One of many gifts
The Giro d’Italia first tackled the Passo Fedaia on June 5, 1970.
The climb was already supposed to feature in the route of the Trento-Malga Ciapela stage the previous year, but the inclement weather stopped its debut: the stage was cancelled because of snow and wind on the passes, and rain and hail in the valley.
Torriani, however – the man who had introduced the Stelvio in 1953 and the Gavia in 1960 – wasn’t going to give up on that spectacular finish at the foot of the Marmolada, the Queen of the Dolomites. The peloton came back there exactly twelve months later. It was a lovely sunny day, then.
Merckx was in the leader’s jersey. His teammate Zilioli had broken away but was eventually hauled back shortly before the line. It was a six-man battle to the finish between Gimondi, Merckx, Bitossi, Dancelli, Vandenbossche and Gösta Pettersson.
Michele Dancelli, the points classification leader, attacked at 500 metres out, storming to victory.
Curiously, though, when the Giro first tackled the Marmolada, it didn’t really climb the Passo Fedaia. The peloton indeed took on the first 9 kilometres, from Caprile to Malga Ciapela, through the stunning Serrai di Sottoguda – a narrow gulch carved by the Pettorina river – but the pass was still 5 kilometres away. The hardest, most selective and – possibly – the toughest 5,000 metres of the Dolomites.
Just past Malga Ciapela, the route takes a slight right, and then, around the bend, the climb eventually shows its hardest face. First comes a straight of nearly 3 kilometres, averaging 12% and peaking out at 16%, followed by a further 2,500 metres ascending in hairpins with double-digit gradients.
Torriani knew it well, so he decided to save that gruelling stretch for the future, as if he wanted to unveil such a wonder a bit at a time. Which he eventually did in 1975, in the second to last stage of the Giro.
The route, from Pordenone to Alleghe, featured climbs up the Staulanza, Colle Santa Lucia, Fedaia and Pordoi passes. That day, the GC leader Fausto Bertoglio cracked along that terrible straight, however managing to defend the jersey against Galdos and De Vlaeminck, who eventually won the stage.
Special mention, though, must also be made of the powerful rouleur Giancarlo Polidori, hailing from Le Marche, and racing for Furzi. He was the first to clear the 2,057-metre Passo Fedaia. He was the first to be struck by the sight of the glacier embracing the Queen of the Dolomites all the way to the summit. He was the first to stare in wonder at one of the many great gifts from Vincenzo Torriani to the Giro d’Italia and to the entire cycling world.
The Fedaia and the Giro d'Italia
2022: Stage 20, Belluno – Marmolada (Passo Fedaia)
FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Alessandro COVI
2011: Stage 15, Conegliano – Rif.Gardeccia, Val di Fassa
FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Stefano GARZELLI
2008: Stage 15, Arabba – Passo Fedaia
FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Emanuele SELLA
2006: Stage 19, Pordenone – Passo San Pellegrino (Dolomiti Stars)
FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Fortunato BALIANI
2002: Stage 16, Conegliano – Corvara in Badia
FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Daniele DE PAOLI
2001: Stage 13, Montebelluna – Passo Pordoi
FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Carlos Alberto CONTRERAS CANO
2000: Stage 13, Feltre – Selva Val Gardena
FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Francesco CASAGRANDE
1998: Stage 17, Asiago – Selva Val Gardena
FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: José Jaime “Chepe”GONZALES
Pantani and Guerini pulled away on the Marmolada, wreaking havoc on the race: Guerini landed stage victory, Pantani took the pink jersey, Tonkov finished 2 minutes back, Zulle lagged 4’37” behind, while Bartoli finished outside time limit.
1996: Stage 20, Marostica – Passo Pordoi
FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Enrico ZAINA
Zaina blasted away on the Marmolada, landing a stunning solo win. Gotti, Olano, Tonkov and Ugrumov were battling for the GC behind him, with Bugno finally joining the fight and unlocking his full potential after a weak performance in the first part of the Giro.
The five of them reached the finish together. Olano took the pink jersey by a meagre 46 hundredths of a second.
1993: Stage 14, Corvara in Badia – Corvara in Badia
FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Claudio CHIAPPUCCI
Bugno tried to attack on the Marmolada, but cracked after being brought back. Leali gave in as well, while Indurain, who finished in second, took the pink jersey, leading Ugrumov by 49”.
1991: Stage 17, Selva di Val Gardena – Passo Pordoi
FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Marco GIOVANNETTI
1990: Stage 16, Dobbiaco – Passo Pordoi
FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Maurizio VANDELLI
1989: Stage 14, Misurina – Corvara in Badia
FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Stefano TOMASINI
1987: Stage 16, Sappada – Canazei
FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Johan VAN DER VELDE
1975: Stage 20, Pordenone – Alleghe
FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Giancarlo POLIDORI
1970: Stage 18, Arta Terme – Marmolada
FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Michele DANCELLI