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Giro d’Italia 2021, Stage 20: Verbania – Valle Spluga / Alpe Motta Another ‘first time’


Giro d'Italia 2021, Tappa 20: Verbania – Valle Spluga / Alpe Motta. Un'altra prima volta

Stage 20: Verbania – Valle Spluga / Alpe Motta Another ‘first time’

The first time was in 1909: eight stages, from Milan to Milan. Victory went to Luigi Ganna. The first real climb was Roccaraso, on stage 3 of the same edition. The first time above 2,000 metres was only two years later, in Sestriere. The Dolomites made their debut in 1937, the Gavia in 1960, the Mortirolo in 1990, the Zoncolan in 2003. The first time in Sardinia was in 1961, on the Island of Elba in 1980. In 1923, the Giro first crossed the national border in the Milano-Torino stage, passing through Locarno (Switzerland).

After 103 editions, the Giro still hasn’t ‘kicked the habit’ of exploring, discovering and inaugurating, with the eagerness of a 112 year-old child. In 2021, too, the race will discover new places, and the final shoot-out will be held on a climb that has never been used. The penultimate stage will finish at Alpe Motta, right at the beginning of the path that leads to the Lago Azzurro, whose “pure veil of water” was eternalized in poetry by Giosuè Carducci. The stage will start from the shores of Lake Garda. This is not an absolute first time for Verbania. Still, in a way, it is, because the city has changed, coming to new life in the cycling scene.

Filippo Ganna hails from a family of cycling pioneers. His first time was on a small bicycle that he received from his grandparents. They signed him up to the local cycling club, the Pedale Verbanese, because he never stopped riding his bike around the garden. He finished in third on his first competition, but the effort was too big, so he went back to playing volleyball. In this case only, the second take was good for him. And he never stopped since then. He won his first rainbow jersey (in the individual pursuit, with four World Championships overall to date) in 2016, he set his first World Record in 2019, and he took his first Road World Championship (time trial) last September. His first time at the Giro was in 2020, where he took stage victory and the leader’s jersey on the opening ITT.


It all began in Vignone, at the outskirts of Verbania, twenty kilometres from Ornavasso, the hometown of another successful rider who will be turning 30 this year

Elisa Longo Borghini attended her first race as a spectator, cheering on her brother Paolo (ten years a professional, including one career victory). Then came her turn: she started riding a bicycle at the age of nine, and turned Pro at the age of twenty. She won her first national championship in 2014 (five more will follow), her first Tour of Flanders the following year (the first Italian female rider ever), her first stage victory at the Giro Rosa last year, on her ninth attempt, because not all ‘first takes’ are perfect. Elisa claims that she and Ganna share the same aptitude for sacrifice that was passed down on them by their families, that have been rooted in the same places for generations. In May the Giro will return to Verbania for the fourth time, but it will be the first one since Verbania has become a capital of world cycling, a land of champions.

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