Today’s “historic photo of the day” is: Franco Chioccioli climbing Passo di Gavia, during stage 14 of the Giro d’Italia 1988.

Before the 14th stage of 1988 Giro d’Italia, Del Tongo team’s Italian rider Franco Chioccioli was wearing the maglia rosa. He was leading the race 33 seconds ahead of Urs Zimmermann. Top ten of the general classification were:

  1. Franco Chioccioli: 64 hour 31 min 45 sec
  2. Urs Zimmermann @ 33 sec
  3. Roberto Visentini @ 55 sec
  4. Flavio Giupponi @ 1 min 10 sec
  5. Andy Hampsten @ 1 min 18 sec
  6. Jean-François Bernard @ 1 min 26 sec
  7. Erik Breukink @ 1 min 45 sec
  8. Beat Breu @ 2 min 48 sec
  9. Marco Giovannetti @ 3 min 7 sec
  10. Giuseppe Saronni @ 3 min 25 sec
Franco Chioccioli climbing Passo di Gavia
Franco Chioccioli climbing Passo di Gavia. Giro d’Italia Italia 1988 stage 14.

Stage fourteen was a 120-kilometer trip partway up the Tonale and then a left turn up the south face of the Passo di Gavia (Gavia pass) with a final steep, technical descent into Bormio.

Overnight, a large amount of snow had accumulated on the Gavia, but the roads were cleared in time for the riders. Despite the cold and adverse weather forecast, the patron, Vincenzo Torriani, decided to go ahead with the stage.

The day was wet and cold. Until the start Torriani had been considering an alternate route because of the possibility of bad weather. It would end up being, in the words of La Gazzetta, “the day the big men cried.”

Over the first two climbs, the cold, wet riders stayed together. When they began ascending the Gavia with its patches of fifteen percent gradient (back then, only the Gavia’s switchback turns were paved), it began to snow and as the riders continued up the pass, it got ever colder. Johan Van der Velde, in just shorts and short sleeves, was first over the top. He was followed a few seconds later by Breukink, Hampsten and then by Chioccioli and Marco Giovannetti.

Breukink and Hampsten had dropped the Italians well before the summit and crested together. The conditions were appalling; the road was frozen and when the riders began the descent, their brakes wouldn’t work on the frozen rims. Some had their gears jammed up with ice. Van der Velde gave up, dismounted his bike, waited for warmer clothes to be brought from the team car and descended the steepest part of the pass on foot. He lost 47 minutes that day.

Hampsten and Breukink pressed on down the steep, icy descent and into Bormio where Breukink won the sprint.

Franco Chioccioli lost 5:12 to Hampsten, and lost the maglia rosa.

Andy Hampsten became the first American, and non-European, to win the Giro d’Italia.

Three years later, Franco Chioccioli, aka “Coppino” or “Little Coppi” would win the Giro d’Italia, in 1991.

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