1949 Giro d'Italia - Hubbub From the Grandstands All Around Mount Etna
(additional material available on my blog) Aldo Ross Middletown, Ohio, USA http://www.49giro.blogspot.com
Messina, the morning of May 22nd, 1949.
Dino Buzzati writes...
Don Antonio Pizzolari, an elderly and wealthy gentleman; fifteen years ago he was well known by the nickname "il Bel Antonio" (from the book by Vitaliano Brancati... "So radiant was his face, and so numerous were the women who vainly threw themselves at his feet, confessing their love for him." Don Antonio turns over lazily between the bed sheets in his elegant house in Catania, at the incredibly late hour of half past ten...
"What now!? The people of Catania no longer have the right to sleep??? What kind of infernal racket is going on?"
(In his room, which is already lit-up by bright reflections pouring through the slats of the Persian blinds... he heads toward the window, in his pajamas. He squints through a slit in the shutters, sees the noisy crowd below... they yell out names unfamiliar to him. An imposing cluster of people surround a young man in a blue jersey, holding onto a bicycle; he draws back from this ridiculous seen, wipes a hand over his forehead, and closes the inside shutters, plunging the room into cool, shadowy darkness. He huddles down again into his bed, buries his still-handsome face in the pillows, and goes back to sleep.)
(A small boy, out of breath from running, arrives in the piazza Palestro di Catania at 11:35...)
"Where's the starting line?... What??? They've already left? (Dammit! Dammit!! Dammit!!!) Why?... When did they suddenly started taking-off exactly on time?"
(A billie goat, grazing among the lava flows near Misterbianco, addresses another goat...)
"Ba-a-a-a-a! Ba, Baaa. Baah-ah-AAA-a-ahh!"
(Translation - "Don't make me laugh!, going on like that about "Fausto Coppi"! - Let's see if Bartali doesn't put him in his place on the climb up Mount Etna.")
(Eighteen-year-old Rosi Capuana, appearing at a window on the main street of Paterno, talking to herself...)
"So how about this: If the first racer that passes is wearing a blue jersey, then it means Carlo will come over tonight; if not, then it means he's history."
(Giuseppe Ambrosini, the merciless race director of the Giro, standing in his car, his face bright scarlet, frantically waving a little red flag, turns toward a car full of journalists trying to get through in the middle, amidst the frightening torrent of racers, cars, trucks, and motorcyclists...)
"I told you, stay to the right! You're always in the middle - To the right! To the RIGHT! Understand? Do you want me to send you home?"
(In Adrano, a sick child, blonde and very pale, a pretty girl. A kitchen chair has been placed on the sidewalk especially for her; she sits smiling, flanked by three plump friends who look after her as if she were their own child...)
"No, leave me alone... the sun won't bother me. There they are!... Yes... yes, look at them, over there in the distance. They're coming! Look what beautiful colors they're wearing! They look like a garden of flowers!"
(An ancient, arthritic olive tree, wind-bent and twisted out of shape, leans to a much younger companion...)
"Vanitus vanitatum, you say? You claim these Giro participants are fools because they happily punish themselves for nothing, racing as if possessed by the devil, for no reason at all? But what about everyone else? Aren't they worse, those others who claim to toil for more "serious and important" things? Trust me, I prefer these racers... at least they have the courage not to promise their fellow men some overly-complicated Heavenly Paradise! They race for nothing, true; they aren't building anything. But explain to me why the people, even the naturally-gloomy locals, look so happy when they see them?"
(Race Director Ambrosini, about whom we spoke earlier, still tirelessly waving his little red flag...)
"You again? How could you possibly not understand you must stay to the RIGHT! TO THE RIGHT! TO THE RIGHT!!!!"
(A large, handwritten sign, waving above the crowd in Bronte...)
"Coppi, Best Wishes, From Your Friends."
(The volcano Mount Etna, speaking to the world in general...)
"THSTILL the thsame rotten luck! Nineteen yearths thsince dat Giro come thfrough Thsicily, and dis year it finally come, and in fact it even been kind 'nuff to thsircle 'round me, and today it'th actually gonna climb up over my back, and wouldn't you jutht know I'd catch a blathted cold, and for two dayths now I've been trying to chasthe these thstinking cloudth away, and dey're covering my head, and dey're blocking my view, and I can't thsee NUFFIN! How many of those brave boyths have I been able to thee? NONE! Not ONE! Not even one have I thseen. But I can feel dem rollin' over my body. When dey racthe over me dey are like a lotta quick antths. But did I get to THSEE dem? No!, not at all!"
(A child, perched on top of a little wall, asking the occupants of a car...)
"Who's leading? Huh? Who's leading? Is Corrieri there? Is Corrieri leading? Who's leading? Huh? Who's leading now?"
(One motorist waves a hand in a vague gesture, and the car disappears down the dusty dirt road.)
A lava gnome (if you believe in such things) emerges from an immense, petrified black cloud...)
"Something must have happened. ??? Nasty business, I'd say. A disaster, perhaps? Or maybe it's my insane father, Etna... has he started spewing again? If not, why are they all in such a hurry to get away?"
(That is, of course, only if you believe in gnomes and such.)
(Miss Silvia Greene, sitting on the edge of a terrace in Taormina, addressing her mother...)
"Come, Mommy, look at all those cars down there. Can you hear the noise? You'll see, Mommy, they must have captured that bandit, Giuliano. Poor fellow! Why are they so set on tormenting him? (He's so cute!)"
(For more on the bandit Salvatore Giuliano, see
(Ambrosini, implacable race director, his face redder than ever, waves his little red flag as hard as he can...)
"To the RIGHT! TO THE RIGHT! It's always the same ones! TO THE RIGHT!!!"
A motorcycle policeman in Messina's Piazza Municipio, creeping along... almost at walking pace, brushing against the enormous crowd which overflows from both sides into the finish area... Trying to keep them back...)
"Hey YOU!... I'm talking to you! Don't you dare lay a hand on me! Move Back! Or do you want me to give you a couple'a black eyes!?"
(A fan, thinking he sees movement at the end of the wide avenue, heralding the race's arrival, screams like a madman...)
"They're Here! Here they are!"
"Long live Corrieri!"
"Cor-rie-ri, cor-rie-ri, cor, rie, ri... cor... Oh."
(gradually fading - it was only a false alarm)
(A young physician with his wife, their child, and a niece, lost in the crowd a few minutes after the finish...)
"I can't believe it! Yesterday I sat at home and heard on the radio who had won the stage immediately, along with the complete order of arrival. Today I'm here on the very spot, and I've been asking for ten minutes who won, and haven't been able to get an answer yet!"
(And guarding the port, the small statue of the Madonna, contemplating the spectacularly happy throng swarming in the sunshine...)
"My Goodness! I've never seen so many people in my whole life. I didn't know... I really couldn't imagine that I had so many people to love!"
* * * * *
Race summary, Stage 2
Catania-Messina, 163 km
Catania was still celebrating Mario Fazzio's pink jersey when the race resumed on stage 2, 163 kilometers from Catania to Messina.
First attack came from Antonio Bevilacqua with Paolieri and Vittorio Rossello. They are soon caught. Cottur counter attacks. Cecchi is not well, and is dropped by the field in Adrano, and he will suffer alone. Other attacks from Rossello, Maggini, Corrieri, Malabrocca and Lambertini, but the pack reels them in each time.
The road then turns towards Randazzo, climbing from the coast to 1000 meters, but without any consequences. On the dangerous descent Brignole crashes, taking Cerami down with him. They chase for ten kilometers before regaining the group. Cargioli attacks, chased by Busancano, Vittorio Rossello, Martini, Casola, and the pink jersey Fazio. Martini tries unsuccessfully to attack.
Casola wins the intermediate sprint in Taormina ahead of Martini and Busancano. After the long descent back to the shore, Paolieri, Schaer, Cottur, De Sante, Ronconi and Sergio Maggini gain a small advantage, with Carrea and Vincenzo Rossello chasing.
The lead group battles to stay ahead, Cottur in particular. Fazio is at his limit. Paolieri drops from the lead, suffering from cramps. De Santi is next to drop off. Cottur rides a long fast sprint, but in the final 50 meters he is passed by Sergio Maggini of G.S. Atala, who wins ahead of Cottur, Schaer, Ronconi and De Santi.
The pink jersey now goes to Cottur.
1. Sergio Maggini (g.s. Wilier Triestina), in 4h46'46" (time bonus 1:00) 2. Giordano Cottur (g.s. Wilier Triestina), at 30" (time bonus 30") 3. Fritz Schaer (g.s. Stucchi), at 45" (time bonus 15") 4. Aldo Ronconi (g.s. Viscontea), same time 5. Guido De Santi (g.s. Atala), same time 6. Léon Jomaux (g.s. Bartali), at 1:13 7. Luciano Pezzi (g.s. Atala), same time 8. Luciano Frosini (g.s. Legnano), same time 9. Giovanni Corrieri (g.s. Bartali), at 2:24 10. Glauco Servadei (g.s.Viscontea), same time
Overall after stage 2
1. Cottur, 12:36:13 2. Andrea Carrea (g.s. Bianchi), at 1:07 3. Mario Fazio (g.s. Bottecchia), at 1:18 4. Schaer, at 1:34 5. Ronconi, at 1:49 6. Jomaux and Pezzi, tied at 3:02 8. Alfredo Martini (g.s. Wilier Triestina), at 3:34 9. Corrieri, F.Coppi, Logli, Bartali, Leoni, Astrua, Brignole, Croci-Torti, Drei, Simoni, Volpi, L. Maggini, all tied at 4:13