Sunday, 31 May, 2009, Stage 21 official description:
Rome is a truly extraordinary setting for the final stage of the centenary Giro d’Italia. With its incredible history and universal heritage that is recognised and admired the world over, the Eternal City is a fitting backdrop for the end of this year’s 'corsa rosa’. A parade of priceless monuments with unique significance that will undoubtedly spur on all competitors to produce their very best.
The race finishes with a 14.4 km individual time trial that starts and ends in Via dei Fori Imperiali, in Piazza del Colosseo. Unlike the ferocious and aggressive gladiators of Roman times, these “gladiators” on two wheels will offer a spectacle high on technical skill and speed, with the linear route – suitable for the sprinters – taking in roads and sites that reflect all the prestige of the Italian capital. The course remains largely flat right the way through.
A simple list of some of the locations along the route is enough to bring a flood of historical and artistic references to mind: Via dei Fori Imperiali, Piazza Venezia, Via del Quirinale, Via 20 Settembre, Porta Pia, Corso Italia, Via Vittorio Veneto, Piazza Barberini, Via Due Macelli, Piazza di Spagna, Via del Babuino, Piazza del Popolo, Ponte Regina Margherita, Via della Conciliazione, Castel Sant’Angelo, Lungotevere dei Mellini, Piazza Venezia again, Piazza del Campidoglio, Via del Teatro Marcello, Piazza Bocca della Verità, Via del Circo Massimo, Viale Aventino, Via di San Gregorio, Piazza del Colosseo and the finish back in Via dei Fori Imperiali. It is a time trial through ancient and modern history, not just that of Italy but of the entire world: history that cannot be found elsewhere.
Rome hosted a stage at the first Giro with the Naples-Rome stage won by Luigi Ganna. In 1910 it was won by Pavesi, in ’11 it was won by Corlaita (the final stage of the Giro won by Carlo Galetti), and in ’12 the stage was cancelled due to a route error. In 1913 victory went to Santhia, in ’14 and ’19 it was Girardengo, in ’20 Belloni (also overall winner), in ’21 Annoni, in ’22 Linari, in ’23 Girardengo, in ’24 Gay, in ’25 and ’26 Girardengo, in ‘27 Binda, in ’28 Piemontesi, in ’29 Binda, in ’30 Guerra, in ’31 Meini, in ’32 Guerra, in ’33 Cipriani, in ’34 and ’35 Guerra (Giro winner in 1934), in ’36 Olmo, ’37 Di Paco, ’38 Cinelli, ’39 Bizzi, ’40 Adolfo Leoni, ’46 Bertocchi, ’47 and ’50 (end of the Giro won by Koblet) Oreste Conte, ’48 Casola, ’49 Ricci, ’51 Menon, ’52 Belgian Keteleer, ’53 Minardi, ’54 Albani, ’55 and ’58 Nencini, ’59 Rik Van Looy, ’61 Giusti, ’66 the late lamented Raffaele Marcoli, and ’68 Dalla Bona. In 1974 the Giro begun in the Vatican with the blessing of Giovan Battista Montini, Pope Paul VI, and was won in Formia by the unheralded Wilfried Reybrouck ahead of De Vlaeminck and Sercu. Swiss Urs Freuler did the double in 1982 and 1989. In the Jubilee year of 2000 the Giro once again begun in Rome, and was granted a special audience by Pope John Paul II. The powerful Jan Hruska took the spoils in the preliminary time trial.
One thing is certain: whoever wins the 2009 Giro d’Italia won’t be able to celebrate their victory in better surroundings.
A magnificent conclusion to the first hundred years of the race, the sturdy foundations on which to construct the next hundred and more years of the emotion-packed and thrilling event that is, and will be, the Giro d’Italia.
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