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Giro '62 - La Seconda Settimana

This May, we’re celebrating the Giro d’Italia in its absence by revisiting the 1962 edition. 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.

08.

Avellino - Foggia
110km

The second Saturday of the race would finally provide the candidates for overall glory with a chance to relax in the wheels as the sprinters looked set to take centre stage. On a baking hot day the peloton was snaking its way across Puglia in Italy’s Deep South but it was the Belgian team Faema that took the reins.

Looking for a third win on the bounce, they assembled a lead out train in front of Rik van Looy who, now out of GC contention, needed redemption in the form of a stage win. In the end, the line of Faema riders was so long that it allowed one of Van Looy’s teammates to clip off the front and go clear.

Dutchman Huub Zilverberg had one Italian rider for company but dispatched him easily in the sprint to take Faema’s hat trick of wins, though not in the way they might have planned. Sprinter’s in today’s peloton all too often complain of a lack of chances at the Grand Tours and, in particular, at the Vuelta. Clearly, they haven’t consulted with their sprinting predecessors.

Eight stages down and still no bunch gallop at this Giro.

09.

Foggia - Chieti
205km

Since the second week of the ‘62 Giro would herald far fewer flourishes from its leading contenders, many race reporters turned their attention to the landscapes around them. After several days in Italy’s poorer southern regions, the race was headed for its northern heartlands but would not get there before one more day in Abruzzo.

In western Abruzzo lies the town of Avezzano, home to fierce rivals Vincenzo Meco and Vito Taccone, both of whom had already animated the race. Just like their home region, they were much maligned by their predominantly northern colleagues for their mannerisms and motivations. For men like Taccone, raised by a single parent in abject poverty, cycling was all about money.

When he won a stage of 1961 Giro, Taccone earned enough to repay a lifetime of accumulated family debt. His 500,000 lire prize was equivalent to nearly three years’ income in his family. Understandable after all then, that Taccone had no time for the polite chit chat of the peloton. He was there to make money, and who can blame him?

In 1962, the race steered well clear of Avezzano, clinging to the coast and allowing Faema’s sprint train to dominate once again. This time there was no mistake as Rik van Looy took a routine win for a team which now had four victories from four different riders in as many days including one who remained in the maglia rosa.

10.

Chieti - Fano
218km

Bicycle racing is a simple sport – first across the line wins. But not always. The tenth stage was another pan flat affair that suited the dominant Faema team best. In a Giro designed to help homegrown talent flourish, Italian riders were struggling to generate too much publicity.

The stage to Fano and 24-year-old Giuseppe Tonucci’s presence in the breakaway provided his monied IGNIS team with a chance to right some wrongs. Tonucci hadn’t set the world alight in his first year as a professional but now had the rare opportunity to win a stage of the Giro in his hometown and, in turn, some column inches for his team’s sponsors.

Unfortunately, Tonucci was joined in the day’s break by several superior sprinters, so his chances of victory were slim. But in the first act of a stage that was not all it seemed, all but one of Tonucci’s breakaway companions, including Franco Balmamion, sat up. Suddenly disinterested in winning the stage, they simply drifted back to the bunch leaving Tonucci to contest the sprint with another Italian rider, Dino Bruni.

Though Tonucci was clearly beaten in the sprint, the race was not yet run. After half an hour of deliberation, the race jury announced that they had reviewed the finish line photo and overturned the result, with Tonucci now the winner and fans left to reflect on one of the most dubious stages in the race’s history.

11.

Fano - Castrocaro Terme
170km

Now heading directly to the north, the Giro would pass through the hometown of reigning champion Arnaldo Pambianco. The locals had chipped in together to put up a prize for the intermediate sprint which they hoped their hero could win.

They would be disappointed though as Pambianco – his form nowhere near that of last May – trailed a breakaway group of seven riders led by several local riders. Unfortunately for them, they found themselves in the company not only of Faema’s Zilverbeg but also of the world’s greatest finisher Van Looy.

The tifosi were hardly holding their breath at the finish as Van Looy easily took out his second stage win and his team’s fifth. The Belgians were beginning to run a mock midway through this Giro and Italy’s embarrassment was only heightened a few minutes later when the peloton crossed the line without young gun Vincenzo Meco who dropped out of podium contention.

12.

Forlì - Lignano Sabbiadoro
298km

Transition stages. Overlong ambles that do their best to make up for the magic of mountain stages. They still feature in Grand Tours today but nothing compares to the soporific effect of stages like this, the twelfth of the 1962 Giro.

Most of the day’s nearly 300 kilometres saw the peloton idling along, more an amateur bike tour than a Grand Tour. Six hours in, seven rebels were allowed to escape. With none of them a threat on GC, they managed to build a lead of eleven minutes over just sixty kilometres.

In the final sprint, it was the winner of the sixth stage Schroeders versus Mealli of the IGNIS team. Mealli crossed the line first but for the second time in three days his team would be involved in a post-race appeal. According to the incandescent Schroeders and Lomme Driessens, his directeur sportif at Faema, the Italian had deviated from his line.

Surprisingly, the race jury agreed with the Belgian and fined Mealli 10,000 lire. Unsurprisingly, they fined Schroeders double and awarded victory to the Italian team.

13.

Lignano Sabbiadoro - Nevegal
173km

After two weeks of posturing the peloton now turned inland towards the Dolomites. Eager to build on his promising position on the general classification, Carpano’s Nino Defilippis struck out on the climb of the Bosco. He took two minutes over the summit but was reeled back in with more than thirty kilometres remaining, wasting valuable energy at the beginning of a wicked week.

The final climb to the ski station at Nevegal saw the race’s first real showdown with Guido Carlesi and Angelino Soler escaping as part of a four-man move. Having shrugged off the tendonitis that had plagued him earlier in the race, Carlesi, ‘Coppino’ to his fans, beat the Spaniard in a two-up sprint.

Behind them, the Desmet was best of the rest, closely followed by Imerio Massignan; Charly Gaul surprisingly lost time on terrain that ought to have suited him; and Vito Taccone cracked horribly, losing over four minutes and any hope of a podium finish.

Exhausted by his earlier efforts, Defilippis finished beside Balmamion a minute down. A creditable showing from the Carpano team ahead of the following day’s queen stage.

14.

Belluno - Passo Rolle
160km

Like the snow that blanketed the course on stage 14, the action came thick and fast. Race director Vicenzo Torriani had plotted no fewer than six terrible passes on the route and, though he had been warned of an approaching weather front, decreed that the stage would go ahead.

This terrible stage changed the race beyond recognition. The Abbruzzese Meco stormed back from his hunger flat a few days earlier and took victory at a finish line that was moved to the top of the Passo Rolle to avoid the snowbound descent. On an ordinary stage, that could have been the headline but nothing about this day was ordinary.

The rain that soaked riders on the startline quickly turned to snow as the they headed out of the valley and into dense fog above. Pre-race favourite Charly Gaul, despite his reputation for resilience in cold weather, abandoned along with nearly sixty others; the maglia rosa Armand Desmet lost nearly twenty minutes; and rumours swirled that many of the riders who had finished hadn’t done so entirely under their own steam.

Amidst the chaos, Balmamion was back. After towing his leader Defilippis for 80 kilometres and saving his Carpano team’s Giro, he was distanced on the Passo Rolle but was able to keep some strength in reserve. “I didn’t go too deep because I had towed Nino and I knew this stage would have consequences in the days ahead. I was feeling really strong though.”

On a day that decimated the peloton and saw the hopes of many riders end, Franco Balmamion was just getting started.

General Classification

After stage fourteen:

Position Name Team Time
1. Graziano Battistini Legnano 81hr 53' 02"
2. Henri Anglade Liberia +0' 03"
3. José Pérez-Francés Ferrys +0' 31"
4. Imerio Massignan Legnano +1' 07"
5. Nino Defilippis Carpano +2' 20"
6. Ercole Baldini Moschettieri +3' 42"
7. Carlo Brugnami Philco +5' 04"
8. Guido Carlesi Philco +6' 46"
9. Antonio Suarez Ghigi +7' 01"
10. Vito Taccone Atala +7' 22"
11. Franco Balmamion Carpano +8' 49"

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

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