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For over 100 years, the Giro d'Italia has been infamous for drama and controversy. We picked 5 of the most iconic stages in its history.
Stage 14 of the 1988 Giro was no ordinary day. Featuring the mighty 20km-long Passo Di Gavia and a brutal snowstorm, it goes down in history as a seismic race. American Andy Hampsten, riding for 7-Eleven, had his eye on the Maglia Rosa and with it a steely determination to win. As he launched an attack on the lower slopes of the Gavia, he was followed by just one rider; Dutchman Erik Breukink. Battling blizzard conditions the pair rode on towards the summit, ice forming sheets on their backs and shins. Behind them the Giro was in turmoil, riders were found crying at the road side, and others climbed into team cars refusing to ride on. But Breukink and Hampsten – wearing his now famous signature ski hat and white Oakleys – and were seemingly immune, riding hard to the finish in Bormio. Though the Dutchman took the stage, Hampsten took the leader’s pink jersey, which he held all the way to the finish at Vittorio Veneto, where he walked into the Giro’s hall of fame.
Fausto Coppi and Hugo Koblet were good friends, until the 1953 Giro after which they never spoke again. At the start of the penultimate stage, Italy’s Il Campionissimo was trailing the Swiss Pédaleur de charme by almost two minutes. Coppi was all but beaten and had already congratulated his rival on his race-winning performance. The stage passed over the mighty Passo dello Stelvio and at the start the pair made a deal – they wouldn't attack on each other on the mountain. But as the gradient began to climb Coppi powered away, leaving Koblet furious in his wake. The Italian put nearly three-and-a-half minutes into the Swiss rider, soloing over the Stelvio to take the stage and steal the overall race lead.
The rivalry between team mates and fellow Italians Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali is the stuff of legend; Bartali, nicknamed Gino the Pious and flamboyant Coppi, Fausto the Sinner, rarely saw eye to eye. At 254km-long, the huge 17th stage of the 1949 Giro was a monster and it remains one of the most famous rides in the race’s history. It was also the scene of one of Coppi and Bartali’s most memorable clashes. The day featured five major climbs, including the Col d'Izoard and the high east-west pass to the ski station of Montgenèvre. Coppi attacked on the first climb – Colle della Maddalena – staging a solo breakaway that would last 118 miles (190km) and that would put him in the pink jersey. Bartali, so furious with his team mate, chased him all the way finishing just 12 minutes behind.
Marco Pantani was undoubtedly the most thrilling climber of cycling's modern era. And despite his tragic death, his legend lives on. The 1999 Giro was a climbers’ race. Stage 15 ended on the mountain-top at Oropa after 160km but from the get go, Pantani had a plan. At the base of the main 10km-long climb, Il Pirata unexpectedly slipped off the back of the main group with a mechanical. He lost nearly 30 seconds but wasn’t fazed; Pantani fixed the problem and calmly rode back to the group. Catching Ivan Gotti first, around halfway up the climb, he flew skyward cutting a ruthless path through the riders ahead of him – Roberto Heras, Nicola Miceli and Laurent Jalabert. Jalabert said after the race, “If I hadn’t got out of the way, he’d have ridden right over me”. Pantani won by 21 seconds having destroyed his rivals both physically and mentally.
Not even a landslide would stop Australian Cadel Evans from taking victory in stage 7 of the 2010 Giro. Driving rain had turned the stage’s iconic gravel roads into a slippery race track and within a couple of minutes the riders were caked in mud. Riding at a furious pace, the attacks and counter attacks kept coming but it was former mountain biker Evans, who called on his old off-road skills to win the seventh stage. Coming into the finish Evans took a gamble and chanced his luck by leading out the sprint and betting that no one would be able to come around him. He was right. Evans crossed the line in Montalcino after five hours’ racing victorious with the rainbow stripes of his white world champion’s jersey obscured by dirt, but just one minute down on the Maglia Rosa.
Feeling inspired? Read our top tips for better climbing.
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