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Giro d’Italia 2021, Stage 11: Perugia – Montalcino A pink ribbon


Giro d'Italia 2021, Tappa 11: Perugia - Montalcino. Il nastro rosa

Stage 11: Perugia - Montalcino A pink ribbon

Separating the Giro d’Italia from the Maglia Rosa would be inconceivable, especially as the leader’s jersey turns 90 this year. As sappy as it may sound, the Giro might be defined as a pink thread connecting two cities – not always the same ones. A long ribbon in different shades of pink (baby pink, pale pink, powder pink, old rose, salmon pink, flamingo pink – the hue has changed repeatedly throughout the years) running from Turin to Milan, like this year, or from Milan to Milan, as in the opening edition of 1909, or in 1931. Each one a first time, in their own way, marking the first-ever edition of the race, and the introduction of the Maglia Rosa, respectively.

There is actually a date that marks the beginning of this unbreakable bond. Until 1930, there was no way to tell the GC leader from the rest of the riders. The Maglia Rosa was introduced the following year, and Learco Guerra immediately became an avid hunter. Was it because he already knew what it felt like, having worn the yellow jersey at the Tour de France for many days the previous year? Or was it because the opening stage of the Giro that year would home in his hometown, Mantua? Being the first to wear the leader’s jersey among his friends and family was the dream that propelled him to his first sprint. A dream so big it even nurtured ambitious ideas for the future, which led him to score a second win the following day.

Three years later, Learco Guerra would dominate the 1934 edition, and his odyssey would be over, at last

The road, however, was of a different opinion, and it ruled that he would give up his brand new jersey at stage three, from Ravenna to Macerata. Guerra, however – an incredibly powerful and muscular construction worker – was all but a quitter. After that first taste of victory, he was left wanting more. So the two stages finishing and starting in Perugia, at the heart of the beautiful Piazza IV Novembre, became the perfect occasion for him to rekindle his dream and jump to the top ranking. An achievement that came naturally to him, in a city that was said to have been founded by Ulysses – a promising land for a comeback, even a troubled one.

His second double-win, however, wasn’t enough, either. The misfortune that had struck his greatest opponent Alfredo Binda just a few days before caused him to crash and have to abandon the race. The most superstitious people turned up their noses, but soon they would have had to change their minds. Three years later, Learco Guerra would dominate the 1934 edition, and his odyssey would be over, at last. As it became immediately apparent, this journey was not always comfortable and easy: oftentimes it was a rough and tortuous quest, just like Ulysses’. But with a pink thread guiding the way.

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