1914: The Start of a Tough and Grueling Bicycle Competition in Italy

May 24, 1914

The sixth annual Italian bicycle race known as the Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy) began in the city of Milan. The multi-day competition was organized by the Milan-based La Gazzetta dello Sport (The Sports Gazette); that newspaper initiated the annual race in 1909 and served as its sponsor.

A total of 81 bicyclists showed up to take part in the 1914 race, which covered a large portion of Italy between Milan in the northern Lombardy region and Bari in the southeastern Apulia region. Those participating could ride either on their own or as part of a team. An estimated 10,000 people were on hand to watch and cheer on the participants as they pedaled out of Milan to begin the race. 

On that Sunday, the first stage of the race covered 261 miles (420 kilometers) between Milan and Cuneo and involved riding through the mountainous area in and around the alpine village of Sestrière. (There were eight stages altogether in the competition, with one rest day sandwiched between each of those stages.) 

The1914 race is now widely considered to have been the toughest, most grueling of all the Giro d’Italia competitions held up to that time. One reason for this involved the horrible weather early on, with a heavy downpour of rain starting almost as soon as the race started and continuing for the next 36 hours. The prolonged storm transformed a great deal of the route’s dirt-packed roads into difficult-to-navigate rivers of mud. 

That year’s race also had longer-than-average segments for each stage. Only eight of the participants made it back to Milan at the finish of the 1,965-mile (3,162-kilometer)-long race on June 6. The overall winner was Alfonso Calzolari (pictured above), whose total riding time was 135 hours, 17 hours, and 56 seconds.

Photo Credit: Public Domain  For more information on the 1914 Giro d’Italia, please check out 1914 Giro d’Italia – Wikipedia

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