“Rain and wind, clouds and hail, who can now say that Mario Cipollini is a beach guy? In the first stage of the Giro d’Italia, a cliché about Italy’s favourite sprinter is immediately debunked. Forget about the beach, on this stormy day Cipollini destroyed all the competition with a formidable sprint that seemed to last forever. The others, annihilated by that yellow torpedo, kept their heads down to avoid worse trouble. And handsome Mario with his mane coiled in a ponytail conquered the first Maglia Rosa of his career”.
This was the opening line of an article by Dario Ceccarelli in L’Unità on the day after the opening stage of the 1995 Giro d’Italia, the 205 km Perugia-Terni, won by the Lion King over Mario Manzoni and Johan Capiot in a torrential downpour. It was an easy stage on paper, suitable for sprinters, but due to the weather conditions it turned out to be rather selective (even Claudio Chiappucci and Maurizio Fondriest tried to attack with 100 km to go) and cut out several fast riders. Not Cipollini though, who gritted his teeth with the aim of taking his 11th stage win at the Giro d’Italia but, above all, the first Maglia Rosa of his career.
“It is the best day of my life. I think I am still dreaming. I’m afraid I’m going to wake up at any moment” he stated shortly after crossing the finish line. Cipollini wore the Maglia Rosa on six occasions in his career – in addition to that of ’95, two in 1997, one in 1999, one in 2000 and one in 2002 – but, above all, he holds the absolute record for stage victories in the Corsa Rosa, an impressive 42. A record destined to hold for decades.
Terni, in that 1995 Giro, was therefore the only city to see a rider in the Maglia Rosa who was not Tony Rominger. In fact, Cipollini predictably lost the jersey the following day in the Assisi time trial, with the Swiss rider wearing pink and staying in it for no fewer than 20 days, after having dominated that edition far and wide.