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The tale of the GranPiemonte told through the deeds of 5 champions: Giovanni Gerbi, the Red Devil


There is a song about Giovanni Gerbi by the Italian singer Paolo Conte, titled “Diavolo Rosso”, which goes something like this:


“Forget about the road, Red Devil,

and come have an orange soda with us.

Time goes by, facing the sun.

Look into the deepest nights

in this starry north-western sky.

Look at the frosted cartwheel grooves,

as cold as the gaze of a Frenchman”

In 1906, however, there were still no Frenchmen who could challenge Giovanni Gerbi for supremacy at the Giro del Piemonte (as the race was called back then).

Actually, the Belgian Jos Hoevenaers would be the first foreigner stepping on the podium 51 editions later, hitting second place in 1961.

Anyhow, let’s go back to Gerbi.

Hailing from Asti, where he was born in 1885, he was one of the pioneering heroes of cycling. He went down in history as Diavolo Rosso, the Red Devil.

Legend has it that he got his nickname from a priest who saw him speeding through a procession, wearing his distinctive red jersey. Astounded and puzzled at such audacity, the vicar shouted in the local vernacular “Chi a l’é cul lì? Ël Diav?” (Who is that? Is he the devil?).

And now, back to the Giro del Piemonte, as the race was called at that time.

Gerbi won the first three editions, from 1906 to 1908.


On May 13, 1906, the route was a whopping 320 km, starting and finishing in Alessandria.

The Red Devil wrapped it up in 11 hours and 21 minutes, 41’36’’ (!) ahead of the runner‑up, Battista Danesi, and 48’33’’ ahead of Luigi Ganna in third place.

In 1907, the Giro del Piemonte was raced unofficially as the “Giro delle Antiche Province Piemontesi”. Whatever its name was, Gerbi notched another victory.

The following year, the race was held officially on June 28, 1908, over a 309‑km long route. Luigi Chiodi finished in second place and Carlo Galetti in third place.

And of course, once again victory went to Giovanni Gerbi, the Red Devil.

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