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GIRO ‘62 - La Prima Settimana

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

01.

Milan - Tabiano Terme
185km

The opening road stage of a Grand Tour is a carefully controlled affair these days, but not back in 1962. The usually doomed five-man breakaway escaped but was reeled back in with fifteen kilometres left, leaving plenty of time for an ambush from the wily former Tour de France winner Gastone Nencini.

His move allowed the Legnano duo of Battistini and Massiman as well as defending champion Pambianco wriggle clear. The favourite Charly Gaul, Taccone and Carpano’s Defilippis and Balmamion all lost 1’28. This was no concern to Defilippis who was targeting stages for the Carpano team but it was an early blow for their GC leader Balmamion. Must do better.

02.

Salsomaggiore Terme - Sestri Levante
158km

Legnano’s leading man Graziano Battistini, buoyed by his gains on the previous day’s stage, attacked 47 kilometres from home on the Passo delle Cente Croci and caught several of his rivals, including Franco, napping.

Vito Taccone suffered an inopportune puncture and lost more than five minutes but Balmamion fared even worse. Carpano’s GC man suffered a hunger knock, losing eight minutes to the peloton and two more to Battistini.

“I simply ran out of fuel,” he commented later. “None of my teammates waited to help me and nor, in the circumstances, could I expect them to. I hadn’t earned their loyalty and had no real pedigree, so I was left to fend for myself.”

The Carpano team’s strategy was now to support Nino Defilippis for the GC. After just two days racing, Balmamion lay in 80th position on the general classification, his ambitions seemingly in tatters. In the modern peloton, eight minutes is all but insurmountable but this was cycling’s golden era, and Balmamion wasn’t done yet. The only way was up….

03.

Sestri Levante - Panicagliora
225km

Another day and another move from a major player in the race for the overall. This time it was the ‘Chamois of Abruzzo’ Vito Taccone who jumped away from the main group at the base of the final climb out of the fortress town of Lucca. Taccone took two others riders with him but had no real competition in the breakaway until he was joined by the Spanish climber Angelino Soler.

The winner of the previous year’s Vuelta aged just 21, Soler was a masterful climber and proved too strong for Taccone. He attacked a couple of kilometres from the top of the climb to leave his breakaway companions behind and win the stage by a margin of 33 seconds.

Taccone was in the four-man group behind but had only gained five seconds on his main rivals – small recompense for his considerable efforts. Franco Balmamion was in the group behind and relieved to finally be showing some signs of form. So too was Soler’s teammate Antonio Suárez who, with Battistini distanced, took the second maglia rosa of the race to make it a very successful day indeed for the Ghigi team.

04.

Montecatini Terme - Perugia
248km

Though Nino Defilippis and Franco Balmamion represented Carpano’s best chances of glory at the Giro, the team had another card to play in Toni Bailetti. A close friend of Balmamion, the 22-year-old was already right up their in Carpano’s hierarchy on account of his huge engine and his versatility. On any given day, he could beat the best on any terrain.

Having been given the green light to go for the day’s stage by team director Giacotti, Bailetti made no mistake taking the intermediate sprint – and the prestigious prize of a sheep – before going on to win the stage by no fewer than four minutes. What a bike rider.

Behind, Balmamion was on the move again. Eager not to reduce his friend’s advantage, Franco waited until Bailetti’s lead was unassailable before clipping off the front of a disinterested peloton himself, recouping a two minutes at the finish. The demons of his second stage collapse now banished, Balmamion was rediscovering the joy of riding his bike. Though he remained firmly out of the GC picture, his morale and his form were on the up.

05.

Perugia - Rieti
258km

With all the advantages of improved coverage at today’s Giro, even the most unknown breakaway riders are quickly identified but back in 1962, this wasn’t always the case. As well as the established teams and their riders, the peloton was made up of independent riders who often worked as contractors for the leading teams when they needed an extra pair of legs.

At the ‘62 Giro, one such team was Liberia and the rider they drafted in was Joseph Carrara. After making an early bike change, the Frenchman launched a seemingly hopeless attacked with over 200 kilometres still to ride. His team leader Henri Anglade was bemused and behind in the team car, team manager Adolphe Deledda was reminding himself of who Carrara was.

The assembled press pack had no more information than Deledda, so while this unknown rider raced twice over the famous Terminillo climb towards Rieti, they raced to find out his name. Remarkably, Carrara held on to take the most famous win of his career. Exhausted from his efforts, he would quietly climb off his bike the next day, retiring from the Giro and returning to the relative anonymity from whence he had come.

06.

Rieti - Fiuggi
193km

In this Giro for climbers, it comes as no surprise that there were few chances for the sprinters and the sixth stage was no exception. The day’s winning move went with just ten kilometres gone as the peloton – weary from the previous day’s double ascent of the Terminillo – allowed three very useful rouleurs all the freedom they would need.

With their Classics colossus Rik van Looy suffering in the first week, Faema’s Willy Schroeders took a valuable win for the team but behind there was movement once again in the main field. As the race came within spitting distance of his hometown, Vincenzo Meco, just three months into his cycling career, burst free of the bunch.

He had two other riders for company but neither could assist with the pace making – Meco was just too strong. The leader’s advantage had grown to twelve minutes at the stage’s halfway point but by the line, Meco had brought it down to just two and put the thick end of three minutes into Suárez in the peloton behind. After six days of the racing, the Giro had its third maglia rosa.

07.

Fiuggi - Montevergine di Mercogliano
224km

Into the ancient Kingdom of Naples, the Giro headed for a mountain top finish at Montevergine. Though Rik van Looy’s earlier escape would end in failure, the Faema team were not to be denied as Armand Desmet – now the team’s GC leader – managed to build a four-minute advantage at the foot of the climb.

Seventh on the classification at the top of the day, Desmet stood a good chance not only of taking the stage win but also of becoming the next maglia rosa if he could shrug off his breakaway companions.

Capano’s Sartore was a gregario out of his depth this deep into a mountain stage and while Anglade was leading the Liberia team, he could match Desmet either. The previously unfancied Belgian romped home to a double victory and would remain a factor on the general classification for most of the race’s remaining stages.

Behind, Nino Defilippis fired a warning shot to his rivals by escaping with four kilometres to go and taking a handful of seconds on all of his main rivals. Privately, Defilippis believed he had the beating of all but Charly Gaul who he hoped would suffer in the heat of the second week. With his teammate Balmamion down in a lowly 31st on GC, Defilippis was kingpin at Carpano, for now.

General Classification

After stage seven:

Position Name Team Time
1. Armand Desmet Faema 42hr 51' 24"
2. Henri Anglade Liberia +1' 05"
3. Vincenzo Meco San Pellegrino +2' 31"
4. Antonio Suárez Ghigi +3' 15"
5. Graziano Battistini Legnano +3' 48"
9. José Pérez-Francés Ferrys +5' 07"
11. Imerio Massignan Legnano +5' 36"
12. Nino Defilippis Carpano +6' 06"
13. Charly Gaul Gazzola +6' 08"
21. Vito Taccone Atala +9' 59"
31. Franco Balmamion Carpano +13' 13"
37. Rik Van Looy Faema + 13' 37"

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

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