In 1979, world cycling was beginning to experience one of those rivalries that would mark the following seasons and the history of this sport, that between Francesco Moser and Giuseppe Saronni. At that year’s Giro d’Italia, famous for its 136 km of time trials spread over five stages (out of a total of 19), the two challenged each other to no holds barred, with Moser retaining the Maglia Rosa for the first seven stages, and Saronni for the next 12 until the triumph in Milan.
As expected, the time trials proved decisive: Moser won the opening prologue in Florence and then the one in Naples, while Saronni won in San Marino and Milan. The capital city of Campania hosted a time trial for the first and so far only time in the history of the Giro, the 31-kilometre Caserta-Naples, with arrival in Piazza del Plebiscito.
It was the Maglia Rosa, Francesco Moser, who took stage win, beating Norwegian Knut Knudsen (Bianchi) and his rival Giuseppe Saronni (Scic), thus reinforcing the symbol of the supremacy conquered after the first stage. “I still have vivid memories of the crowds on that day, the streets overflowing, a sort of popular enthusiasm that only exists in Naples – Moser recalled in a recent interview with Corriere della Sera -. There was also a rideable descent all on cobblestones on the outskirts of the city, called the Doganella, which came down from Secondigliano towards the Arenaccia area, where I could ride more aggressively. Nice and beautiful, at least for me, I loved the stones. I think seeing the Maglia Rosa winning the stage was also gratifying for the fans”.
Unfortunately for Moser, however, that Giro ended with a bitter 2nd place: “It still stings. What I regret most, in my memory, is not the fact that Giuseppe Saronni, my historical adversary, won it, but that I lost it in the other two time trials, in San Marino and Cesano Maderno”.
Moser’s history with the Giro d’Italia, however, tells of 23 stage victories and 6 podium finishes, with the 1984 overall victory as the icing on the cake.