Giro Minutiae

1. Northern Dominance
The last time I laid eyes (in person) on Danilo Di Luca, he was approximately 350 meters from the summit of Passo Lanciano in the 2006 Giro d’Italia. The collective groan which rippled upwards to the summit when Di Luca was dropped from the Basso express several kilometers from the finish line belies the adoration of his native Abruzzo tifosi. And how wrong I was to right him off as “merely” a man for the one-day Classics. Bravo, Danilo! What’s also remarkable is that Di Luca is the first Italian from the southern half of Italy to ever emerge victorious in the Giro. Check out the complete domination by pros from the northern regions:

The 20 Regions of Italy
Image source:

Region # of Giro Champions
Lombardia 29
Piemonte 17
Toscana 8
Emilia-Romagna 4
Trentino-Alto Adige 3
Veneto 2
Abruzzo 1 (Danilo Di Luca, 2007)
Liguria 1

Di Luca is well aware of his place in history, and he spoke of his terrone heritage with pride.

2. Is Andy Hampsten really the first American Giro winner?
While I was investigating which region each Italian Giro winner came from, I came across this interesting tidbit about the 1924 champion Giuseppe Enrici. If Italian Wikipedia is to be trusted, it appears that Enrici was born in Pittsburgh, PA. Now I’m not much of a legal scholar, but I believe that birth on American soil automatically confers U.S. citizenship. I haven’t the faintest idea about the length of Enrici’s stateside stint before he hopped a boat to Italy (where as best I can tell, he resided in the Piemonte region), I’m equally as clueless about whether dual-citizenship was ever embraced or if he only ever considered himself Italian, but maybe USA Cycling can retro-actively claim him as one of our own (just like the Mormons) to boost our country’s Grand Tour palmares. He would also be the first American to start the Tour de France (1924 [DNF on 4th stage] and 1925 [DNF on 11th stage]), but it looks like Jonathan Boyer still has dibs on the first American to finish.

3. Conventional Wisdom
Unless your physique is Jose Rujano-sized, I thought it a given that every pro cyclist sports at least 172.5mm cranks. With that in mind, I was somewhat surprised to see that Robbie McEwen has been winning Grand Tour stages on 170mm cranks. Specs on pro bikes aren’t too plentiful, at least when it comes to crank arm length, but here’s some other sprinters for comparison:

Name Crank length
Tom Boonen 177.5mm
Allan Davis 172.5mm
Gord Fraser 172.5mm
Oscar Freire 172.5mm
Thor Hushovd 175mm
Giovanni Lombardi 172.5mm
Alessandro Petacchi 175mm
Fred Rodriguez 175mm
Erik Zabel 172.5mm

Of course, Oscar Freire and Allan Davis are the only riders listed who’re approximately the same size as McEwen, but McEwen seems to roll to the beat of a different drummer with his slightly stubbier cranks. And just for comparison’s sake, I looked at 2 Giro riders who are definitely tinier than McEwen (Di Luca and Simoni) and both of them have 172.5mm cranks. I don’t know if this means anything or not, it’s just the random kind of factoid that gets my mind revved up.

Comments (9) to “Giro Minutiae”

  1. Now we can call him Tommy “Big Crank ” Boonen. I think he’d like that.

  2. 170mm here. But then, I have a 28″ inseam.
    I’m like a cycling gorilla.

  3. Well I’ll be . . . Looks like Enrici died in 1968; perhaps if he’d lived into the Lemond era he could have raised a polite cough when people started talking about American “firsts.” Amazingly, English Wikipedia has an entry on him, but it doesn’t mention that he was born in Philly. Good ol’ Italian Wikipedia, however, does.

  4. Great work Peter, this is really cool. I’m curious, who is the Ligurian Giro winner? I’ve used 175 and 172.5 cranks over the years, they both added a different dimension to my mediocrity.

  5. Dana-
    The Ligurian Giro champion was Alfonso Calzolari way back in 1914.

    My inseam puts me on the edge of 170/172.5 , but I’ve used 170s forever. I tried 172.5mm cranks for about a month, found I could climb a bit better, but felt like I had no snap. Maybe I should have tried them out for longer…who knows. That’s why I was so curious about McEwen and his choice of 170s…we’re just about the same size. I had heard from time to time over the years that I was stupid for sticking with 170s…whatever. Your body adapts to whatever you use regardless of what fits. Just look at how hunched up and uncomfortable Sean Kelly was all those years.

  6. Nothing stupid about using 170s. Honestly I think a lot of riders here use cranks that are too long. We hear all about pros using longish cranks, but remember those races tend to have pretty big, long climbs in them. Given the greater popularity of crits in the US, it seems to me that one would be better off going shorter - more cornering clearance and better acceleration. I think it goes along with everyone thinking they need an 11 to sprint, even though they can’t wind the gear up over 90 rpm.

  7. Robbie uses the 170’s because it allows for higher leg-speed. You can achieve higher RPM’s using shorter cranks. If you look at track riders they will use cranks as small as 160’s not just because anything much longer would hit the track but because of the amazing leg speed they can achieve using these cranks.

  8. Here’s some data circa 1993:

    Rider Height Inseam Frame c-c Rings Length
    Bugno 5-9 34 56 41/53 172.5
    Kelly 5-10 33.5 56 42/52 172.5
    Guippomi 5-8 32.7 54.5 41/53 170
    Argentin 5-8 32.3 52.5 41/53 170
    Leoni 5-9 31.1 54 41/53 170
    Breukink 6-3/4 33.9 56 42/53 172.5

    I was suprised how small the frames are. Example Breukink
    who is over 6 feet yet rides a 56 cm frame. Everybody used
    longish stems, 11-12 cm, and 42 cm bars or wider. Indurain
    was listed at 6-2 with huge 180 mm cranks on one of his bikes
    on a 59 c-c frame.

    Note the lack of 39 rings (at least at this race) and Kelly
    using a 52 ring.

  9. Here’s that table (hopefully) better:

    Rider Height Inseam Frame c-c Rings Crank
    Bugno 5-9 34 56 41/53 172.5
    Kelly 5-10 33.5 56 42/52 172.5
    Guippomi 5-8 32.7 54.5 41/53 170
    Argentin 5-8 32.3 52.5 41/53 170
    Leoni 5-9 31.1 54 41/53 170
    Breukink 6-3/4 33.9 56 42/53 172.5

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