To avoid the concurrence with the World Cup, that was going to be disputed in Argentina from 1st June, the Giro anticipated its start of one week and three stages were cancelled. The most relevant stage of this Giro was the one with finish in Piazza S. Marco. A series of bridges over the canals and a boat bridge in the Canal Grande allowed a regular time trial finish in the historical square. De Muynck won the 1978 Giro, followed by Baronchelli and Moser.
On Sunday 7th May, the last day of the Tour of Romandia, the riders who were not racing in Switzerland participated in a “Prelude” in St. Vincent. The race was not valid for the Maglia Rosa ranking, but the winner was awarded with the Red-Black jersey, the Valle d’Aosta colours. 1978 was the year of Eddy Merckx quitting racing, while for Bitossi, Poggiali and Gimondi this one was the last Giro.
The Grand Start was from the impressive historical centre of Florence, but the strike of the Traffic Police created a number of difficulties. After an encouraging beginning for Moser, the rider from Trentino was incredibly beaten by the young Saronni in the San Marino and Portovenere time trials. The latter fighted fiercely to keep the Maglia Rosa which he finally wore once and for all at the Arena of Milan, where he arrived first, followed by the same Moser and by Johansson.
The Giro ended with an epilogue, the Gran Fondo d’Italia, a historial endurance race that had been disputed in 1942 for the last time, which was scheduled on the Milano-Roma route only for the Giro riders, and the participation of the top ten on the GC was compulsory. Fifty-nine riders started out from Porta Romana in Milan at 9.07 p.m. on 8th June. The last rider in ranking wore the Maglia Nera for the last time in 1979.
The presence of Bernard Hinault and other first-class foreign riders drew many reporters from all over the world and the Italian Television enhanced the programme schedule about the Giro. Hinault’s outstanding feat on the Stelvio was remarkable, as Saronni’s winning seven stages. Hinault won the Giro, followed by Panizza (in his 13th Giro) and Battaglin.
For the first time a stage was disputed in Elba. Torriani was forced to cancel the rest day in Sirmione to anticipate the last five stages, as the authorization to finish the stage race in Milan had not been issued, as it would be disputed on the same day as the local elections.
Giovanni Battaglin, although for a few seconds, legitimated his win with a dare-devil and aggressive conduct and he managed to win also the Vuelta, in a little more than a month. The spectacular Grand finale took place in the crowded Verona Arena with a gangway leading from the entrance to the stage, where Battaglin was crowned and Prim Tommy and Saronni won the second and third place.
In the Trieste prologue, although the astounding news about the incredible terrorist attack against the Pope, for the first time a Norwegian rider, Knut Knudsen, wore the Maglia Rosa. Bonus were introduced again: save the prologue, in all the stage finishes 30’’, 20’’ and 10’’ were respectively awarded to the first, second and third rider on the overall classification. After six years the Championship of the Regions was cancelled and the Maglia Azzurra was given to the Trofeo Primavera winner announced by FIAT.
Departing from the UCI Technical Regulations, the Giro started out with a 16-km team time trial in the central roads of Milan. Then, a transfer to Parma (first stage) followed. Hinault’s supremacy was tested by a fighting rider, Silvano Contini, who gave up only in Monte Campione. The Giro came to an end with the individual time trial Pinerolo-Cuneo, without arousing much enthusiasm as in the past, with Hinault first, Prim second and Contini in the third place.
For the Diamante-Taormina transfer, the National Railways offered an ultra-modern fast train. During the travel, the riders and the following staff were served a supper on board. Some riders complained in S. Martino di Castrozza for the gravel road section they had to ride on the Monte Grappa. A slight change in the bonus system was made: they were given only in the flat stages and the rider finishing in fourth place would get a 5’’ bonus.
Technically, the race was characterized by combativity, with extremely high average speeds, especially in some mountain stages, with Saronni who was always vigilant and often counterattacking. The support by Dietrich Thurau, a loyal team mate, was decisive for the Maglia Rosa. Just like two years before the bonus system determined the General Classification. As a matter of fact, Visentini had 10’’ less than Saronni but arrived second after him, and third was Fernandez Blanco.
Before the Prologue’s start, a trade-union rally degenerated into a violent opposition against the Giro and forced the Management to cancel the race. The last day Saronni was the victim of an attempted sabotage: he found out that somebody had added a laxative in the soup he was served at dinner. The incident fueled the news but was never clarified.
The 1984 Giro featured many protests. After a fairly hard-fought start, with the stars in the forefront, suddenly the riders defied the Organization in the 7th stage because of a few narrowing stretches not properly signposted. The riders decided to protest slowing down their pace. There were other protests at the Merano stage because the route was changed, the Stelvio was no more in the route, and several teams had the impression to be hampered as riders like Moser were not fit for demanding climbs and thus favoured by the route change. The Giro finished in Verona where Moser was triumphantly welcome, despite the recriminations of Laurent Fignon’s fans, Fignon who arrived second before Moreno Argentin.
The Giro started from Lucca with a spectacular Grand Start on the town walls. As for the bonus system, considering how much it had affected results in the last year, only the first four riders were bestowed respectively with 20’’, 15’’, 10’’ and 5’’ bonus.
First-class riders, such as Hinault, Lemond and Lejarreta, besides Moser, Visentini and Saronni, participated in this Giro. At first the Italians were in the top classification, but Hinault became again the leader of the race in the Maddaloni time trial and he won the Giro authoritatively for the third time. Moser countered Hinault bravely, but he only succeeded to take some stage victories.
The route of this Giro was precisely the opposite of that of the 1984 Giro: it started from Verona to arrive in Lucca. This year most of the controversy was about the streamlined design of the bicycles, particularly the special ones for the time trial.
The American Lemond, who came to the Giro convinced to win it, a few kilometres before Catania was involved in a crash which made him lose a few minutes that turned out to be decisive for his final result. An unusual team time trial, with an uphill finish in Taormina, highlighted how strong Saronni’s squad was, thus managing to control the Giro easily for a long time. In Foppolo, Visentini finally got his revenge after three years, by taking advantage of Saronni’s difficult time. The Giro ended in Merano with Visentini in the first place, Saronni second and Moser third.
An absolute novelty was introduced: the Giro kicked off with a 1000 metres time trial disputed on the straight Via Libertà in Palermo, where the winner was awarded with the first Maglia Rosa. In the Foppolo stage, a puzzling event happened with Baronchelli. The rider, in a breakaway with Visentini, gave up suddenly and, although he was third in the General Classification, did not show up on the start line the following morning, in contrast with his team. The case is still unclear today.
All in all, the Giro was not very favourable for the Italian teams. The first Italian on the GC (Giupponi) was only in the fifth place and all the most important special classifications, except the Maglia Bianca for the Best Young Rider (Roberto Conti) were led by foreign athletes. Stephen Roche, who won the Giro followed by Millar and Breukink, erected the first pillar of a trilogy – Giro, Tour and World Championship – that even the great Merckx failed to achieve.
Even before the start of the Giro, some riders criticized the idea of the Organization to dispute the Prologue time trial on the Poggio descent (Sanremo), considering it dangerous. Torriani did not change the programme and in the end he was right: that spectacular stage was regularly disputed.