Some 180 riders will start Girobio – Giro Ciclistico d’Italia ('Baby Giro') on Friday and while the event doesn’t receive the global mass media coverage of the Giro d’Italia, the competition is just as fierce. That’s because each rider on the start line knows that in addition to facing a brutal race, he’s also under the watchful eyes of professional team directors.
The race is yet to commence and already there’s talk of professional deals. Professional Continental team Ceramica Flaminia announced earlier in the week it would offer the top two Italians on general classification a contract with the team. Ceramica Flaminia could have a tough time securing those riders, however, as they will undoubtedly attract interest from Italian squads like Liquigas-Doimo and Lampre.
There’s a reason why so much confidence is placed in riders’ performance at Girobio: history. Since 1970 some of Italy’s biggest stars have enjoyed success at the Baby Giro. That list starts with Giancarlo Bellini who won a stage of the Giro d’Italia eight years after his overall Baby Giro victory, and the Italian also claimed the Tour de France’s mountains classification in between.
Just one year later it was Francesco Moser who claimed the race’s title. For the uninitiated, Moser is a legend of Italian cycling, with his wins including the Giro d’Italia, Milan-Sanremo, Paris-Roubaix, Giro di Lombardio, La Flèche Wallonne, Tirreno-Adriatico and Gent-Wevelgem.
And so the tradition has rolled on ever since, with names like Gilberto Simoni, Marco Pantani, Leonardo Piepoli and Danilo Di Luca claiming the race’s overall honours. The success of riders like these inspired Davide Frattini during the 2001 edition, where he claimed the overall win.
“I always watched the past winners of the Baby Giro, guys like Gilberto Simoni, Ivan Gotti, Danilo Di Luca and Marco Pantani. When I was racing the Baby Giro myself, these riders were also winning the big Giro and that was what was very inspirational to me,” Franttini told Cyclingnews. “My Baby Giro win was what got me my contract with Alessio; it gave me the security to sign a contract with a big professional team.
“The year before I won Raffaele Ferrara and Franco Pellizotti got first and second in the Baby Giro and then they turned professional with Alessio,” he added. “That is why it was very important to win the Baby Giro, because it was a good indication of how much potential you had as a rider when you turned professional. Even now, the riders who win the Baby Giro are still recognised by the ProTour teams. For example, five years ago it was Dario Cataldo who won and he is racing for QuickStep now.”
While the race is naturally dominated by Italians, it’s not just the locals that target and prosper from Girobio success. In particular two Australians who won stages at the race have become big names this season: Richie Porte and Matthew Goss.
Goss won the third stage in 2006 before turning professional with the CSC-Saxo Bank squad the following year. The Tasmanian joined HTC-Columbia this year and claimed a stage victory at the Giro d’Italia and most recently won the Philadelphia International Championship.
Porte’s story is similar to that of Goss, with the Tasmanian also joining Bjarne Riis’ squad the year after his Girobio success. Porte’s kicked goals as a professional in impressive time, winning the Tour of Romandie’s time trial before going on to wear the maglia rosa at last month’s Giro d’Italia.
Australia's Richie Porte (Bedogni/Grassi/Natalini/Gr.Praga) put in a winning ride during last year's Girobio time trial.
Porte described the Girobio as the best organised and publicized race he contested as a amateur. “For the Italians it is the most important amateur race of the year,” Porte told Cyclingnews. “It has a history of launching careers; it's such a hard race and it also has the highest anti-doping measures.
“It was the biggest goal I had last year. I went there focused on general classification,” he added. “That went out the window on the first stage when I missed the break which ultimately decided the race! So after making a mess of that I tried my luck at stages and ultimately it was one of the biggest factors in me getting a contract with Saxo Bank when I won the time trial stage.”
A year-on-year look
Of the riders that won a stage at last year’s race, only stage one winner Patrick Facchini and stage five victor Fabio Piscopiello didn’t turn professional this season. Stage two winner Damiano Caruso wasted little time in joining LPR Brakes from July last year, before joining De Rosa-Stac Plastic this season, while Briton Peter Kennaugh was picked up by Team Sky this season after winning stage three last year.
Porte won stage four leading to his Saxo Bank deal and Carmiooro NGC picked up stage six winner Enrico Peruffo. Egor Silin’s stage seven win netted him a spot on Russian squad Katusha while Slovenia’s Kristjan Koren, who won the final two stages last year, landed a place at Liquigas-Doimo this season. General classification winner Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa, of Colombia, was picked up by Italian squad Acqua e Sapone.
Egor Silin (Russian National Team) had plenty of time to celebrate his stage win last year, reaching the finish with nearly a minute lead on second place.
While some many have gone on to Grand Tour success and others like Tadej Valjavec and Murilo Antonio Fischer enjoy a long domestique career, not all who succeed at Girobio prosper. Dimitri Dementiev is one such rider, with the Russian never turning professional and only riding for one season after a successful Girobio that included a stage win and two top three places.