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Giro d'Italia: 90 years of the Maglia Rosa

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Giro d'Italia 2021

The exhibition of historical pink jerseys at the Madonna del Ghisallo museum. (Image credit: RCS Sport)
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Giro d'Italia 2021

Fiorenzo Magni's maglia rosa from the 1951 Giro d'Italia. (Image credit: RCS Sport)
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Giro d'Italia 2021

Eddy Merckx's first maglia rosa came in 1968. (Image credit: RCS Sport)
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maglia rosa

Marco Pantani in 1998 (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Giro d'Italia 2021

Madonna del Ghisallo Cycling Museum and the AcdB Museum have collaborated on an interactive, virtual pink jersey museum. (Image credit: RCS Sport)
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Maglia Rosa

The late Fiorenzo Magni's pink jersey from 1951 (Image credit: Museo Ghisallo/Federico Meda)
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maglia rosa

Giovanni Valetti's pink jersey from 1939 (Image credit: Museo Ghisallo/Federico Meda)
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Giuseppe Saronni's pink jersey from 1985 (Image credit: Museo Ghisallo/Federico Meda)
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maglia rosa

Eddy Merckx in pink at the 1968 Giro (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Giovanni Pettinati's pink jersey from 1958 (Image credit: Museo Ghisallo/Federico Meda)
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maglia rosa

Bernard Hinault in a plain maglia rosa from 1985 (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Fausto Coppi admires Giuseppe Minardi's pink jersey in 1954 (Image credit: Museo Ghisallo/Federico Meda)
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Maglia rosa

Adolfo Loeni's widow shows his prized pink jersey (Image credit: Museo Ghisallo/Federico Meda)
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Maglia Rosa

Massimo Podenzana's pink jersey from 1988 (Image credit: Museo Ghisallo/Federico Meda)
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Maglia rosa

Each pink jersey is framed for posterity (Image credit: Museo Ghisallo/Federico Meda)
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maglia rosa

Giuseppe Minardi's pink jersey from 1954 (Image credit: Museo Ghisallo/Federico Meda)
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maglia rosa

Bruno Mealli's pink jersey from 1965 (Image credit: Museo Ghisallo/Federico Meda)
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maglia rosa

Indurain's pink jersey from 1992 (Image credit: Museo Ghisallo/Federico Meda)
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Evgeni Berzin shows the pink skinsuit he wore during the 1994 Giro d'Italia (Image credit: Museo Ghisallo/Federico Meda)
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maglia rosa

Bruno Mealli's pink jersey from 1965 (Image credit: Museo Ghisallo/Federico Meda)
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maglia rosa

Fiorenzi Magni in actionwhile wearing the pink jersey (Image credit: Museo Ghisallo/Federico Meda)
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maglia rosa

Ercole Baldini in pink in 1958 (Image credit: Museo Ghisallo/Federico Meda)
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maglia rosa

Jacques Anquetil in pink in 1960 (Image credit: Museo Ghisallo/Federico Meda)
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maglia rosa

Franco Chioccoli wins in Aprica wearing the pink jersey at the 1991 Giro d'Italia (Image credit: Museo Ghisallo/Federico Meda)
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maglia rosa

Giovanni Pettinati's pink jersey from 1958 (Image credit: Museo Ghisallo/Federico Meda)
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maglia rosa

Giovanni Valetti's pink jersey from 1939 (Image credit: Museo Ghisallo/Federico Meda)
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Giovanni Visconti autographs his pink jersey (Image credit: Museo Ghisallo/Federico Meda)
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Adolfo Leoni's pink jersey from 1949 (Image credit: Museo Ghisallo/Federico Meda)
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Designer Paul Smith and Gazzetta dello Sport's Andre Monti present a new maglia rosa for 2013 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Silvano Contini in 1980 (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Vincenzo Nibali in 2016 (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Stefano Garzelli in a Mapei-branded 2002 pink jersey, alongside a model of the original (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Gianni Bugno was the winner in 1990 (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Ivan Basso treasures the jersey in 2010 (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Asics made the jersey in 2001 (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Richard Carapaz in 2019 (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Alberto Contador in 2015 (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers) celebrates his overall victory at the 2020 Giro d'Italia

The latest winner of the maglia rosa, Tao Geoghegan Hart (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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Giro d'Italia 2021

The Giro celebrates 90 years of the maglia rosa in 2021. (Image credit: RCS Sport)

The Giro d’Italia race leader’s pink jersey – or maglia rosa, as it is known in Italian – has been awarded each day of the race for 90 years, with this year’s anniversary sparking a number of special events to celebrate the iconic jersey.

The maglia rosa was introduced in 1931 by Armando Cougnet, a journalist at La Gazzetta dello Sport, who had created the Giro d'Italia 20 years earlier. The idea was to make the race leader easier to identify in the peloton by race officials and the roadside fans. 

Pink was chosen because it is the colour of the popular sports newspaper but was reportedly not initially welcomed by the fascist politicians of the time. However, they relented their protests when the fascist symbol was added to the front of the jersey. The symbol was removed after the war and the logos of La Gazzetta dello Sport and sponsor ENEL now covers the front of the jersey.

The 2021 maglia rosa is made by Castelli, harking back to the 1980s, when the Italian brand’s Scorpion logo stood out on the jersey of some of the great winners of the race. 

When first awarded in 1931, the pink jersey was made from wool, with front pockets and little consideration for aerodynamics. Nowadays, the jerseys are made from super lightweight lycra and fit tightly. A special skinsuit version is provided to the race leader for the time trials.

Learco Guerra was the first to wear the pink jersey in 1931 after winning the opening stage from Milan to Mantova. He won three other stages but Francesco Camusso went on to win the Giro d’Italia and so pulled on the final maglia rosa.

A total of 254 riders have since worn the maglia rosa at least for a day, with Britain’s Tao Geogeghan Hart of Ineos Grenadiers the last after securing overall victory in the Milan time trial last October, without ever wearing the jersey during the 21 stages.

Eddy Merckx holds the record of 78 days in the pink jersey, followed by Francesco Moser with 57 and Gino Bartali with 50. Legendary riders who have worn the maglia rosa over the years include Gino Bartali, Fausto Coppi, Charly Gaul, Felice Gimondi, Eddy Merckx, Francesco Moser, Bernard Hinault, Laurent Fignon Marco Pantani and others.

This year’s Giro d’Italia remembers the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante, the poet whose words and grammar in the ‘Divina Commedia’ formed the basis of the Italian language. This year’s maglia rosa has the final words of his Purtagorio written on the inside of the collar: “Disposto a salire alle stelle,”  meaning “ready to climb to the stars.”

An interactive virtual maglia museum   

Giro d’Italia organiser RCS Sport has rightly been celebrating the 90th anniversary of the introduction of the maglia rosa. They have created a special virtual museum and held a poll on social media for fans to vote the favourite pink jersey winner.

32 riders were selected with a million voters deciding that Marco Pantani’s pink jersey from 1998 was the most popular of all. Pantani won the final vote ahead of Coppi.

The interactive virtual exhibition was created in partnership with the Museo del Ghisallo cycling museum and with ACdB Museo, to tell the story of the maglia rosa and the history of the Giro d’Italia across the decades. The exhibition will be available online up until the start of the Giro d’Italia, on 8 May.

Click here to visit the virtual exhibition.

Each virtual room of the exhibition tells the story of a decade and the different pink jersey wearers, with video footage of the racing, front pages of La Gazzetta dello Sport, photographs of the riders and details of the different maglia rosa.

The Museo del Ghisallo cycling museum, near the famous Ghisallo cyclist’s chapel above Lake Como and on the route of Il Lombardia, played a major role in the collection of pink jerseys won and worn by riders, detailing how and where they were won, in a vital history archive for the sport.

Federico Meda and his father Sergio, who have both served as press officers for the Giro d’Italia, worked to build a collection of authentic pink jerseys worn by riders in the race. The project first saw the light of day in 2013, with more than 50 jerseys on display at the Museo del Ghisallo in the dedicated Pink Experience Room.

Click here to visit the Museo del Ghisallo website.