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Memories from… Perugia, 1924: the resilience of Alfonsina Morini Strada


Alfonsina Morini was born in Riolo di Castelfranco, in the Italian region of Emilia, in a family of farm labourers. She developed a passion for cycling when her father brought home a very old bike. She soon began to compete – the only woman competing against men – and did so with success, stubbornness and tenacity, despite numerous obstacles mostly arising from the culture and views of the time. Her husband, Luigi Strada, believed in her so much that he bought her a real racing bicycle for their wedding. In 1911 Alfonsina even set the world women’s speed record with 37.1 km per hour and, after some negotiation with the Gazzetta dello Sport, she even managed to compete in two Giri di Lombardia. While continuing to work as a seamstress, in 1924 came her great opportunity to take part in the Giro d’Italia, which she wanted at all costs also in order to support her family after her husband’s serious disease.

That year, in fact, the big teams had boycotted the competition for economic reasons and, in the absence of the champions, the organisation came up with the idea of allowing Alfonsina’s participation, which indeed attracted a lot of public interest. Despite the harshness of the competition, Alfonsina performed with honour.

The worst day for her was the L’Aquila – Perugia stage, 296 very harsh kilometres, during which she fell, broke her handlebars, repaired them with a broomstick, and arrived in Perugia in the middle of the night, cold and injured. It seemed that her dream had ended there, as she had arrived beyond the maximum time allowed. But Mr. Emilio Colombo, the editor-in-chief of the Gazzetta dello Sport, decided to personally pay for her accommodation so that she could make it to the end of the Giro. There were 90 cyclists at the start of the Giro, only 30 made it to the end, including Alfonsina, who was welcomed in Milan with well-deserved honours.

As a pioneer of the gender equality movement in sport, Alfonsina will be duly remembered this year during the RCS Sport-designated Giro d’Italia Women as the highest peak of the race, the Blockhaus, is dedicated to her memory.


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