Important technical innovations characterized this Giro: the first individual time trial stage was disputed and the challenge of the Gran Premio della Montagna (Best Climber Prize) was created with points awarded when some uphill climbs were passed and the compilation of a classification according to the sum of the points. Despite a valid foreign representation, the superiority of Binda was undisputed. The Giro ended up with his victory (he also won the Best Climber Prize), followed by Demuysere and Piemontesi.
The amount of the prize money of 296,000 Lire was considerable. The first advertising carts of industrial companies appeared in front of the race and presented their products to the public on the roads and undertook additional initiatives at the finishing-line to entertain the spectators. “His Master’s Voice”, then the most important record company of the period, also took interest in the Giro and recorded the song “Who will the Maglia Rosa be?”.
At the start, attention was for the possible and fresseable duel between Binda and Guerra. As a matter of fact, after the initial supremacy of Camusso, in the fourth stage, the Leghorn-Pisa time trial, Guerra relegated Binda to over a minute behind him. Binda then was involved in a fall in Rome and his injuries forced him to abandon the race. Camusso failed to tarnish Guerra’s record who won the Giro, followed by Camusso and Cazzulani.
Fiat’s inexpensive small car, the Balilla, symbol of development at the time, made its appearance as one of the official cars of the Organization, arousing the curiosity and admiration of all.
On the hills of the Apennines Vasco Bergamaschi showed great confidence and from L’Aquila to Milan easily defended his Maglia Rosa and won the 1935 Giro, followed by Martano and Olmo. In the same stage which marked the decisive turning-point for the victory of the Giro, a young Gino Bartali came into the limelight, winning the Gran Premio della Montagna and with that a Balilla car.
Substantial modifications were made to the Race Regulations. In the first place, the stage bonuses were abolished, so the winner was effectively the cyclist who took the least time. The teams were obliged to have the same number of members for all (eight) and, for the first time, semi-stages were scheduled. The French team of Helyett was not up to expectations and, half-way through the Giro, was invited to leave the race.
1936 was when Italy was subject to pay sanctions following the Abyssinian war as well as the year of autarchism. As a consequence, the foreign riders decided not to participate in the race and the Giro lacked the international dimension that would enhance a prestige strenuously achieved in the last years. However, the young Bartali became the absolute ruler of the race and in L’Aquila he imposed his supremacy uphill, conquering the Maglia Rosa and winning the Giro followed by Olmo and Canavesi.
The 1936 Giro marked the unfortunate participation of Girardengo, in his forties, who was not able to resist at the pace set by the young generation and, pretty exhausted, he abandoned during the third stage. On the finish line of the Roma-Napoli stage, Bini and Olmo had the same time and amount of points without the possibility to judge who arrived first: therefore, they both were awarded with the Maglia Rosa.
With the easing of sanctions against Italy, the Giro lined up for the start of a decent group of foreigners, divided into national teams. 1937 was the year of confirmation of Gino Bartali, who dominated a tough and challenging Giro. For the first time, the Rolle and Costalunga Passes in the Dolomites were included, where Bartali proved his power as a climber. He won the 1937 Giro, followed by Valetti and Mollo.
The team time trial was an important innovation, even if it was presented with a mixed formula, because since there was no obbligation for the team to stay together until the finish line, the first rider of the fastest team was declared the winner. Conceived as such, the race generated more controversy than consensus. Bartali’s arrival in Milan was awarded on the Vigorelli “magic track”, which had recently substituted the legendary Sempione Velodrome.
The Italian Velocipede Union, at the wishes of some members of the Government who were frantically in search of a prestigious result abroad, decided to prohibit the participation of some riders in order to keep them intact for the Tour. Names included Favalli, Bini, Bergamaschi, but above all Bartali. Giovanni Valetti, who had been the fitting antagonist of a superb Bartali the year before, imposed his class, dominating the time trial at Terminillo, excelling on the Dolomite climbs and finally won the Giro, followed by Cecchi and Canavesi.
For the first time, the Giro set a finish line that was outside Italian borders, in Locarno. The Italian Government’s policy of autarky was also felt in the Giro. The Maglia Rosa was made with “Lanasel” fabric, a self-sufficient product made of rayon and viscose manufactured by S.A. Chatillon who, awarding 500 lire per day to the jersey’s holder, also became its first sponsor.
Finally the Giro regained its “dignity” with the participation of all the Italian champions, in particular Bartali who had remained faithful to expectations as he triumphed in the 1938 Tour, Mario Vicini, winner of the Tour in 1937 and Giovanni Valetti, winner of the Giro 1938. After having won the Terminillo time trial, Valetti lost the Maglia Rosa on the Dolomites, but he regained it on the Tonale, arriving first in Milan, followed by Bartali and Vicini.
Besides the Italian champions, a scantry patrol of Belgian riders participated the event, though they never gave the impression of being competitive. Bartali, hard-fighting as usual and sometimes unlucky, disputed harshly, convinced that all the others had united against him.
The war already underway, with the invasion of Poland by the Germans, loomed in Italy as well and the result was a self-sufficient Giro, but no less interesting for that. Valetti did less well than expected and Bartali, unlucky in the Genoa stage, stayed behind. The young Fausto Coppi, performed a feat that surprised everyone. The historical and passionate rivalry between them was born here. Coppi arrived first in Milan, followed by Mollo and Cottur.
In 1940 the great Dolomite passes appeared in the Giro’s route, and Falzarego, Pordoi and Sella started off an epic that has lasted till present day. The awards increased, and the daily holders of the leaders’ Jerseys were granted 500 lire for the Maglia Rosa and 100 lire for the Maglia Bianca. A complicated system that kept track of the kilometres on the run, the eventual victory for gap and the final ranking divided up the 345,000 lire to be awarded.
The war being over, the Italians prepared themselves to morally and phisically rebuild their Nation. La Gazzetta dello Sport restarted publishing on 2nd July 1945 and on 15th January 1946 announced that the Giro would resume. It certainly wasn’t an easy Giro, because the logistical and organizational difficulties were endless. Bartali and Coppi were the two headlights of the race and, now opponents on different teams, resumed the rivalry that had set fans on fire during the 1940 Giro. Coppi dominated the Dolomites, but he did not completely make up for the time lost when he had fallen behind in the first part of the race and Gino Bartali won his third Giro by only 47” seconds, followed by the same Coppi and Ortelli.
On the border with Venezia Giulia, in Pieris, some pro-Yugoslavian demonstrators, who were opposed to the return of the territory of Trieste to the Italian rule, blocked the Giro by placing large boulders in the middle of the road. The police attempted to disperse the demonstrators, who responded with gunshots. Having established that was impossible to proceed, the Jury declared the race virtually concluded. Seventeen racers decided to continue by car and with their bicycles and reached the Montebello Racetrack, where a symbolic arrival was awarded, with Cottur taking first place. For reasons of public order, the following stage left from Udine.
After the start from Milan, with an exceptional starter like Luigi Ganna, the real competition began, with the expected duel between Coppi and Bartali, with a favourable start for the Tuscan who stayed in first place from Prato to Pieve di Cadore. Between Pieve di Cadore and Trento, with the Falzarego, Pordoi and Costalunga climbs, Coppi performed one of his memorable feats, demolishing the resistance of his opponent and definitively getting hold of the Maglia Rosa, arriving first in Milan, followed by the same Bartali and Bresci.
A substantial change in regulations saw the abolition of the Groups, so that only the teams of the Industrial Companies which built bicycles were allowed to take part in the Giro. The other new fact was the massive participation of the RAI, who also invented, alongside the sports news, a fun evening program entitled “The Girino in Love”. Some riders and among them Bartali, staged a protest in the stage Perugia-Rome because they deplored the choice of impassable roads and the departures at noon, which made the finishes later, forcing the riders to have their dinner and massages at unusual hours.