Giro d'Italia 1988 and cycling's snowpocolypse

GCN+ takes a look inside one of cycling's most iconic stages in this documentary through the eyes and voices of those who experienced cycling's snowiest day

Clock16:08, Thursday 1st June 2023

Every great Grand Tour has “that” stage. While the races are three weeks, often their character can be understood by looking at just one day.

Chris Froome’s raid on stage 19 of the 2018 Giro d’Italia; the stage to Fuente de in the 2012 Vuelta a España and the antics of Alberto Contador; and the battle between team Jumbo-Visma and Tadej Pogačar of the Galibier and the Col du Granon in the 2022 Tour de France. These are the modern examples which underscore this point.

Yet, in order to truly understand this one defining day notion, it is best served to look back even further to the 1988 Giro and the stage 14 trek over the fearsome Passo di Gavia.

In a recent instalment from GCN+, cycling journalist Herby Sykes does just that, gathering riders, journalists and other characters from the famous snow-choked day in the Dolomites which lives on in the hearts and minds of the people who were there.

In this documentary, we hear from a friend group of former riders from Italy who unpack their experiences with the 1988 Giro and put the race in context within the late 1980s.

Additionally, we hear from the eventual winner of the Giro, Andy Hampsten, who is still the only American to win the maglia rosa. We also get some insight into Vincenzo Torriani, the director of the Giro from 1949 until 1989, and what went into his decision to include the Gavia in the route, as well as his refusal to take it out of the race, even in the face of 20cm of fresh snow and a descent to the finish.

While the stage has gained a glorified legacy that has come with the passing of time, the polemic around the decision to run the stage over the Gavia was one that most of the characters from that year protested. Nonetheless, after years of flat Giro stage profiles and avoiding the mystical passages through the high Alps and Dolomites, the autocratic Torriani would not budge. His race would go on no matter what.

"In those years there was no 'bad weather protocol'," Valerio Piva, currently serving as a sports director for team Intermarché Circus Wanty, said in the documentary. "Therefore, unfortunately, we embarked on an adventure."

"I remember one of the Carrera team riders had a complete ski suit on and he said: 'I am well equipped, you'll see.' We were like, 'What could possibly happen?' In the end he was right, we were absolutely freezing."

The rest, as the saying goes, was history. History that will likely never be made again and certainly will not be forgotten.

Check out the trailer for the new documentary Giro 88 above and be sure to subscribe to GCN+ to watch a deep archive of bespoke cycling documentaries, as well as live racing from across the calendar and around the world.

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