Who was the last Italian winner of the Giro d’Italia?

The Giro d’Italia or, in English, the Tour of Italy, is one of the three major professional cycling stage races – the other two being the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España – and, in terms of prestige, is second only to La Grand Boucle, or ‘The Big Loop’, as the Tour de France is nicknamed. Established in 1909 by sports newspaper ‘La Gazzetta dello Sport’, the Giro d’Italia is staged over a three-week period, usually in May, and follows a route, of approximately 3,500 kilometres, or 2,175 miles, on average, predominantly through Italy, but with occasional excursions to neighbouring countries. Since 1931, the overall leader, on time, has been identified by a pink jersey or, in Italian, ‘maglia rosa’, such that the Giro d’Italia is nicknamed La Corsa Rosa or, in English, ‘The Pink Ride’.

Notwithstanding 1912, when the Giro d’Italia had no individual classification, and subsequent supensions for the duration of the two world wars, until 1950, all the winners were Italian. In fact, a total of 44 individual Italian cyclists have won the Giro d’Italia 69 times between them, making Italy, far and away, the most successful of the 16 countries to win the race.

However, the last Italian winner of the Giro d’Italia was Vincenzo Nibali who, in 2016, became the most recent rider to win the race more than once, having previously done so in 2013. Aside from those two victories, Nibali also won the Vuelta a España in 2010 and the Tour de France in 2014, making him one of just seven cyclists to win all three ‘Grand Tours’ during his career.

Which cyclist was nicknamed ‘The Cannibal’?

In short, the cyclist who was nicknamed, less than affectionately, ‘The Cannibal’ was legendary Belgian Edouard ‘Eddy’ Merckx. The anthropophagic moniker reportedly came about as the result of a conversation between Frenchman Christian Raymond, who was riding for the opposing Peugeot-BP-Michelin team, and his 12-year-old daughter, Brigitte, on the final day of the 1969 Tour de France. Raymond attempted to explain that, as the dominant rider of the day, Merckx was entitled to want to win every race in which he participated but, unconvinced, his daughter retorted, ‘…he’s a real cannibal.’ Later that day, Raymond mentioned the nickname to the press and the rest, as they say, is history.

Indeed, Merckx was a force majeure in the 1969 Tour de France, winning six stages, including the final individual time trial to the Velodrome de Vincennes in Paris, the yellow, green and white jerseys and the title ‘King of the Mountains’; no jersey was awarded for the Mountains Classification until 1975. As the most aggresive rider, he also won the Combativity Classification and his team, Faema, won the Team Classification.

All told, in his entire13-year professional career, between 1965 and 1978, Merckx won 445, or 28%, of the 1,585 races he entered. He was particularly successful in the three major professional cycling stage races, collectively known as the ‘Grand Tours’. He won the Giro d’Italia five times, in 1968, 1970, 1972, 1973 and 1974, the Tour de France five times, in 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1974 and the Vuelta a España once, in 1973, for an unequalled total of 11 wins. With some justification, he is widely considered the greatest professional cyclist in history.

Why is the King of the Mountains jersey in the Tour de France white with red polka dots?

The symbol of the Tour de France is, of course, the iconic yellow jersey or, in French, maillot jaune, which is worn by the leader of the General Classification or, in other words, the overall leader on time, rather than points. The Tour de France was established in 1903 by French journalist Henri Desgrange to boost flagging sales of his newspaper, ‘L’Auto’, which sponsored the race. Officially, the distinctive jersey, first worn by Frenchman Eugène Christophe in 1919, was yellow to reflect the colour of the paper on which ‘L’Auto’ was printed. However, Chris Sidwells, author of ‘A Race For Madmen: The Extraordinary History of the Tour de France’, suggests that yellow was the only colour in which Desgrange could obtain a sufficient quantity of jerseys, in different sizes, from his supplier.

Anyway, I digress. The Mountains Classification, a.k.a. ‘King of the Mountains’, in which points are awarded to the first riders over the summit of designated climbs, ranked by difficulty, on each individual stage, was first introduced in 1933. The winner that year was Spaniard Vincent Trueba, nicknamed ‘The Flea of Torrevega’, who also finished sixth in the General Classification.

However, the now-familiar white jersey with red polka dots, or maillot à pois rouges, did not make its Tour de France debut until 1975. The first rider to wear it was Dutchman Hendrik ‘Joop’ Zoetemelk, who won the eleventh stage, between Pau and Pla d’Adet in the French Pyrenees, although it was taken to Paris by Belgian Lucien Van Impe. Van Impe finished third in the General Classification, one place ahead of Zoetemelk. The design of the jersey was down to its original sponsor, Chocolat Poulain, one of the oldest chocolate brands in France, which, at the time, had a red and white logo.

After retiring from cycling, Sir Bradley Wiggins briefly took up which sport?

Of course, Sir Bradley Wiggins is best known as a former professional cyclist, on the track and, in the later part of his career, on the road. Indeed, he was knighted for services to cycling in the 2013 New Year Honours, having becoming the first cyclist to win the Tour de France and a Olympic gold medal – in the men’s individual time trial at the London Games – within the space of ten days the previous year. In fact, Wiggins won a total of eight Olympic medals, including gold medals at four successive Games, in Athens, Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro, and was, until August, 2021, Britain’s most decorated Olympian.

Nevertheless, Wiggins called time on his 16-year professional cycling career in December, 2016 and, initially, took up indoor rowing ‘just to keep fit’. However, encouraged by the times he was recording, he took up the sport professionally and began training full-time, under the coaching and mentorship of double Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell. In June, 2017, Wiggins revealed that he would be competing at the British Rowing Indoor Championships (BRIC) the following December and, in the meantime, was attempting to increase his body weight to 100kg, or 220lb.

On December 9, 2017, Wiggins did indeed compete in the elite 2,000-metre race at the Lee Valley VeloPark, with Cracknell predicting a time between 6:01 and 6:05. However, Wiggins reportedly misheard an announcement early in the race and, believing a false start had been called, backed off for a stroke. He quickly realised his error and resumed rowing, but the damage was done and he finished with a time of 6:22.5, thereby placing twenty-first of 99 competitors. Clearly frustrated, he shook his head and left without comment and never returned to serious competition.

Which cyclist won the inaugural Tour de France?

Nowadays the pre-eminent bicycle race in the world, the Tour de France was established in 1903 by French journalist Henri Desgrange, by way of boosting circulation of his sports newspaper, ‘L’Auto’, which sponsored the Tour. The inugural Tour de France consisted of significantly fewer, but corresponsingly stages longer, stages than the modern equivalent. In fact, the Paris-Lyon-Marseille-Toulouse-Bordeaux-Nantes-Paris route covered 2,428 kilometres, or 1,509 miles, and required competitors to cycle through the night and into the following afternoon.

In any event, the race was dominated by Italian-born professional cyclist Maurice-François Garin, nicknamed ‘Le Petit Ramoneur’ or, in English, ‘The Little Chimney Sweep’. Garin won the first stage, between Paris and Lyon, albeit by just one minute after 17 hours on the road, and the fifth stage, between Bordeaux and Nantes, such that, at the start of the sixth and final stage, he was over two-and-a-half hours ahead of his nearest rival, Lucien Pothier.

Barring accidents, Garin would win the Tour de France in any case but, remarkably, he was at, or close to, the head of affairs for the whole of the 471-kilometre, or 293-mile, route back to Paris and recorded his third stage win. His eventual winning margin, of 2 hours, 59 minutes and 31 seconds, remains the widest in the history of the Tour.

In a subsequent interview with Desgrange, Garin produced a note, which opened, ‘The 2,500 kilometres that I’ve just ridden seem a long line, grey and monotonous, where nothing stood out from anything else. But I suffered on the road; I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was sleepy, I suffered, I cried between Lyon and Marseille…’ He did, however, receive a total of 6,125 francs, including the overall first prize of 3,000 francs, for his trouble.