Words by Jesper Grundahl
Pictures by Kristof Ramon
When you think about it, it seems strange that grown men are willing to put their lives at risk for a Pink Jersey. If you had taken a group of guys in a room, gave them a Pink t-shirt and asked them to fight over it, I doubt the intensity would be as fierce - if any at all - as in Giro D’Italia. Or maybe it would?
Of course there is a lot more at stake than just a Pink Jersey when the Pro peloton kicks off this years 99th. edition of Giro D’Italia today in Apeldoorn in The Netherlands. Honor, Fame, Prestige and let’s not forget Money are certainly factors to consider, but it’s also fair to say that Tradition, Admiration and Respect certainly play an even greater part in “The Fight for Pink”.
As a Grand Tour Giro D’Italia comes packed with a history dating back to 1909. There are stories upon stories to be told from every of its 98 editions with a race that has included some of the most iconic riders and winners. Fausto Coppi, Gino Bartali, Alfredo Binda, Hugo Koblet, Charly Gaul, Eddy Merckx, Laurent Fignon, Gianno Bugno, Vincenzo Nibali, Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador just to name a few. We all bow in admiration and respect even today.
Going through the list of winners, from 1909 until today, Italian victories far outnumber those of its competitors. Italy, as a country, counts 68 victories whereas runners-up, Belgium and France, count 7 and 6 victories respectively. Maybe it’s because the Italians just know the terrain of its 3.368km route a little bit better or maybe it’s the fanatic home-crowds, and the spectacle, which give the native sons of Italy wings, and carry them to the overall win.
Despite the possibility of yet an Italian winner, if you look at the raw statistics, there are nevertheless 198 riders at the starting line in Apeldoorn. Every single one of them is ready to fight their last drop of sweat to coin the overall classification price of EUR. 206.000.
To some it’s a lot of money “just" for riding a bike, but it’s also worth taking the immense risk of actually never surviving the race into consideration, and the actual commercial value of being the overall winner. But if you think it’s a lot of money, which it certainly is, maybe you should spare a thought for Luigi Ganna who won the first ever Giro D’Italia in 1909, and earned him the overall classification sum of EUR. 2,75. “Just” for riding 2.447,9 km on his bike. So it is not strictly about money either.
Whether it being a Pink Jersey, money, fame or admiration - Giro D’Italia 2016 - will certainly again have us perched “on the rivet” in our living rooms, café’s, bars or wherever you choose to follow the three week Italian spectacle. It will again leave us breathless, astounded, crushed, elated, in tears, enraged, joyful and disappointed, and send us through all of our emotions while we marvel at the scenery, the sheer scale of it and the thought of someone even coming up with the idea of putting a Pink Jersey at stake.
Because that is what Pink does - it brings out the emotions in all of us, and we won’t have it any other way.