Today we see the first time trial in this years Giro. The first time trial of any Giro was held in the 1933 edition. The introduction of the race against the clock would have a huge influence on who could contend for the title. Before you had to be an excellent climber and have a strong team in the rolling stages but now a new skill was needed. Specialists in time trialing could make up deficits lost in the mountains and pure climbers would see their chances of winning the Giro erode in the race against the truth. The 1933 race was also the first edition where the mountains competition was run, perhaps the organisers set it up as some kind of consolation for the climbers.
The ’33 race is seen as the first modern Giro and has many similarities to what we are used to in Grand Tours today. The type of rider who would win the Giro from 1933 on would be similar to the GC riders who could be victorious this year. The Giro itself was nearly what we are used to seeing these days too. It was up to 17 stages where before it was between 9 and 13 and it also had the races first publicity caravan. One difference was the mountain stages were at the start of the race followed by the flat stages and time trial.
The time trial was run on the 13th stage between Bologna and Ferrara and was 62 km long. It was won by over a minute by Alfredo Binda who was a rare breed of rider that can climb like an angel but also has the horsepower to win against the clock. In the end the time trial didn’t make much difference. Binda was at the top of his game that year and won the race by over 12 minutes. It wasn’t till the next year that it became obvious how important time trials were.
The 1934 Giro d’Italia had two time trials and one rider knew how to use them to his advantage to win a Giro he wouldn’t have before there introduction. The 1934 race ended up being a close run affair between the greatest TT’er of the age, Learco Guerra, and Francesco Camusso regarded as one of the finest Italian climbers ever. Going into the 13th stage which went over the Futa and Raticosa Guerra had a 2 minute 27 second advantage over Camusso and 2 minutes 2 seconds came form the first time trial on stage 4. At the bottom of the first climb, the Passo della Futa, Camusso realised that Guerra was struggling and went on the attack with a group of riders including Giuseppe Olmo and his team mate Giovanni Cazzulani. They soon built a decent lead and it was Olmo who eventually crossed the line first in Bologna. The two Gloria team mates Camussa and Cazzulani were more interested in what Guerra’s finishing time would be though and they found out 5 minutes 22 seconds later meaning they were now first and second in the General Classification.
It later emerged that Guerra was having such a bad day that he had climbed into his team car and quit. The car eventually caught up with that of the race director who convinced Guerra to continue, Binda had already abandoned on stage 6 after a crash with a police motorcycle so this wasn’t what he and the race needed. The only thing was, the car didn’t drive back to where he got in and he was soon able to join the chasing riders. Guerra undoubtedly gained an advantage but wasn’t penalised in any way.
The next stage, the second time trial, came after a rest day all of which was of huge benefit to Guerra. He would have 50 km to reduce his 2 minute 55 second gap to the Maglia Rosa. Guerra lived up to his nickname ‘The Human Stopwatch’ as he powered through the course while the climber Camussa looked out of his depth in comparison. Guerra took the stage and Camussa, doing well to finish 5th, lost 3 minutes 46 seconds. Guerra moved back into 1st by 51 seconds and consolidated his lead in the next three stages to win his first and only Giro d’Italia.
Apart from 1940, ’47, ’48, ’50 and ’62 there have been time trials in every Giro since the first one in 1933. They have been of varying lengths but the longest one was a mammoth 81 km in the 1951 race and was won by Fausto Coppi. The first team time trial was in 1937 and the 1973 edition held a two-man time trial as a prologue, though the times didn’t count towards the General Classification. Some editions have only included one TT but some have had three individual and one team time trials. These editions were most common during the Francesco Moser years.