Today’s stage is both challenging and important, for many reasons: firstly, for its proximity to the conclusion of the race tomorrow, for the genuine difficulty that the route poses (coming hot on the heels of yesterday’s gruelling stage) and because of the accumulation of the exertions of ten long days that have made this event into a real “great little Giro”. It is also worth considering the history with which the Giro d’Italia Under 23 Enel deliberately chose to enrich the race route.
There are dates and places in the growth of a country that cannot be ignored: worth restating is the centenary of the end of World War I (1915-18) that brought the era of the Risorgimento, which involved the unification of Italy to a definitive close. Whoever it is that ends up in the Pink Jersey at the end of the race and whatever nationality they may be, it is fitting that they know about this event, when Italy, for the first time, put the concept of unification, which until then had been mostly theoretical, into practice.
The starting point in Trentino and the return to the Province of Vicenza also offers food for thought. Borgo Valsugana, which stands 15 km from the start at Levico, is the site of the tomb of Alcide De Gasperi, Prime Minister in 1946, the first leader of liberated Italy. Being born in the Province of Trento, until the Great War De Gasperi had served as a member of the Austrian Parliament, with certainty against his will. The route passes two very important historical sites: Monte Grappa, known as the “Mountain of the Fatherland” for over a century, and the plateaus of Asiago with its famous War Memorial, second in size only to that of Redipuglia. The stage today is of utmost sporting importance, given that these uphill segments often determine the winner, the last such example was Nairo Quintana in 2014. However, just a single moment of reflection, at least from the spectators watching, will give a sense to those who sacrificed their lives so that Italy could come into being.
Another anniversary of a date that unites history and cycling can be found just a few decades ago on 15 June 1946, the start of the first Giro d’Italia after WWII. Italy was still in ruins and decided that the country could get back on its feet and unite once more with a little help from the pedal power of the nation’s standout sporting event. That year’s Giro was won by a genuine hero: Gino Bartali.