Giro d’Italia 2011: Michele Scarponi’s feat and the pink jersey

    Whether domestiques or champions like Michele Scarponi, some racers say that in the toughest moments of a race they find themselves talking to their bike.

    They always say the same thing: “Don’t give up now. We’re almost there!” Michele Scarponi must have pleaded with his cycle when he was ascending Nevegal on 24 May 2011. It was a thirteen kilometres long hillclimbing race that would mean second place in the overall ranking of the 94th Giro d’Italia.

    Contador was untouchable and there was no doubt that he would wear the pink jersey in Milan in five days time. But there’s also glory in following as closely as possible behind a champion in a state of unattainable grace. To do this, Scarponi couldn’t afford to lose more than 51 seconds from Vincenzo Nibali, but failure was lurking as he rode in complete solitude with no point of reference.


    That’s why, between the second and fifth hairpin bends of the provincial road—the toughest stretch of the climb—Michele started talking to the crossbar of his Zero.7, asking it to help him maintain his second place in the overall standings. He had worked so hard in that Giro d’Italia that it didn’t seem right that all his efforts could be wiped out in a single thirteen-kilometre climb.

    The same happened to one of his team mates a year later, on 11 May 2012, on the road to Porto Sant'Elpidio. Miguel Ángel Rubiano had accelerated away solo at the top of the Montegranaro and was guaranteed stage victory. The four cyclists behind him could have just coasted to an easy finish, but the pack’s breakaway was such that mere seconds separated two members of the group – Adriano Malori and Michal Golas – who were in contention for the pink jersey.

    Malori had three seconds on his opponent, but if Golas beat him in the sprint for the second place, he would have overtaken him. So, in the last kilometre, both started talking to their bicycle, begging it not to abandon them during the most important sprint of their career.


    Michele Scarponi’s bicycle listened to him on the Nevegal and together they stuck close to Nibali, finishing just four seconds behind him and maintaining his lead in the ranking.

    Scarponi held onto his 47-second lead in Tirano, Macugnaga and Sestriere, so he found himself on the podium next to Alberto Contador in Milan. However, in Porto Sant'Elpidio, only one of the two bicycles obeyed its rider. It was Malori’s Cento1 who quickly responded to his “Come on!” and together they won the sprint for second place.

    And so it was that Michele Scarponi waved from the second step of the podium of the Giro d'Italia in Piazza Duomo, while Adriano Malori donned the pink jersey in Porto Sant'Elpidio. However, no one in Milan ever imagined that Michele Scarponi would end up winning the 2011 Giro title thanks to those 47 seconds.

    All this was due to an intimate chat between a man and his bicycle winding along the hairpin turns of Provincial Road 31 to Nevegal.

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