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Memories from… Turin, 1909: the first ever Giro and the “polite deception”


Giro d’Italia, the story of an endless love affair with a specific starting date. The first, historic edition of the Corsa Rosa dates back to 1909. It featured 8 stages, the longest of 397 km, the shortest of 206, for a total of 2447.9 km. Start and finish in Milan. To make things easier, the ranking was based on points rather than times: at the end of each stage, the first half of the cyclists who reached the finish line received as many points as their placing: one point for the first, two points for the second, and so on. At the end, the winner was the one who had accumulated the fewest points.

The Gazzetta dello Sport (the main Italian daily newspaper dedicated to coverage of sports) had already organised a few minor cycling races throughout the country and this sport was gaining remarkable popularity, but that was the first time a race had managed to bring the whole of Italy together. Enthusiasm was sky-high and the affection for the newborn Giro d’Italia was palpable, especially at the starts and finishes of the various stages.

In the penultimate stage, arriving in Turin, the city’s Quaestor (the provincial chief of the state-run police) declared himself unable to guarantee the safety of an overflowing crowd, estimated at 40-50 thousand people. Thus, the director of the Giro, Armando Cougnet, got ingenious and decided to secretly move the finish line to Beinasco and stage a “fake” arrival in Turin. The crowd, however, largely sensed the trick and rapidly moved to Beinasco, overwhelming the winner Luigi Ganna with their love and affection. The Gazzetta, in its chronicle of day, spoke of “polite deception”.

Ganna, a farmer’s son and a very straightforward man, also won the general classification and his half-Italian, half-Milanese comment after his triumph is still well known: “L’impressione più viva l’è che me brüsa tanto ‘l cü”. We leave it to the reader to find an adequate translation.

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