The paper and bike war that birthed the Giro

Like the Tour de France, the Giro was born out of the need for a struggling sport newspaper to build circulation. But there was also an element of bitter bike company rivalry, as Les Woodland relates.

Sweet and loveable person though you are, I bet once, just once, you've fallen out with your boss. And while you don't talk about these things, you've even taken a little revenge.

Well, you're not alone. Because that's how the Giro d'Italia got started.

Angelo Gatti used to work for Bianchi, the bike people. Then bitterness boiled over into an arm-waving, throat-tearing row and he stormed off and started a rival company, called Atala. He went to the Bologna cycle show to sell his bikes and there he learned from a friend called Tomaselli that Bianchi was one of three partners in a venture to run the equivalent of the Tour de France in Italy. Bianchi would look after the cycling side, the Touring Club Italiano would do the organising based on its the round-Italy car rally, and the Corriere dello Sport newspaper would look after the cash and the publicity.

Happy to create mischief, Gatti slapped Tomaselli on the back and went off to see another friend, Tullo Morgagni, who was editor of a new daily sports paper, the Gazzetta dello Sport. Persuade Morgnani to run his own race and Gatti could upend Bianchi and Morgnani could upset the rival Corriere dello Sport.

The trouble was that in 1908 the Gazzetta was so short of cash that printers and journalists never knew if there'd be pay for them at the end of the week. That made the shock all the greater for Armando Cougnet, who edited the paper's cycling pages. He was on a business trip to Venice when he got a telegram: ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL FOR THE PAPER YOU ANNOUNCE IMMEDIATELY THE CYCLING TOUR OF ITALY. MORGNANI.

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