Stage 19 of the 1994 Giro d’Italia, from Lavagna to Bra for a total of 212 km. Without a shadow of a doubt, that day was made to measure for a breakaway, partly because we were approaching the end of the Giro and partly because it was a mixed stage that came between the demanding Bocco Pass time trial and the Les Deux Alpes stage the following day.
Bottom line: everybody wanted to be in that breakaway. Under pouring rain and an abnormally cold weather for being June, a great tussle went on to form it. Eventually, 25 riders gained a gap, among them the experienced Massimo Ghirotto, from Rovigo, 33 years old, with already two stage victories at the Giro d’Italia and two at the Tour de France behind him. In short, a veteran. And surprisingly, the breakaway also featured the Maglia Rosa Evgenij Berzin.
“A strange thing happened – recounted Ghirotto at the time -. We had arranged a breakaway with all kinds of riders in it but certainly not GC riders. At least that’s what I thought! At one point someone told me that Berzin, the Maglia Rosa, was also in there. You know, when it rains, wrapped up in capes, you don’t recognise each other well. So, after getting a good look at him I asked him why he was with us, although I didn’t quite put it like that. What the hell is someone like Berzin doing in this breakaway? The other big guys aren’t going to let us go anywhere”.
Eventually Berzin let himself be caught by the peloton, the breakaway reached the finish line as planned and the winner was Ghirotto himself, with a splendid finisseur action anticipating Rølf Sørensen and Massimo Podenzana. For him it would be the last success of his career and he would retire at the end of the following year. Two days later, in Milan, Berzin would celebrate the victory of his first and only Giro d’Italia.