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Nobody Wants You Here! The Story of Alfredo Binda

By Tereza Antonova

Being truly exceptional in some area is not always as desirable as you might think. Sometimes, it becomes slightly annoying. And sometimes, but just sometimes, it brings the organisers of Giro d’Italia to the decision of bribing you not to show your face at the race.

The 1925 Giro had one and only favourite: the famous Costante Girardengo. Beloved by the masses and reportedly by the fascist regime, Costante prepared for one more great feat in his long career. You can imagine the disappointment when he was defeated by a no-name rookie who had just arrived from France and stole the gold. The name of the daredevil was Alfredo Binda and he would dominate Giro d’Italia in 1925, 1927, 1928, and 1929.

Maurice Archambaud and Italy’s Alfredo Binda competing in the Giro d’Italia © AFP / Profimedia

While there was no way to question his talent, his likability turned out to be a whole another thing. ‘Il Campionissimo’ (the Champion) kept to himself, seemed kind of odd and cold, and crowned the growth of public antipathy when he claimed he had no interest in creating a ‘spettacolo’ (i.e. drama). After proving to be such a snob, no way on earth could dear Alberto expect his skills to be appreciated.

And so, before the 1930 Giro, the powerful assembled and contemplated. Clearly, if Binda participated, he would win. The crowds would be outraged, the number of sold copies of La Gazetta dello Sport would drop, and the race would get altogether boring. Such an outcome had to be prevented and so the assembly made a final call: keep that guy away.

Alfredo Binda arrives 2nd during the 1st stage Paris-Caen of the 24th Tour de France, on July 2, 1930. © AFP / Profimedia

When there’s no reasoning, there’s always money. Luckily, money spoke Alfredo’s language. Sure, he can stay out of the race. But as it’s pretty obvious he would win again, he will do so for the winning prize money plus the cash for stage wins (he anticipated there would be six of them). With a little something for the team, that would be about 22,500 liras in total (Italian lira was switched for the euro in 2002).

Breathless but cornered, the organisers agreed. With a clear schedule, Alfredo popped out for the Tour de France to win stages 8 and 9. In 1933, he returned to claim another Giro victory. The ultimate sigh of relief for the Giro only came in 1935 when Il Campionissimo claimed to have shown for the last time. After winning over 120 races, Alfredo finally retired. And the moral of the story? If you want to earn the public respect of 1930’s Italians, come up with at least some drama. Otherwise, you cannot really expect anyone to like you.