Giovanni Battaglin - The first winner of the “Freccia dei Vini”

The only Italian to have made the Giro-Vuelta duo in the same year was also the winner of the 1st edition of the “Freccia dei Vini”.

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The winner of the first “Freccia dei Vini” 1972 Giovanni Battaglin is the only Italian to have made the Giro-Vuelta duo in the same year. An exploit only succeeded by Eddy Merckx in 1973 and, with the Vuelta in September, by Alberto Contador in 2008. Battaglin accomplished the feat in 1981: in the space of 48 days, from 21 April to 7 June, he covered 7336 kilometers. Merckx took only 45 days to complete the double, but did 5 stages and 454 km less (6882 km).
He began his masterpiece on April 21 at the Vuelta starting from Santander. On the 29th he won the Granada-Sierra Nevada uphill time trial, 30.5 km, and wore the leader's jersey amarillo. He then successfully defended it in the subsequent 12 fractions from the assaults of Muñoz and Belda, until the triumph of Madrid on 10 May.

Three days later, in Trieste, he started the “Giro d'Italia”. He managed to enter the Saronni-Moser duel and defeat the battleship Bianchi, a stronghold of Baronchelli, Contini, Prim and Knudsen. He solved the race in the Dolomites in two days. On 4 June he attacked on the Furcia pass, arriving only at the finish line of San Vigilio di Marebbe, moving to 3" from the Contini pink jersey. The next day on the Tre Cime di Lavaredo he left Contini at 1'37". Then, in the pink jersey, in the time trial of the Verona Arena, he managed to resist the attack of Saronni and Prim. He won with 38" over the Swedish Tommy Prim and 50" over Saronni. He was the first Venetian to win the “Giro” after 64 editions.
At the "Giro" he had revealed himself in 1973 in the Carpegna stage, finishing second at 45" behind Merckx. On 19 May 1975 he took his first victory in the “Giro” in the third stage, Ancona-Prati di Tivo, dominating the Spaniards and overtaking Gimondi, Baronchelli and Bitossi of 2'16", De Vlaeminck of 3'44" and the pink Knudsen jersey of 4'12". He accomplished the feat in front of the Gran Sasso, wrote Bruno Raschi, who described his take-off as follows: <he started off like the stone of a slingshot, ...>.
“La Gazzetta dello Sport” titled in 9 columns: It was a great missed opportunity.
The day after, in fact, Battaglin punctured 3 km from the finish in Campobasso and then fell, losing the pink jersey. His wingman Bertoglio, who hadn't stopped to give him the bike, then shed crocodile tears, declaring. In the time trial of Versilia he won, beat Gimondi by 13" and covered the pink jersey, titled “La Gazzetta”. But Bertoglio immediately overthrew him for 6" in the Ciocco time trial. The next day Battaglin collapsed.

Battaglin managed to get on the “Giro” podium twice more: in 1973 behind Merckx and Gimondi and in 1980 behind Hinault and Panizza, where he broke all the stops in the 18th stage Sirmione-Pecol Valzoldana. He wore the "Maglia Azzurra" 8 times at the world championships. On 25 August 1979, indeed, he ran as a protagonist in Valkenburg, in the Netherlands, but was thrown to the ground by the Dutch Raas while he was fighting for the victory: Raas wore the rainbow jersey, Battaglin finished sixth, best of the Azzurri.
An excellent climber, he won the 1979 Tour de France Mountain Grand Prix ahead of Bernard Hinault. That time, in the standings, he finished in sixth place, 38'12" from Hinault, but he would have reached the podium without the 10' penalty for a positive control in the Ballon d'Alsace stage - he had hired Zerinol, an anti-flu - and the quarter of an hour lost in the two time-teams.
The victory in the first “Freccia dei Vini” in Corvino San Quirico in 1972 did not help him to enter the team for the Munich Games, centered on Francesco Moser. But at 21 Battaglin was already a certainty: that year, in fact, with Marino Fontana's Jollyceramica, he won the “Giro d'Italia” Under 23 ahead of Walter Riccomi.
As a professional, then, he had to compete with champions such as Merckx, Fuente, Gimondi, Moser, Saronni, Hinault, Maertens. He did it with valor. In fact, his palmarès is full of noble proofs. He has strung together Italian classics: Milan-Turin, Apennine Tour, Bernocchi Cup, Agostoni Cup, Placci Cup, Matteotti Trophy, Lazio tour, Reggio Calabria Province tour, Montelupo GP, Pantalica Trophy. He has won stages in the three major stage races - 4 in the “Giro d'Italia”, 1 in the Tour de France and 1 in the Vuelta - but also in the Tour of Switzerland, the Tour of Catalonia and the Tour of the Basque Country.
He wore the Amarillo jersey at the Vuelta for 13 days and the pink jersey at the “Giro” for 5 stages. For Battaglin, the Oltrepò hills were the launching pad for a great career. From the “Freccia dei Vini” to the memorable one-two Vuelta-Giro.


Text by Claudio Gregori

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