Here’s everything you need to know about the Giro d’Italia, in three easy minutes.
In truth it’s a tribute to Sergio Zavoli, a truly great journalist and broadcaster from the 1960s. Aided and abetted by the likes of Gimondi and Motta, he was instrumental in the rinascimento of the sport here in the mid-sixties.
Zavoli revolutionized the way the sport of cycling was televised. He spoke with the gregari and to their wives, to the mechanics and the old lags on the roadside. He asked them about their (usually meager) contracts, about their insecurities, hopes and dreams. He plonked himself on a motorbike and asked them questions as they rode. That was groundbreaking, and brilliant. But his true genius lay elsewhere. Zavoli’s great virtue lay not in what he said, but in what they said to him. It was through Zavoli that cyclists, increasingly portrayed in the televisual age as tongue-tied, half-bred yokels, started to find their voice. To find their dignity…
Here’s Zavoli, then, doing his thing at the 1966 Giro d’Italia. It’s the penultimate stage to Vittorio Veneto, and he finds a kid riding his first Giro…
Zavoli: ‘Is it emotional?’ Cyclist: ‘A bit, yes’
Zavoli: ‘How old are you?’ Cyclist: ‘25’
Zavoli: ‘What do you do in your life?’ Cyclist: ‘I was a bricklayer before.’
Zavoli: ‘What do you think you’ll earn by the end of this Giro?’ Cyclist: ‘The most I can. I hope to finish the Giro and then we’ll see’
Zavoli: ‘Do you hope to make a living from riding your bike?’ Cyclist: ‘I hope so at least’
Zavoli: ‘Does it perhaps offer more security, though, the life of a bricklayer?’ Cyclist: ‘No question it’s more secure.’
Zavoli: ‘Why are you riding a bike then?’ Cyclist: ‘It’s passion’
Zavoli: ‘I wish you all the best… He goes off to retake his place at the back of the peloton, and best wishes to this number 59 at his first Giro d’Italia…’
The kid, it transpires, is one Lucillo Lievore, from nearby Breganze. Lievore catches up with him again later in the stage. It’s raining, and he’s riding alone. It’s one of the most beautiful, sagacious things I think I’ve ever seen at a bike race. Lievore, you see, is Gino Bartali. He’s Fausto Coppi and Ercole Baldini, Learco Guerra and Alfredo Binda.
He is Lucillo Lievore, a half-bred bricklayer from the Veneto, northern Italy’s poorest region. And yet through Zavoli he too becomes a genius. He perfectly distils, in fourty memorable seconds, the racing cyclist’s condition. Here’s what it is…
Zavoli: ‘A great satisfaction, eh, Lievore?’ Lievore: ‘They’re catching me’
Zavoli: ‘No… You’ve still got fifteen minutes on the bunch’ Lievore: ‘I don’t believe you.’
Zavoli: ‘I’m not lying, I guarantee you you’ve still got fifteen minutes on them’
Man on road: ‘Come on Lievore, give it everything! You’re riding the Giro d’Italia! Go hard Lievore! Give it everything! Go on Lievore!’
Zavoli: ‘Do they give you more courage, these shouts from the fans?’ Lievore: ‘Oh for sure.’
Zavoli: ‘Listen Lievore, do you have a girlfriend?’ Lievore: ‘No.’
Zavoli: ‘Who do you dedicate this beautiful ride to?’ Lievore: ‘To my parents and my team.’
Zavoli: ‘Listen Lievore, do you feel better up ahead, or in the middle of the peloton?’ Lievore: ‘In the middle of the group, no question.’
Zavoli: ‘Well why have you escaped then?’ Lievore: ‘It’s like it is.’ ‘No, I can’t talk anymore. You’ll have to leave me alone. If not I’ll start crying. They’re going to catch me.’
Zavoli: ‘They’re not catching you! You’ve still got seven minutes. Courage…’ Lievore: ‘Yeah but… there’s a climb now.’
Zavoli: ‘The climb’s finished Lievore. Look, you’ve made the final sacrifice…’
Pietro Scandelli won the stage - by fifteen minutes. Lucille Lievore was racing for second place. It’s like it is.