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Countdown to Giro’s Big Start – and the Italian language of pro cycling

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24APR2014

The Giro d’Italia, together with the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España, is one of pro cycling’s three Grand Tours. It’s a 3-week stage race covering 3,500-4,000 km, first held in 1909.

pink and rainbow jerseys We all know the comfortable fit of the French language and cycling. But now with 2 weeks to go until 200+ riders from over 30 countries will line up for the Giro 2014’s Big Start that will showcase the opening stages of the “Fight for Pink” from Belfast to Dublin, we decided to share our knowledge of a few cycle racing terms in Italian…

Grande Partenza:  the Grand Départ, or Big Start. (We had to start with this one.)
Arrivo:  the finish line
Arrivo in salita:  hilltop finish
Cima Coppi:  the highest altitude reached by cyclists during the Giro d’Italia. The term was established in 1965, five years after the death of Italian hero Fausto Coppi.
Classifiche Generali:  General Classifications. General Classification is the ranking of the accumulated time or placings, whichever basis the race uses to determine its winner. The Tour (since 1913) and the Giro both use the measure of time.
Classifica maglia azzurra:  The Azzurri d’Italia classification, not an actual sky blue jersey but a financial prize awarded to the overall points winner for stage finishes (4, 2 and 1 point being awarded to the first three riders to finish each stage). It’s similar to the red jersey standard points classification.
Colle:  a hill, or short climb
CONI:  acronym for Comitato Olimpico Nazionale Italiano, the Italian Olympic Committee, responsible for the development and management of sports in Italy.
Cronometro:  time trial
Cronometro individuale:  individual time trial
Cronometro a squadre:  team time trial
Crono:  (short for) time trial
Cronoscatala:  individual timed hill climb
La maglia arcobaleno:  the rainbow jersey. The reigning World Champion in a particular cycling event gets to wear a white jersey with rainbow stripes. A former World Champion gets to wear a jersey with rainbow trim on his sleeves and collar. If a World Champion becomes the overall leader of the Tour, Giro or Vuelta, he trades his rainbow jersey for the Leader’s Jersey. 
L
a maglia rosa:  the symbol of the “Fight for Pink”, the pink jersey of the Giro d’Italia identifies the overall leader of the general classification and equivalent to the yellow jersey (or maillot jaune) of the Tour de France. The colour pink was chosen because the Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport that created the Giro was printed on pink paper. Likewise, the iconic yellow jersey of the Tour de France corresponds with the yellow newsprint of L’Auto, the French newspaper that created the Tour.
La maglia verde:  the green jersey of the Giro d’Italia identifies the leader in the mountains classification (like the polka dot jersey of the Tour de France).
La maglia ciclamina:  worn from 1970 to 2010, the purple jersey of the Giro d’Italia identifies the leader in overall points. In 2010 it was replaced by its predecessor, la maglia rosso passione, the original red jersey worn from 1966 – 1969 and since 2010.
La maglia rosso passione:  the bright red jersey identifies the overall leader in points and most consistent finisher.
Foratura:  flat tyre
Fuga:  breakaway group
Fuga Bidone:  a particular kind of successful break. A Fuga Bidone generally escapes early on in a stage and doesn’t seem to pose a threat but because of lack of response on the part of the peloton, a large time gap occurs that becomes a threat to the main General Classification contenders.
GPM, Gran Premio della Montagna:  the King of the Mountains
Gregario:  domestique rider. Domestiques chase down competitors and try to neutralise their efforts, while surrounding their team leader to protect him from the wind. When a leader has a technical problem or nature calls, his domestiques stay with him and pace him back to the peloton. They are also designated to collect water bottles from the team car and bring them back up to the leader.
Gregario di lusso:  A domestique of such high calibre that he is capable of captaining his own team – such as Herman Van Springel who almost won the 1968 Tour de France when he was domestiique to Eddy Merckx.
Giornata no:  a day on in which a racer has nothing in terms of strength or energy.
Grupetto:  In the mountains the riders with weaker climbing skills ride together hoping to finish in time to beat the time limit cut-off. They stay in a group in the hope that if they do not finish in time, they can collectively persuade tour officials to let them stay in the race to avoid bulk elimination.
Gruppo:  the bunch, or peloton. When the main bunch of riders are all together without any active breakaways, Italians call it the “gruppo compatto“. When referring to the bicycle gruppo means group set, the core set of components made by a single manufacturer, such as a Campagnolo.
Paniagua:  bread and water. To race paniagua means racing clean and therefore without performance-enhancing drugs.
Partenza:  the race start
Passista:  rouleur. A rouleur is a rider who can turn a big gear steadily over flat roads. Rouleurs are usually heavier riders who tend to suffer in the mountain stages.
Passista-Scalatore:  a rouleur who climbs well, so a good all-rounder. This type of rider can win a stage race because he can do well on all terrain as well as time trials. Famous all-rounders include Fausto Coppi, Bernard Hinault and Eddy Merckx.
Passo:  mountain pass, or col in French.
Piano:  meaning soft to define slow or easy riding. The Giro often has “piano” stages where the riders intentionally take it easy until the final kilometres leading up to the sprint.
Piazza:  the podium, for the first three riders over the finish line of every stage. Attaining the podium is a high accomplishment (especially for many racers who know that they cannot win a race) that it almost makes a racer’s career.
Plotone, also Gruppo:  peloton
Prologo:  The prologue, or introductory stage of a stage race that is usually a short individual time trial, normally under 10 kilometres.
Scalatore:  a rider who climbs well
Scattista:  a climber who can explode in the mountains with a devastating acceleration. One of the most famous and extraordinary of these pure climbers was Marco Pantani.
Squadra:  team
Squalificato:  disqualification
Tappa:  stage of the tour
Il Tappone:  the “Queen” stage of stage race which is the hardest, most demanding stage in the high mountains.
Tifosi:  Italian sports fans, sometimes fanatical in their devotion to an athlete or team. The term derives from the delirium of Typhoid patients.
Tornante:  switchback
Ventaglio:  echelon. When the riders are hit with a side wind they must ride with their wheel slightly to the right or left of the rider in front in order to benefit from the slipstream, making an arrow formation instead of riding nose to tail in a straight line. This staggered line puts the rearmost riders in the gutter. So good riders form a series of echelons so that every rider will both contribute and receive shelter.
Zona Rifornimento:  the Feed Zone
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