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The Giro d’Italia and its lingo explained

Are you a fan of the Giro d’Italia or would you prefer to do your own “tour of Italy”? Either way, the Giro d’Italia has always something to offer and we have decided to gift you with a themed vocabulary section!

The Giro d’Italia is one of the three Grand Tours, along with the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España. This year, the race takes place entirely in Italy, but in the past 103 editions the Corsa Rosa (‘pink race’) also held stages in other nations, including France (1998), Israel (2018). The country originally chosen for last year’s Grande Partenza (‘big start’) was Hungary; however, the international stages were cancelled and the race was postponed to October for safety reasons. This three weeks’ trip, from Turin to Milan for the current edition, brings both riders and viewers around Italy. And that’s one of the reasons why the Giro is so fascinating, now more than ever. Another attraction is doubtlessly represented by the variety of Italy’s terrain, which poses different challenges to different riders. In short, we love it because of the exciting competition and the enchanting and ever-changing landscape at once.

The origins of the Giro d’Italia and the pink jersey

milan_duomo_cathedral
Milan, where everything began

The first edition of the Giro d’Italia, won by Luigi Ganna, was held in 1909 and it was an idea of the editors of Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport. For half a century, this prestigious bicycle race started and finished in Milan, which hosted La Gazzetta’s headquarters. In more recent times, the city of departure has changed every year, but the Giro usually ends in Milan. Despite being the first to win the competition, Luigi Ganna was not the first to wear the maglia rosa. Actually, the pink jersey for the race’s leader was introduced in 1931 and was awarded to Learco Guerra. It was another idea of the Milan-based newspaper, which is still printed on pink pages, conceived to make the leader easier to identify both by race officials and fans, and it has since become a symbol of the Giro d’Italia. Currently, the riders who have worn it the most are Eddy Merckx, Fausto Coppi and Alfredo Binda, who won the general classification five times.

To celebrate the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death, this year’s maglia rosa has the final words of the Purgatorio written on the inside of the collar: “Disposto a salire alle stelle” (“ready to climb to the stars.”) And that’s not all for this year. Today’s organiser, RCS Sport, started in 1989 as an independent company from La Gazzetta dello Sport, has created a virtual exhibition dedicated to the 90th anniversary of the pink jersey.

The other jerseys and their meaning

giro d'italia flags in santa ninfa
A photo taken in Santa Ninfa, in Sicily, during the Giro d’Italia (2018)

Jerseys of different colors are awarded to the leaders of different classifications at the end of every stage, and the recipients earn the right to wear them during the following day’s racing. Of course, the most coveted jersey is the maglia rosa, worn by the overall classification leader. The points jersey, or maglia ciclamino, is purple/magenta and goes to the most consistent rider. In Italian, ciclamino is a colour and a flower, cyclamen. The maglia azzurra (‘blue jersey’) is awarded to the best climber, the leader of the mountains’ classification. To accumulate the most points in this category, it is very important to take the Cima Coppi, where you can get 50 points. Named after Fausto Coppi, this the highest point of the race. The Cima Coppi changes every year and, as the Dolomites’ stage was shortened due to bad weather, Passo Giau (2,233 m) replaced Passo Fedaia and Passo Pordoi (2,239 m) as this year’s Cima Coppi. The last jersey available is white and goes to the best young rider (under 25): the maglia bianca.

Our short guide to cycling lingo

mountain bike
What’s the Italian for ‘saddle’?

The 104th edition of the Giro d’Italia is drawing to a close but it’s always time to learn Italian. Read on and you’ll learn how to decode the jargon of this fascinating race.

Athletes and other people

gruppo: group of riders, peloton

squadra: you will often hear ‘team’

direttore sportivo: directeur sportif

tifosi: fans, supporters. Interesting fact: the term tifoso derives from the delirium of typhoid patients

giudice di gara: race judge

fuggitivo: breakaway rider

gregario: domestique, the rider that supports his team and leader rather than trying to win the race

discesista: a great descender

passista: rouleur, a strong rider good on long flat stages

scalatore: climber, a rider who excels on steep, high mountains

scattista: a sprinter who can accelerate on the steepest slopes

velocista: a sprinter

Remember that a rider may have several characteristics, hence two terms can be combined. A typical example is passista scalatore: a rouleur who climbs well, a good all-rounder; famous all-rounders include Fausto Coppi and Eddy Merckx. On the contrary, if the rider is a specialist, we add the adjective puro (e.g., scalatore puro)

The race

classifiche generali:  general classifications

colle: a hill, or short climb

discesa: descent

pendenza: gradient or slope

salita: climb

tornante: switchback

cronometro or crono: time trial

cronometro individuale: individual time trial

cronometro a squadre: team time trial

cronoscalata: individual timed hill climb

percorso: route

tappa: stage 

tappone: the hardest stage in the high mountains. You may have heard about il tappone dolomitico, for example

traguardo: finish line

volata: sprint finish

zona rifornimento: feed zone

Parts of the bike

bloccaggio: quick release skewer

borraccia: water bottle

cambio: rear derailleur

camera d’aria: inner tube

catena: chain

cerchio: rim

comandi: shift/brake levers

copertoncino: clincher tire

deragliatore: front derailleur

forcella: fork

forcellini: front and rear dropouts

freni: brakes

guarnitura: crankset

manubrio: handlebar

movimento centrale: bottom bracket

mozzo: hub

pedali: pedals

pignoni: sprockets

portaborraccia: bidon cage

raggi: spokes

reggisella: seatpost

ruote: wheels

sella: saddle

serie sterzo: headset

telaio: bike frame

tubolare: tubular tire

Don’t miss the final stages on RAI, Eurosport, GCN+, and check giroditalia.it for updates and interesting facts

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