other British stage winners on debut in 2008.

33 Giro legend Fausto Coppi was the youngest rider to win the race. He was just 20 years, eight months and 25 days old when he claimed his first title in 1940.

34 The Giro d'Italia was suspended on two occasions. The first was from 1915 to 1918 for World War I and then again from 1941 to 1945 for World War II.

35 Rome has held more stage departures than any other city in the Giro, with the city to see a departure for the 56th time on this year's 21st stage. The city last held a departure, two in fact, in 2000 but it didn't host a single departure during the 1990s.

36 Timothy Jones is the only Zimbabwean rider to have contested the Giro. Jones did so in 2001 while riding for Mobilvetta Design / Formaggi Trentini.

Albrerto Contador is one of two Spaniards to have won the Giro d'Italia.
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

37 Carlo Oriani, who won the 1913 Giro, died during World War I.

38 Alfredo Binda's dominance of the Giro became so great, organizers gave him 22,500 lire to skip the 1930 race.

39 John Rossignoli would have been the first Giro winner if the race was decided on total time as is now the case (see fact 24 for more).

40 Carlo Galetti was the Giro's first repeat winner. Galetti won the 1910 edition with Team Atala, the following year with Bianchi, then returned to Team Atala for his third victory in 1912.

41 The Legnano squad won more Giro titles than any other team. The team was sponsored by the former bicycle manufacturer of the same name, which was founded in 1902. The team's 14 Giro victories came largely thanks to Giovanni Brunero's three victories and five at the hand of Alfredo Binda.

42 Back to Alfredo Binda again – the Italian rider holds the record for most stage wins in a single event. The five-time Giro champion took 12 victories out of the 15 stages in 1927. Domenico Piemontesi, Arturo Bresciani and Giovanni Brunero were the only other riders to claim stage wins that year.

43 The first Giro in 1909 featured the shortest route in history. Its eight stages covered 2245-kilometres of Italian countryside, starting and finishing in Milan.

44 Incredibly the Giro has been led from start to finish on four occasions, and not all of them were in the early days as one might expect. Constante Girardengo was the first in 1919 followed by, you guessed it, Alfredo Binda in 1927. Nearly half a century would pass before Eddy Merckx repeated the feat in 1973 and then Gianni Bugno became the latest in 1990.

45 Australia's Brett Lancaster rode himself into the Giro's race leader's jersey on the events shortest ever stage. It took Lancaster just 81 seconds to cover the 1.15-kilometre opening Reggio Calabria prologue at a speedy 51.75-kilometres/hour.

46 The highest finishing rider from 2008 taking part in this year's Giro is Italia Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre-NGC).

47 Giro organiser Vincenzo Torriani delayed the start of Stage 17 in 1969 by half an hour as to persuade the Italian federation to let Eddy Merckx, after he tested positive to fencamfamine. The test was a point of much debate, with Merckx continually denying he ever took a prohibited substance. Merckx was on track to win that year's event, which would have left him as the most successful Giro rider of all time on general classification wins.

48 Giuseppe Saronni holds the title of fastest man in the Giro's 100-year history. The Italian rider set an average speed of 38.937 km/h during the 100:45.30 hours of racing over 22 stages in 1979.

49 It took 78 years for the Giro to find an English-speaking winner. While the Italians' dominance on the podium's top step loosened from the 1950s, it wasn't until Stephen Roche's win in 1987 that an English speaker took top honours. But it was just 12 months before another native English speaker would win, when Andy Hampsten took out the title.

50 This year's Giro included nearly every rider to have won the event since the turn of the century. The most recent winner, Alberto Contador and Paolo Savoldelli, are the only omissions from the list, with Danilo Di Luca, Ivan Basso, Damiano Cunego, Gilberto Simoni and Stefano Garzelli having shared every other race win from 2000 to 2007.

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