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. The top ten of the general classification was:

  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.

Passo di Gavia (The Gavia pass), stage of the 1988 Giro d’Italia. The sheer brutality of the conditions made this one of the truly classic days in history of cycling.
Giro d’Italia 1988 – Stage 14, Passo di Gavia

Franco Chioccioli

Nicknamed il Coppino for his resemblance to Fausto Coppi, Franco Chioccioli (Castelfranco di Sopra, 25 August 1959) became a professional in 1982, hired by the Selle Italia-Chinol team. In the same year, he participated in the Giro dell’Appennino (finishing second), Giro dell’Etna (finishing again in the podium), and in the Giro d’Italia, finishing twenty-fifth.

In the following seasons, he wore the jersey of other teams on the Italian cycling scene: Vivì-Benotto, Murella-Rossin, Fanini / Maggi Mobili, and Ecoflam / Gis Gelati.

Franco Chioccioli with Ernesto Colnago
Franco Chioccioli nicknamed il Coppino for his resemblance to Fausto Coppi. Here he is with Ernesto Colnago, after his 1991 Giro d’Italia victory. The cyclist next to him is Andy Hampsten, the winner of the 1988 Giro d’Italia.

A pure climber, also good at time trials, he won the Agostoni Cup and the Giro del Trentino in 1984, the Giro del Friuli in 1985, a stage at the Tour of Switzerland in 1986, and the Sabatini Cup in 1991.

Franco Chioccioli at the Giro d’Italia

In 1983, he failed to make the podium but still won the white jersey, which designates the best young rider.

In 1985, he finished ninth in the general classification and won the stage on the Gran Sasso.

In 1986, he was sixth overall and put his wheels in front of everyone in the eighth stage of that Giro, in Avezzano.

In 1988 he transferred to the well-established Tuscan Del Tongo team. This season he was fifth in the Giro d’Italia, winning the sixth stage in Campitello Matese and wearing the pink jersey a few days later. He lost it on June 5, 1988, at the stage from Chiesa in Valmalenco to Bormio and which involved passing over the Passo di Gavia (Gavia Pass) surrounded by snow.

In 1989, Chioccioli repeated the fifth place of the previous year and in 1990 he relegated to the sixth position.

In 1991, at almost 32, for his tenth Giro d’Italia, he finally managed to win his home grand tour despite the predictions on the eve of all for Gianni Bugno and Claudio Chiappucci.

In that “Pink Race,” Chioccioli wore the pink jersey already on the second day (to keep it uninterrupted, except for one stage, until the final finish line in Milan). In the last week of the race, he also won three stages, in Aprica and on the Passo Pordoi (Pordoi Pass) thanks to solitary attacks from afar from the finish line, and in the Casteggio time trial in front of Bugno. In the same year, he took part in the national championships, in which he finished second behind Bugno himself.

In 1992, with the jersey of the new GB-MG Maglificio (heir to Del Tongo), he finished third in the Giro d’Italia behind Miguel Indurain and Claudio Chiappucci but managed to take another stage victory, at the finish line in Verbania.

Also in 1992, he took part for the first time in the Tour de France, in which more than the classification he sought the stage victory, obtained in Saint-Étienne: he finished in sixteenth place overall and on the lowest step of the podium for the KOM classification.

Franco Chioccioli ended his career at the end of 1994 wearing the colors of Mercatone Uno, completing the Giro and Tour in a colorless manner. In total, Chioccioli won 28 races (excluding the two team time trials) and participated in thirteen Giri d’Italia, all completed without ever retiring. Finally, he ran the world road championships four times.

After retiring, he became sporting director and team manager, first for some professional formations and then for the Futura Team amateur cycling team. Privately he manages a farmhouse in Pian di Scò with his family.


M. Özgür Nevres

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