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For the Love of the Giro

No new chapter in this great race’s history will be written this May, so to celebrate la corsa rosa we’re going back in time, to 1962. Coppi and Bartali have both retired and foreign riders have won two of the last three giri. Italian fans need a new champion, and they need him now.

The 1962 Giro d’Italia fell right in the middle of the so-called golden era of cycling - the post-war years when riders were made of steel and Grand Tours were still over 4000 kilometres long. Even the great champions of the day only ever had a loose grip on glory – unsealed roads, illness and devious dealing by team directors could all spell disaster.

The idea that a team could completely control a race – as we so often see today – was still just that, an idea. Overall contenders would regularly lose minutes to their rivals only to regain them; men who seemed certain of victory one day could just as easily crumble the next.

The racing was exciting because it was unpredictable. And at a time when television coverage was a very recent phenomenon, many fans followed the action in the way they always had, reading about the riders they revered in the pink pages of La Gazzetta dello Sport.

To celebrate the 1962 edition and the upcoming release of our book about the man who won it, Franco Balmamion, we’re going back in time and bringing the race back to life. Over the next three weeks, we’ll introduce you to the protagonists of the ‘62 race, relive its defining moments and consider how and why road racing has changed in the decades since.

For true racing fans, we’ll also bring you a blow-by-blow account of the race, publishing daily stage reports each morning on rapha.cc so that you can follow the action just as the fans of the day would have done.

Take your pick from the written features below to review the chances of the leading favourites, read the latest stage summaries and read leading cycling historian Herbie Sykes’ view on what has changed since cycling’s golden era.

Down But Not Out

The race began outside Milan’s famous Duomo under grey skies – dank weather that would prove to be an ominous omen for our protagonist Franco Balmamion. After months of tireless training, his Giro challenge looked all but over in the first week on the road to Sestri Levante.

Beaten by the Belgians

The second week plotted a route through the country’s southern regions before heading north towards the Dolomites where, after a quiet few stages for the GC favourites, all hell would break loose.

Into the Mountains

As is often the case in Grand Tour racing, the best was most definitely saved until last at the 1962 Giro. From the incessant attacks of Vito Taccone to the lacklustre defence of the Legnano team, read all about the great race’s final chapters here.

Would the Real Giro Please Stand Up?

The second week plotted a route through the country’s southern regions before heading north towards the Dolomites where, after a quiet few stages for the GC favourites, all hell would break loose.

The Long March

The Giro d’Italia – the race itself – is just the beginning. Herbie Sykes examines the afterlives of its constituents…

Meet the Riders



Many racing fans can still recall Coppi and Bartali but the generation of riders that followed is less well known. Before delving into our daily summaries of each stage in the ‘62 Giro, familiarise yourself with the favourites here.

In an effort to showcase the splendour of Italy to the world, the ‘62 Giro would seek out the country’s most beautiful backwaters and its toughest roads – this would be a Giro for the climbers. The dominant rider of the day Jacques Anquetil – renowned for ability in time trials – stayed away, leaving a stellar cast of climbers to take centre stage.

 

Franco Balmamion

Despite the promise he’d shown with a win at the highly prestigious Corsa San Pellegrino, our protagonist shared leadership duties with the more experienced Nini Defilippis at Carpano. While Nino would be on the hunt for stage wins, Franco was expected to ride consistently to a top ten on the general classification.

 

Charly Gaul

Though the organisers surreptitiously favoured Italian riders, the outstanding favourite for the 1962 Giro was Luxembourger Charly Gaul. The best climber of his generation, he had already won two giri and, as undisputed leader of the Italian Gazzola team, fancied his chances of adding a third.

 

Imerio Massignan

Riding in the striking green of the Legnano team, Massignan was unusually tall for a climber standing at six feet. But despite his height he was deceptively light and declared himself ecstatic with the mountainous route. 1962 was make or break for the man from Vincenza, if he didn’t win the Giro now, most doubted if he ever would.

 

Guido Carlesi

Nicknamed ‘Coppino’ on account of his striking resemblance to Fausto Coppi, Carlesi had finished second only to Anquetil at the previous year’s Tour de France. Despite this however, he seemed beaten before this Giro had begun, citing a mountainous course that was unfairly skewed in favour of flyweight climbers.

 

Graziano Battistini

Plucked from the junior ranks by the legendary Alfredo Binda, this young Ligurian immediately repaid his manager’s faith, finishing second at his debut Tour de France in 1960. After suffering a false start at the following year’s Giro, Battistini entered the ‘62 Giro in fine form with a win at the traditional Giro warm-up race the Tour de Romandie.

 

Vito Taccone

Even after almost a century of Italian unification, southern regions like Aburzzo were much maligned. Not surprising then that riders who emerged from the region, like the small and snappy Vito Taccone, had a point to prove. On and off the bike, the Atala man wanted nothing more than to stick it to the North, and take the title home with him.

Stay tuned for more Giro ‘62 stories as we bring you the race’s defining moments.

Balmamion

Renowned cycling historian Herbie Sykes plots the history of the race’s least likely winner. Drawing on his immense knowledge of Italian cycling and personal encounters with a man he now calls a friend, Sykes introduces us to Franco Balmamion and retells the tale of his forgotten Giro win in 1962.

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