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Milano-Torino, the velocipedists from 1876

23/02/2023

RCS Sport Archive Photo : Fiorenzo Magni

The Milan-Turin, as is well known, is the oldest race in the world. It was first held in 1876, when eight racers, or rather velocipedists, challenged each other on pioneering bicycles. It was organised by the Veloce-Club of Milan on the 25th May of that year, starting from Porta Magenta in Milan at 4am. The eight heroes then headed towards Magenta, Trecate, Novara, Cameriano, Borgo Vercelli, Vercelli, S.Germano, Tronzano, Cigliano, Chivasso, Settimo and Turin, with the finish line located at the Porta Milano “barrier” in Turin. Anyone who wished to try their hand at what was, at the time, a real madness was welcome to join in: the Veloce-Club Milano had set a minimum number of 10 participants to start the race, but in the end they decided to get the party started with just 8 velocipedists.

In some way, all those who managed to complete the race were to be rewarded: the first would take home a gold medal and 100 Italian lire, the second another gold medal and 70 lire, the third another gold medal and 30 lire, the fourth a gold medal and 20 lire. All those who reached Turin within 14 hours from the start would take home a silver medal.

On their way out of Milan, the 8 participants, all from Milan, were greeted by 10,000 cheering people celebrating their courage; those were the roots of the most popular sport par excellence. To give an idea, the velocipedists pedalled on ‘bicycles’ whose wheels had a circumference of 4 metres. The first to enter Turin was rider number 1, Paolo Magretti, a naturalist and explorer, who arrived at 2.20 p.m., while half an hour later it was the turn of rider number 8, Carlo Ricci Gariboldi, who would pass away at the end of the following year.

As we read in the chronicles of the time: “half an hour later, number 8 and, at 4 p.m., two other competitors who had previously gotten off their bikes for a bit of rest and food” would cross the finish line. “The same went for two other riders who, after a short break at Ponte Stura, reached their destination at exactly 5 p.m. Another, more unfortunate, had his bike broken down near the Stura”.

The first Milan-Turin caused a stir, many opposed that madness, and so it was not organised again for another 17 years, until 1893.

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