The Giro d'Italia began on this day in 1938, 2005 and 2011. 1938 was won by Giovanni Valetti, who would win again the following year. 2005 was won by Paolo Savoldelli, who took the maglia rosa in Stage 13 and retained it for the rest of the race - he was a rider apparently destined to one day win a Grand Tour as he was a very rare example of one who could ride fast up and down mountains (most climbers dislike descending as they don't have the physical weight required to prevent the bike skipping around at high speed). 2011 came under widespread criticism among riders who claimed that it was too difficult, and it was marked by the tragic death of LeopardTrek's Wouter Weylandt, who died in a crash on the Passo del Bocco. To commorate hi life, Wouter's 108 race number will not be issued to future entrants. The winner was Alberto Contador, who has since been found guilty of doping and stripped of the victory, leaving Michele Scarponi de facto winner. Due to concerns that in trying to organise a spectacular race he had overlooked rider safety, director Angelo Zomegnan was removed from his position after the race.
Andrea Tafi, Il Gladiatore
Born in Fucecchio on this day in 1966, Andrea Tafi finished off the job his hero Francesco Moser started and finally killed of the old stereotype that Italian riders couldn't perform well in the harsh northern Classics - and his tendency to do well when even the Belgians considered giving up earned him his nickname, The Gladiator.
Having already gained a reputation as a hardman, Tafi signed to Mapei-CLAS in 1994 and remained with them for eight years, forming a part of the break that powered Johan Museeuw to his first Paris-Roubaix victory in 1996. That same year he won a Monument, the Giro di Lombardia; then in 1999 he replicated Museeuw's win with his own Hell of the North - confirming his tough guy credentials forever.
Born in Dublin on this day in 1972, Paul Kimmage would become, alongside his friend David Walsh, one of the most famous cycling journalists of the 1990s when he published Rough Ride, in which he recounted several tales of doping (including by himself), and later for his willingness to lock horns with Lance Armstrong.
Kimmage's own career as a cyclist was impressive, beginning with numerous victories whilst he was still an amateur - he was Amateur National Champion in 1981 and 1984 and came second at the Amateur Manx International in 1983 before turning professional with Bernard Thévenet's RMO-Meral-Mavic team in 1986. Ireland had in the last few years fallen in love with cycling due to the successes of Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche and the newspapers were, as a result, willing to give Kimmage far more coverage than the average neo-pro domestique could even dream of receiving. Before too long an editor realised that Kimmage was fully capable of writing quality articles himself; as a result his journalistic careeer began soon after his professional cycling career. That first year, Kimmage rode the Tour de France and performed remarkably well with ninth place on Stages 7 and 8 before coming 131st overall - a result that boded well for the future, but in fact 1986 would be the only time that he ever completed a Tour.
Kimmage rode the Tour again in 1987, but the team's emphasis that year was on the World Championships which would take place in the Austrian city Villach. Thévenet created an Irish team-within-a-team consisting of leaders Roche and Kelly, backed up by Kimmage and Martin Earley, and ensured that the four men spent much of the season training and racing together so that by the time of the Championships they knew one another's personalities and skills inside out. Roche had already won both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour, an incredible feat that, prior to that year, had been achieved only seven times and which had left him in no fit state to challenge for the Championship but impressed throughout the race as he pulled hard to support Kelly, who had been chosen to be team leader. However, when Roche got away in a break, Kelly remained with a chase group so as to be in a position to mark his rival Moreno Argentin of Gewiss-Bianchi. This proved a bad move - the break stayed away and, as they began to test one another's strength near the finish line, Kelly had no way to get back into contention. Then Roche found a new reserve of strength, opening up the sprint a full half-kilometre from the line and somehow held on to be the first over it. He had become World Champion, but having won the Giro and Tour that season too he'd also won the greatest prize in cycling: the entirely unofficial Triple Crown, for which there is no trophy nor prize money, and which only Eddy Merckx had ever won before.
1988 was a less successful year, Kimmage's best result being third on Stage 6 at the GP du Midi-Libre and at the end of the season he moved to Fagor-MBK where he once again rode with Roche who had spent the previous year with Carrera Jeans-Vagabond. Sadly, both men were already in decline - Roche had sustained a knee injury from which he never fully recovered at a six-day race in 1986 and was forced to abandon the 1989 Tour in great pain after hitting the injured joint on his handlebars; when he left, Kimmage decided that it was time to end his own career and retired.
In 1990 Kimmage published Rough Ride, still the finest tale of life as a professional cycling domestique in print. In it, he pulled no punches in describing the drug use he saw and engaged in and soon found himself persona non grata in the cycling world, variously attacked and ignored by people who had once been his friends for spitting in the soup - including Roche who, despite Kimmage's obvious admiration for him and his achievements, threatened to sue due to being named as a doper in the book (it was later proved beyond reasonable doubt by an Italian court that Roche had in fact doped with EPO). Meanwhile, cycling fans appreciated his honesty and, when he left the Irish Sunday Independent in 2002 following a row when the paper's editor took a comment concerning football player Roy Keane out of context in order to support a story claiming that Keane was about to divorce his wife, many readers switched to the Sunday Times so as to be able to continue reading Kimmage's columns there. Yet, in 2012, the Times ended his contract; Kimmage argues that this was because a large number of his stories on doping in cycling were prevented from being published by the paper's lawyers to avoid possible legal repercussions. He was also being sued for defamation by the UCI over various claims he'd made concerning the organisation (specifically his claims that ex-UCI president Hein Verbruggen was "corrupt," Once again, fans showed their appreciation: when websites NYVelocity and Cyclismas set up a Paul Kimmage Defense Fund, allowing the writer to counter-sue the UCI, more than $21,000 was donated. Questions arose in the days prior to Kimmage's birthday in 2013 regarding the account and he had to suspend legal action as a result.
Following the election of Brian Cookson as UCI president, the organisation's legal case against Kimmage was dropped.
Darryl Webster, a British cyclist born in Walsall on this day in 1962, won the Schoolboy's National 10-mile TT Championship in 1978, was third at the National Hill Climb Championship in 1981, won the National Hill Climb Championship in 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1986, won the Manx Trophy in 1987 and was eighth in the Tour of Britain in 1988. Webster has always been a vocal opponent of drugs use in sport, so the news in April that he'd been arrested and charged with growing 37 cannabis plants at two locations made it into the national newspapers.
Today is also Paolo Savoldelli's birthday. Nicknamed Il Falco (The Falcon), he was born in Clusone, Bergamo in 1973 and is a climber with a (rare among climbers) talent for descending fast - a combination that would win him the Giro d'Italia in 2002 and 2005, the latter race having started on his birthday.
Giovanni Rossi, a Swiss rider born in Bidart, France on this day in 1926, became Amateur Swiss Champion in 1949 and signed to the professional Tigra team for the following season. In 1951 he took part for the first and last times in the Tours de Suisse and France; in Switzerland he won Stage 5 and then in France he won Stage 1. That same year, he won the Circuit de la Côte d'Or and finished the National Championship in second place behind Ferdy Kübler, who had won the Tour de France the previous year (and who, on the 7th of May 2013, is the oldest living Tour winner). Those are the kind of results that promise a superb career, but Rossi failed to make any further marks until 1954 when he was second behind Bernard Gauthier on Stage 1 at the Critérium du Dauphiné. Then, he vanished from professional cycling.
Jean-François Laffillé, born in Eu, Haute-Normandie, picked up numerous good results as an amateur from the middle of the 1980s through to the middle of the 1990s. Among them were four victories at the Circuit du Port de Dunkerque (1986, 1987, 1989, 1990), three (the joint record, shared with Benoît Daeninck) at the Grand Prix de la Ville de Lillers (1990, 1991 and 1994) and the 1995 Tour de la Manche.
Italy is one of only six nations able to claim to have had athletes competing in every edition of the modern Olympics, but it can do so only thanks to Francesco Bizzoni, a track cyclist born in Lodi on this day in 1875 - eliminated during the quarter-mile race, he was the only Italian athlete at the 1904 Games. By that time, he hadn't lived in Italy for six years, having emigrated to Bournemouth in England where he found work as a waiter in 1898 before moving on to New York, where he again worked as a waiter and made extra income as a chauffeur, the year before his Olympic appearance. In official records from the Games, his name is given as Frank Bizzoni and his nationality as American. However, he enlisted in the US Army during the First World War, and from Army records we learn that he retained Italian nationality until at least 1917 - Italy's claim is therefore shaky, but holds up. Bizzoni died in the Bronx on Christmas Day in 1926 and was evidently popular among local cyclists, a memorial race bearing his name being held for several years after his death.
George E. Wiley was an American cyclist born on this day in 1881 who competed at the same Games as Bizzoni. He won silver and bronze in the 5 and 25 mile events and was fourth in the half mile.
Vlastimil Moravec was a Czech cyclist born on this day in 1949 who won the Tour of Slovakia in 1970 and the Peace Race in 1972 and came second behind Alexandr Kisliak in Stage 8 at the 1978 Milk Race, the predecessor to the modern Tour of Britain. Following his 1981 retirement from competitive cycling, he became a coach at an Army sports facility in Brno, and was still employed there in that capacity in 1986 when, cycling home after work on the 15th of April, he was fatally injured by a truck. Ten days previously, he had married his pregnant girlfriend.
Other cyclists born on this day: Carlos Castaño Panadero (Spain, 1979); Alan Grieco (USA, 1946); Andriy Yatsenko (USSR, 1973); Boncho Novakov (Bulgaria, 1935); Emmanuel Magnien (France, 1971); Bent Jørgensen (Denmark, 1923); Wedell Østergaard (Denmark, 1924, died 1955); Stanisław Podgórski (Poland, 1905, died 1981); José Moreno (Spain, 1969); Tord Filipsson (Sweden, 1950); Don McKellow (Great Britain, 1925); Hui Chak Bor (Hong Kong, 1968); Jean-Pierre Kuhn (Luxembourg, 1903); Serge Blusson (France, 1928, died 1994).