The Giro d'Italia has been won by a Frenchman a total of seven times, making France the third most victorious country at the Giro over time. Logically, the race was mostly won by Italians (69), followed by the Belgians with seven victories. For France the Maglia Rosa has been won by three major cyclists: Jacques Anquetil (2x), Bernard Hinault (3x) and Laurent Fignon (1x).
In 1957 Anquetil already won the Tour de France for the first time (which he repeated four times later), but it took until 1960 before he also won the Giro and four years later he did it again. He also won La Vuelta and was one of the best riders in the history of cycling.
Anquetil rode a magnificent race. He stayed close to the other favourites until the 68 kilometre time trial, where he crushed the competition. Although it was thrilling on the descent of the Gavia pass, where Gastone Nencini was exceptionally strong. But in the end Anquetil was able to keep 28 seconds of his lead and his first victory at the Giro d'Italia was secured!
Hinault, an iconic rider who will never be forgotten, was able to secure the most victories at the Giro for France. Moreover, like Anquetil, he was one of the few riders to win the Giro and the Tour de France in one season and he did so twice (1982, 1985)!
He already had a great palmares with the Tour and the Vuelta, but of course he also wanted to add the Giro. However, it was not made easy for him because he had to compete against the combined efforts of the Italians. His solution was a strongly worked out plan in the 20th stage. He sent his strongest gregario, Jean-René Bernaudeau, ahead and joined him on the Stelvio pass. The two were able to gain enough distance from the peloton, allowing Hinault to take the lead and stay there.
Bernard Hinault with Wladimiro Panizza (in the pink jersey) during the 18th stage of the Giro in 1980.
Hinault's main rival was Bianchi, who was helped by Tommy Prim and Silvano Contini. However, Hinault was lucky that Bianchi did not have the full support of Prim, hoping that the Italian Contini could win. Hinault regularly found himself without teammates, but he was never seriously challenged. He was able to win fairly easily that year, after which he also won the Tour de France. That way he got the much wanted Giro/Tour double for the first time!
After the race had been going on for almost two weeks, Hinault was in second place and in top form. Hinault took over the lead after the time trial on stage 12. Although the organisation of the Giro was rather supportive of Francesco Moser. They reduced the severity of the climbs at the last minute, but Hinault remained stronger and was thus able to take his third Giro victory!
Hinault at the 1985 Giro d'Italia
In 1989 the last Frenchman was able to bring home a victory at the Giro: Laurent Fignon. Like Anquetil and Hinault, Fignon could also win the Tour de France (1983, 1984). In 1989, the year in which he won the Giro, he lost to Greg LeMond by only 8 seconds. He was thus unable to achieve the Giro/Tour double, but nevertheless he put in an outstanding performance.
Erik Breukink took the lead after the time trial in stage 10, but lost it again in stage 15. This stage, with five big passes, was ridden in the cold and rain. As a result Breukink lost almost six minutes and Fignon was able to take the lead and stay there until the end.
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