The amaranth jersey turns pink

There were thousands of people along the Pordoi pass.
They had reached the hairpin bends of the Dolomites with any available means: courier, motorbike, car in some cases, bike and on foot following an arduous climb.
They waited patiently for the racers to arrive, spread from one curve to the next. Like a big blackish snake between improvised camp sites and makeshift shelters. Bottles of wine passed from hand to hand. A glass to kill time. Time would never pass and the large bottles would be quickly emptied. The day before, in the Auronzo-Cortina stage of just 90 kilometres, Fausto Coppi had kept everyone in line with one of his moves.
Despite the very short stage he gained a great lead: 3’ 32” from Bartali who had the best in a sprint with Cottur, Pasotti, Brignole, Biagioni, Cresci, Volpi, Magni and Cecchi.
The latter defended the pink jersey he had taken from Magni the day before, at the end of the Udine-Auronzo stage of 125 kilometres. Vincenzo Russello won the stage, reaching the finish line at the shore of the lake alone.
Ronconi and Cecchi finished the race at 2’ 17”, enough for the Tuscan racer from Cimatti to win.
Bartali, fourth at 3’ 04”, reached the finish line before Coppi, Martini, Ortelli, Volpi, Menon and Bof. Fiorenzo Magni wore the pink jersey for one day only, at the end of the Bologna-Udine stage of 278 kilometres. The 1948 edition of the Giro was a strange one, disputed by Coppi because there were no individual time trials, with few climbs and started under the name of Giordano Cottur.

Roma/Perugia. A closed level train crossing.

Roma/Perugia: the peloton in pursuit of Baito and Ricci.

The Wilier cyclist from Trieste had a great start and won the classical opening stretch, the one from Milan to Turin, 190 kilometres on an almost flat ground, which the red halberd racer covered in 4 hours 51’ 45”.
Cottur took everyone by surprise with a passionate, overwhelming and thrilling move: he left his adversaries behind one after the other and won solo with his arms up to the sky, applauded by an enthusiastic crowd that was crazy about this blonde cyclist that in people’s eyes, also remembering the events of Pieris of two years before, represented the newly found unity of Italy.
At Val di Fiemme at the entrance to Trento, Magni, held up at the Pordoi pass, recovered furiously when the balance swung.
Down headlong, as only he knew how, and the car always behind, carrying the bikes.
One, two, three, four, five minutes put together from one curve to another, flying through the bends, daring where others were braking to not follow the way of the slope.
He brushed all the curbs, misses the holes and largest stones, caught up with those in front of him, made clocks run backwards, cut through the roads while the copper bike, hit by the sun, gave off golden flashes.

Fiorenzo Magni

He had the eyes of a hawk, wings of an eagle and was as brave as a lion.
This was Fiorenzo Magni, the leader of Wilier, the “stick man” (cipressino), as the people from his home town of Vaiano good heartedly called him by at the start of his competitive career, because he was so thin. In the city of the Synod and the chief of the government, Coppi rode in alone. The alpine hamlet is his: he covered 160 kilometres in 4 hours and 38’.
Ortelli finished second at 2’ 31” ahead of the pack consisting of Pasotti, Cottur, Cresci and Magni. In seventh place was Bartali, at 7’20”. Fausto Coppi cannot stomach that story of the pushes, amplified by the voices of all of those who had heard but not seen. He hoped to inflict a serious lead over his adversaries, reopen the race and take the pink jersey.
At Trento after the stage he was tormented. Some teams complain to the jury, as if their cyclists had been indignantly refused assistance at the climb.
However, the fact that Wilier had come in just behind the champion Magni with Cottur, Cresci and Martini, bothered them. The amaranth red of the halberd jerseys “bled” the light blue of the Bianchi uniform. Vincenzo Torriani, the young race manager, united the judges and commissioners.
The sentence caused outrage: two minutes of penalty for Magni. Too much for the managers of Wilier Triestina, a pittance to those of team Bianchi. Fausto Coppi, being treated by the Belgian masseur Driessen, who for some time had been following him through the scandals and malignant gossip, asked his sporting director Tragella, who agreed, to pull out the whole team.

A rash decision that proved unpopular. Bartali, the irreducible man of iron who would not stop for anything, benefited the most. Coppi went home prematurely with all his guardian angels.
Mr. Zambrini, who could not wait to get rid of the bulky character, fired Driessen. Magni had the pink jersey, with an advantage of twelve seconds over Cecchi, despite the two minutes stolen from him by the jury. At the end of the Giro two stretches were missing, a nightmare for Magni.
The crowd was angry since the champion was no longer in the picture and took it out on the Captain of team Wilier, accusing and insulting him along the roads that led the survivors first to Brescia (victory of Elio Bertocchi, having the best over the fleeing team mates Salimbeni, Vincenzo Rossello, Ausenda and Bof) and then to Milan. Fiorenzo Magni was not there to be crushed by the people: the jersey he wore with pride had cost him too much effort. The Milan stage ended in Vigorelli, the same ring which two years prior had consecrated him world record holder on the 50 and 100 kilometres, crowded with fans and cycling enthusiasts. The last seal was his.
The man from Prato pushed forward in the final sprint unloading on the pedals all the anger accumulated in the previous two days. At the finish line Logli, Toccaceli, Bartali, Menon and Ricci came in after. An authentic lion’s leap, to state his reasons and quench the whistles which deafened the velodrome.
It was his first success at the Giro d’Italia. Magni would win another two, in 1951 and 1955, with the jerseys of the Ganna and the Nivea Fuchs.
It was the best year for Wilier Triestina.
In the top ten of the final classification, four team mates held places: Cottur was third at 2 ‘37”, Giulio Bresci seventh at 9’ 17” and Alfredo Martini, a great friend of the Tuscan, tenth at 18’ 22”.
Twelve seconds were enough for Fiorenzo Magni to ensure the prestigious stage race ahead of Cecchi.
“We all pushed hard that day – the winner commented, looking back at the Cortina-Trento stage– but the lead I had over Coppi was almost recovered completely on the downhill, where I challenge anyone to push the racers. I was well ahead at the Pordoi pass.
I won the Giro in the plain towards Trento, taking huge chances”.

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4th June 2013