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The tale of the GranPiemonte told through the deeds of 5 champions: Girardengo, the first “Campionissimo”

30/08/2021

Costante Girardengo was born in Novi Ligure on March 18, 1893. He won all the major races on the Italian cycling calendar – including the Giro d’Italia twice, the Milano-Sanremo six times, the Giro di Lombardia three times, the Milano-Torino five times and the Italian Championships nine times.

He also scored three Giro del Piemonte wins. No wonder he became the first “Campionissimo” of Italian cycling.

His record of achievements is even more astonishing if you think that Girardengo was part of that generation of riders whose careers and lives were greatly impacted by World War I, which robbed them of some of their best seasons (as it would happen to ‘the other Campionissimo’, Fausto Coppi, 25 years later).

Girardengo started his professional career in 1913, at the age of 20, after hitting second place at the amateur Giro di Toscana the previous year.

He took a stage win in no time on his maiden Giro d’Italia (the Bari‑Campobasso) – the first one of the 30 he collected overall.

The following year, he took the first of his five Milano-Torino victories, as well as the longest stage in the history of the Giro, the legendary Lucca‑Roma, which he sealed with a winning sprinting after nearly 17 hours and a half, and 430 kilometres of racing.

 

He came back to cycling races as a champion – just like he was when the Great War put the world on hold – winning the 1918 Milano‑Sanremo (scoring 6 victories overall by the end of his career, a record of achievements that only Merckx could beat, 50 years later).

In 1919, one of the best years in his career, he won his first Giro (wearing the leader’s jersey from the first through the last stage), along with Milano-Torino, Giro di Lombardia, Roma‑Trento‑Trieste and Giro dell’Emilia.

And that’s not all: he also took his first Giro del Piemonte, crossing the finish line in Turin nearly 5’ ahead of Belloni.

He won again the following year, outsprinting Sivocci and Belloni.

He took his third victory of this legendary classic in 1924 with a winning sprint, ahead of Gay and Aymo.

From then on, he won three more Milan-Sanremos and other minor races, and he took further Giro stage wins.

But his golden years – the ones that made him the first “Campionissimo” of Italian cycling – were the ones between 1919 and 1924, in which he was the number one of the Giro del Piemonte.

 

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