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Pordoi

Alliance and rivalry

The narrative of the Passo Pordoi is so closely entwined to that of the Giro d’Italia, and so deeply rooted in our collective memory, that it seems nearly impossible to remember when the two first met each other.

Yet, obviously, there is a date: June 5, 1940. It was Giro stage 17, from Pieve di Cadore to Ortisei.

Coppi was a rookie back then. He had set off from Milan serving as a domestique for Bartali. One stage after another, however, the two switched roles, and that day Fausto was the one in the leader’s jersey, while Gino was there to support him.

The two kicked clear together, opening a large gap behind them.

Early on the Pordoi, however, the young Coppi appeared to be in trouble. It felt as if he would rather quit, ditch his bike and jump on his team car, than face that final climb. Bartali waited for him, urged him to continue, and threw snow at him to get him back on his feet, which Coppi eventually did. Bartali cleared the climb first, eventually taking the stage, whereas Coppi staked a claim on overall victory, with help from his top-class domestique.

That scene, alone, would be enough to explain how closely tied the Pordoi is to the Corsa Rosa. Fausto’s collapse along those slopes, on the year of his first Giro win, and the birth of a relation that was bound to become the greatest rivalry in the history of cycling and beyond.

That, alone, would be enough, but many other episodes further strengthened that bond. June 12, 1947 was one of these.

The stage travelled 194 kilometres across the Dolomites from Pieve di Cadore to Trento, taking in climbs up the Falzarego and the Pordoi.

Bartali was in the leader’s jersey, and Coppi ranked second overall, 2’40” behind him.

That stage was perhaps the last chance to turn the GC.

The two kicked clear early on, as they did seven years before. By the time they reached the Falzarego, they were standing alone at the front.

Along the climb, however, Ginettaccio dropped his chain. Taking advantage of the situation, his former teammate pulled off one of his most epic and extraordinary achievements.

He cleared the Falzarego alone, gained on along the valley, and opened an unbridgeable gap on the Pordoi. He crossed the line in Trento after a 150-km solo break, 4’24” ahead of Magni, the runner‑up, and – most importantly – snatching the leader’s jersey from Bartali.

After that day, the Giro d’Italia tackled the Passo Pordoi 38 more times, including four as stage finish and 13 as Cima Coppi. The pass increasingly became a permanent fixture, a mandatory crossing point for riders and cycling enthusiasts alike, so that it seems almost impossible to recall when its legend was born. But now we know where it all came from – the alliance (and rivalry) between two of the greatest aces of Italian cycling.

The Pordoi and the Giro d'Italia

2022: Stage 18, Belluno – Marmolada (Passo Fedaia)

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Alessandro Covi

2017: Stage 18, Moena (Val di Fassa) – Ortisei / St.Ulrich

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Diego ROSA

2016: Stage 14, Farra d’Alpago – Corvara

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Damiano CUNEGO

2008: Stage 15, Arabba – Passo Fedaia

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Emanuele SELLA

2006: Stage 19, Pordenone – Passo San Pellegrino (Dolomiti Stars)

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Fortunato BALIANI

2002: Stage 16, Conegliano – Corvara in Badia

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Julio Alberto PEREZ CUAPIO

2001: Stage 13, Montebelluna – Passo Pordoi

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Freddy GONZALEZ

2001: Stage 13, Montebelluna – Passo Pordoi

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Julio Alberto PEREZ CUAPIO

Simoni crushed the competition on the Pordoi, with only Perez Cuapio on his wheel. Gibo let his rival win the stage while he took the leader’s jersey, which he defended to the end of the Giro.

1997: Stage 19, Predazzo – Falzes

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: José Jaime “Chepe” GONZALES

1996: Stage 20, Marostica – Passo Pordoi

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Mariano PICCOLI

1996: Stage 20, Marostica – Passo Pordoi

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Enrico ZAINA

1993: Stage 14, Corvara in Badia – Corvara in Badia

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Franco VONA

1993: Stage 14, Corvara in Badia – Corvara in Badia

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Miguel INDURAIN

1992: Stage 13, Corvara in Badia – Monte Bondone

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Claudio CHIAPPUCCI

1991: Stage 17, Selva di Val Gardena – Passo Pordoi

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Franco VONA

1991: Stage 17, Selva di Val Gardena – Passo Pordoi

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Franco CHIOCCIOLI

Once again, Chioccioli proved his outstanding climbing skills, soloing over the summit of the Pordoi. Lejarreta crashed, losing 6 minutes and any chance to stake a claim on overall victory.

1990: Stage 16, Dobbiaco – Passo Pordoi

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Maurizio VANDELLI

1990: Stage 16, Dobbiaco – Passo Pordoi

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Charly MOTTET

1989: Stage 14, Misurina – Corvara in Badia

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Roberto CONTI

1987: Stage 16, Sappada – Canazei

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Jean-Claude BAGOT

1986: Stage 21, Bassano del Grappa – Bolzano

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Pedro MUÑOZ

1984: Stage 20, Selva di Val Gardena – Arabba

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Laurent FIGNON

After setting out on a solo break on the Pordoi, Fignon crossed the finish line 2’19” ahead of Moser, stealing the pink jersey from him with a 1’31” lead on the general classification.

1983: Stage 20, Selva di Val Gardena – Arabba

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Marino LEJARRETA

Paganessi set out on a solo break while climbing the Sella – the third mountain pass (out of five) along the route. Visentini attacked Saronni along the Pordoi, shaving half a minute off his lead.

1979: Stage 17, Pieve di Cadore – Trento

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Leonardo NATALE

1978: Stage 15, Treviso – Canazei (CAMBIO PERCORSO)

1977: Stage 17, Conegliano – Cortina d’Ampezzo, Col Druscié

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Ueli SUTTER

1975: Stage 20, Pordenone – Alleghe

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Francisco GALDÓS GAUNA

De Vlaeminck and Galdos kicked clear on the Pordoi, as Bertoglio and Gimondi trailed behind them. After the stage, Bertoglio would retain a meagre 41-second lead over the Spaniard.

1971: Stage 18, Lienz (AUT) – Falcade

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Marino BASSO

1970: Stage 20, Dobbiaco – Bolzano

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Luciano ARMANI

1967: Stage 20, Cortina d’Ampezzo – Trento

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Aurelio GONZÁLEZ PUENTE

1966: Stage 20, Moena – Belluno

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Franco BITOSSI

1961: Stage 19, Vittorio Veneto-Trento

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Vito TACCONE

1958: Stage 17, Levico Terme – Bolzano

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Jean BRANKART

1955: Stage 19, Cortina d’Ampezzo – Trento

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: José SERRA GIL

1954: Stage 20, San Martino di Castrozza – Bolzano

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Fausto COPPI

Coppi opened a large gap along the Pordoi, was later brought back and ultimately blasted away along the Gardena, landing a masterful solo win in the World Champion’s jersey.

1953: Stage 18, Auronzo – Bolzano

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Hugo KOBLET

1952: Stage 11, Venezia – Bolzano

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Fausto COPPI

1950: Stage 9, Vicenza – Bolzano

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Jean ROBIC 

Near Primolano, Coppi tried to pass Peverelli on the left. Having lost the use of his left eye following a crash in the 1949 Tour, Peverelli couldn’t see him approaching, and Coppi fell heavily, breaking his pelvis. It would be the end of the Giro and of the season for him. Robic, first over the Rolle and the Pordoi, crashed along the descent, eventually reaching the finish with a gap of nearly fifteen minutes. After the stage, Bartali visited Coppi at the hospital in Trento, bringing him the flowers he had received upon stage victory. Bartali would later intercede with the Commissaires Panel, so that the Bianchi riders – who had waited for Coppi, finishing outside the time limit – could re-enter the race. Such kindness, however, would be met with a lack of gratitude, as the team would end up working for Koblet, which left Bartali livid.

1949: Stage 11, Bassano del Grappa – Bolzano

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Fausto COPPI

Martini attacked in the feed zone just past the Rolle, and Coppi followed. Bartali punctured while snacking, and fell behind. After kicking clear along the Pordoi, Coppi soloed to the finish nearly 7 minutes ahead of the runner‑up, taking a 3’30” time bonus, and sitting a mere 28 seconds behind the GC leader. Bartali, who had to stop eating to change his wheel, hit the wall and could not catch up, finishing 10 minutes behind on GC.

1948: Stage 17, Cortina d’Ampezzo – Trento

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Fausto COPPI

Coppi took his second consecutive solo win, after a 130-km breakaway that included climbs up the Falzarego and the Pordoi. Magni came in second, at 2’31” down, taking the leader’s jersey from Cecchi, who finished 7’20” behind. That was a bad day for Bartali, who punctured twice along the Falzarego, coming to the line at the same time as Cecchi. A fierce controversy broke out after the stage, as fans had pushed Magni up the Pordoi but the Commissaires only docked him two minutes, instead of disqualifying him as per regulation. On the following stage, Coppi and his Bianchi team withdrew from the Giro, in protest. According to the timekeepers, Magni had a 6-minute gap at the lower slopes of the Pordoi, which went down to just 2 at the summit…

1947: Stage 17, Pieve di Cadore – Trento

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Fausto COPPI

Coppi dropped Bartali along the Pordoi. Despite finding allies, Gino ultimately lost over 4 minutes, and had to pass on the leader’s jersey to Fausto.

1940: Stage 17, Pieve di Cadore – Ortisei

FIRST RIDER ACROSS THE SUMMIT: Gino BARTALI

In this royal stage across the Dolomites, Coppi and Bartali set out on a legendary two-man break, and the young Fausto staked his final claim on the Giro, even with a scolding from his Directeur Sportif. When Bartali punctured on the Sella and Coppi tried to pull away, Pavesi ordered him to wait for his teammate, who had previously been waiting for him when Fausto had punctured.

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