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Giro d’Italia 2021, Stage 21: Senago – Milano. Turmoil at the finish

28/05/2021

Giro d'Italia 2021, Tappa 21: Senago - Milano. La più tumultuosa delle accoglienze

Stage 21: Senago - Milano. Turmoil at the finish

Milan is the home of the Giro d’Italia. Throughout its long history, it has been a frequent host of the grand finale of the Corsa Rosa. The Giro has “come back home” in different venues, though. In the beginning, it was the Arena, the oldest sporting facility in the city, built by the will of Napoleon more than two hundred years ago. Other times, the Giro has finished a little further on, in Piazza del Cannone, between the Castello Sforzesco and Parco Sempione. Or at the very heart of the city, in Piazza del Duomo, as it has done in the latest editions. The most astonishing finishes, however, were the ones at the Vigorelli Velodrome, which after World War II was to cycling what the La Scala Theatre was to opera.


There was turmoil at the finish in Milan on 9 June 1948, when the fans at the Vigorelli velodrome greeted the race leader, Fiorenzo Magni, with hoots and whistles, throwing waste paper at him. It was the first time that a winner was treated this way. What sensational event had caused such a reaction?
 

In that edition, everyone was looking forward a much-expected rivalry between Coppi and Bartali. After a slow start, however, the two contestants soon ended up behind in the standings. Vito Ortelli took advantage of the situation, followed by Fiorenzo Magni and Ezio Cecchi, who had made it to the final week in the leader’s jersey. On the Dolomites, however, Coppi went full throttle and started his comeback. He dropped everyone in the third to last stage, Cortina-Trento, in which Cecchi was set back by punctures and crashes, and Magni painstakingly managed to take the pink jersey by a slender 11-second margin. At the finish, however, Coppi’s Bianchi squad objected that Magni had received pushing from the fans on the Pordoi. The Commissaires Panel received the complaint and imposed both a fine and a 2-minute penalty on Magni. Bianchi argued that it was not enough, and withdrew all their riders in protest. In the last two stages, the fans were angered at Magni, whom they thought was only winning for having been helped up, and praised Coppi instead. Magni was livid, and to prove everybody that he actually deserved to win, he launched a raging sprint at the Vigorelli, dropping all of his opponents. 

 

Could it be that everyone in Milan was a supporter of Coppi? The truth was different

Those were hard times. The war had been over for some time then, but it had left many wounds open. One of these was the past of Magni who had joined the Social Republic during the Resistance. In 1947, he was tried on charges of taking part in the battle of Valibona, which had caused the death of members of both the Resistance and the Social Republic. He was acquitted from committing the crime, especially owing to the amnesty that Togliatti (the then Minister of Justice) declared to wipe the slate clean, after the controversial events of recent history had opened up a deep divide in the country. But it was not easy, and the shadows of his past haunted him for a long time.

The day after that Giro, Fiorenzo spoke with the Gazzetta reporter Mario Fossati. In a heartfelt interview, he vented, “I don’t know why, but I never get any peace”. His victory at the 1948 Giro was a difficult one, but it marked a turning point for him: from that day, Magni became the ‘third one’ in the former two-man fight.

 

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