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Giro d'Italia 2020

Amore infinito

The Giro d’Italia is the second biggest stage race after the Tour de France and has is a particularly special event for die-hard cycling fans. Every year the race winds its way through spectacular green countryside with rolling hills, along cypress-tree-lined streets, through quaint villages and famous wine regions, past major historical landmarks and along the beautiful Italian coastline overlooking sand and sea. But most importantly, the route takes the riders into the mountains to race on the steepest, most beautiful and most iconic mountain passes that the country has to offer. And all along the way, everyone’s minds are on good espressos, world-class wine and the finest Italian cuisine. This is exactly what enchants fans year after year. There’s a good reason why the race’s slogan is always ‘amore infinito’ – infinite love.


Giro d’Italia: a potted history

The Giro d’Italia was first staged in 1909, starting and ending in Milan and covering eight stages and 2,448 km. Out of the 127 cyclists who started the race, only 49 crossed the finish line. It’s a race with a long tradition. Its first race was a promotional campaign for the Italian sports newspaper ‘La Gazzetta dello Sport’, following the Tour de France model. The newspaper still exists today and is the reason why the jersey for the leader of the general classification has had its unique pink colour since 1931. The coveted jersey is known as the ‘maglia rosa’ in Italian. There are three other classifications that are also awarded with a jersey: the points classification, the king of the mountains classification and best young rider classification. Unlike the Tour de France, these special jerseys have changed colour several times throughout the history of the Giro d’Italia. Today the best climber dons the blue jersey while the leader of the points classification wears the cyclamen-coloured jersey, the ‘maglia ciclamino’. The best young rider (U25) is awarded the white jersey. 


The 2020 edition

The race has started abroad several times. For example, Israel hosted the race start for the 2018 edition. The 2020 edition was originally scheduled to start in Budapest, but the coronavirus situation meant that the first stage had to move to Sicily in the far south. The route includes 21 stages, covering a total of 3,496.8 km. Apart from a short high-altitude detour into the French Alps in the penultimate stage, the whole race takes place in Italy and finishes in front of Milan Cathedral with the last of three time trials.

The Giro d’Italia usually takes place in May, and some alpine mountain passes can end up unusable because of the snowy conditions. As the race has now been rescheduled for October, we could see one or more stages have to change course briefly too. Whatever the weather, we’re keeping our fingers crossed from 3 to 25 October, hoping that the team led by Rafał Majka and Peter Sagan will be successful!


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The BORA – hansgrohe line up

Twenty-seven professional cyclists from nine different countries in one team. Teamwork makes the dream work in cycling, after all. Even if only one of them is the first over the finish line, winning is a success for the whole team because you can’t win in cycling without domestiques who provide slipstreams, go grab water bottles (the so-called “bidons”), keep the competition at bay and lead out the sprinter for the sprint.

Teamwork is top priority in the BORA – hansgrohe team, that’s how they constantly develop, improve and become more successful. The team started in the third division in 2010, still under the NetApp team name, and was evolving and getting better all the time until it was promoted to the first division in 2017. Just two years later and with a total of 47 victories under its belt, the team advanced to the second-best team in the WorldTour division. Although 2020 has turned out to be an unusual season, the team is more motivated than ever and has set its sights high.

Twenty-two teams with eight riders each are competing in the major three-week-long Grand Tours. There are riders specialised in sprint stages, great climbers and good all-rounders who support the two team captains – Rafał Majka, to lead the general classification, and Peter Sagan, to collect as many points as possible and take home the ‘maglia ciclamino’ just two weeks after his appearance at the Tour de France.

Peter Sagan

As a three-time world championship winner, seven-time winner of the green jersey at the Tour de France and winner of the Queen of the Classics Paris-Roubaix with a total of 113 wins in his career, Peter Sagan is one of the most successful professional cyclists ever. But there is one thing that the 30-year-old Slovakian cyclist is and that’s different. If we’ve learned one thing about this rock star of the cycling world, then it’s that he has unbelievable mental strength and that is he is a force to be reckoned with. He goes all in when he wins and equally so when he’s entertaining the fans. During the race you can see him signing autographs on the mountain passes or delighting the crowds by performing a wheelie because Peter Sagan not only considers it his duty to put on an impressive performance athletically, he also wants to put on a good show for the spectators. And just when you think that Peter Sagan has done it all in cycling, you’re proven wrong. This year’s Giro d’Italia is his first, and the maglia ciclamino will definitely suit him.

Rafał Majka

If you were to ask the team who among them was the wildest and the funniest, you’ll usually get the answer: Rafał Majka. The 30-year-old Polish cyclist, who is a team captain at this year’s Giro d’Italia, signed with the BORA – hansgrohe team in 2017. This is his fifth Giro d’Italia and seventeenth Grand Tour competing as a general classification specialist. Securing the polka dot jersey and stage wins at the Tour de France and Vuelta a España adds to his list of achievements, and now he’s set his sights on the Giro d’Italia once more. You’re sure to hear the occasional ‘mamma mia!’ from him whenever he’s happy, surprised, annoyed or just trying to spur his teammates on. His ‘stay positive!’ motto not only gives him a boost, but the whole team too.
Dai dai dai Rafał!

Cesare Benedetti

Cece, as his teammates call him, hails from South Tyrol. Besides his native Italian, he also speaks German, English, French, some Spanish, and if they weren’t enough, Polish too since love brought him to Poland. This means that he can communicate with most of the riders in the peloton in their native languages. Cesare was one of the first riders who Ralph Denk recruited to his 2010 line up, a team that was in the third division and known as Team NetApp back then. Cece is one of the best and most loyal domestiques in the peloton. He gives it everything he’s got to help his team; he prefers to stay out of the spotlight. So, you can imagine how wild the cycling world went when this team player par excellence battled to win the 12th stage of the Giro d’Italia 2019. It was the first win in his professional career, and at one of the biggest and most prestigious races in the world. No one in the peloton would have begrudged Cece his win.

Maciej Bodnar

Maciej Bodnar joined the team along with Peter Sagan in 2017 after already spending almost 11 years as teammates. The 35-year-old Polish cyclist, hailing from Wrocław, brings a wealth of experience with him. He’s a time-trial-winning machine, taking home six national time-trial championship titles to date. He also won the last ITT stage of the 2017 Tour de France, an incredibly proud moment for him and the team. His time-trial skills also come in very handy elsewhere, such as when he accelerates at the front of the pack, quickly catching back up with the breakaways. His helpful support will be indispensable to the Giro d’Italia team.

Matteo Fabbro

The 2020 season is the 25-year-old’s first with the ‘Band of Brothers’, as the BORA – hansgrohe team likes to call itself. The Italian rider describes himself as a small person with strong character and a passion for the mountains. Since the cycling season had to be postponed due to the coronavirus, he hasn’t had much time to show off his potential, but the Giro d’Italia gives him a chance to show us what he’s made of on his home turf. He is a climber so he will be supporting Rafał Majka and Patrick Konrad in the mountain stages. It’s his second Grand Tour and that is all the motivation he needs.

Patrick Gamper

At 23 years old, Patrick may be one of the youngest rider on the whole BORA – hansgrohe team, but he’s definitely full of drive and fighting spirit. He was a little disappointed to only come in second at this year’s Austrian National Time Trial Championships, but he had clinched the title five times in the youth categories for juniors and U23s. His two younger brothers are also strong cyclists, and the whole Gamper family are very sporty. His mum is a 15-time world skibobbing champion, and Patrick and his brothers also won several youth skibobbing championships. Patrick’s entire family are proud of him for being recruited to the WorldTour, the first division in pro cycling, and to top it off, that the Giro d’Italia will mark his first Grand Tour in his first year as a pro.

Patrick Konrad

The 28-year-old Austrian turned pro and joined the team in 2015. He is one of the talents nurtured by BORA – hansgrohe. The Grand Tour specialist and 2019 Austrian National Road Race Champion has made it to the podium at the Tour de Suisse, and he has fond memories of the 2018 Giro d’Italia as he finished the race in Rome with a very respectable seventh place in the general classification. Patrick considers hardships just part and parcel of being a dedicated cyclist, that’s why he is as motivated as ever this year to give it his all for the ‘Band of Brothers’.

Paweł Poljański

The 30-year-old Pole is Rafał Majka’s friend and domestique, as well as the third Polish cyclist to appear in this year’s BORA – hansgrohe Giro d’Italia line up. He’s a climber and stage race specialist, with this year’s Giro d’Italia being his ninth Grand Tour. He will play a key role supporting his captain during the mountain stages in particular. Paweł Poljański has earned the nickname ‘Zebra’ among his teammates as his neck always has unmistakable tan lines in the summer. When he’s not racing or training, ‘Zebra’ can be found relaxing at home, riding his lawnmower – that is, of course, when he’s not busy thinking about the next race.

Photo credit:

BORA – hansgrohe / Bettiniphoto

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