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09-05-2023 | Jean-Marie Henckaerts

The 27th Giro Sardegna of Tonino Scarpitti

From March 23 to 28, the Giro Sardegna took place. It was the 27th edition of this six-day stage race. CycloWorld was there and spoke with the promoter.

This year's course consisted of a variety of three longer rides with quite a few meters of elevation, two time trials (individual and team) and a final short ride with summit finish (a kind of climbing time trial). For the longer stages, there is a choice between the long distance (GranGiro) and medium distance (MedioGiro), this year with stages of 137 and 113 kilometers, 105 and 79 kilometers, and 115 and 80 kilometers, respectively.

Holiday mood

The ambiance is convivial and friendly, as everyone is in an upbeat vacation mood in sunny Sardinia. During the rides, however, there is also a competitive atmosphere, things get tough from the start. And no one stops at the feed stations; water bottles are handed out by the volunteers. Those who don't like competition can also opt for the sportive version, without timekeeping and classification.

This year the Giro took place in and around the beach of Colostrai, near the pretty town of Muravera, about an hour from Cagliari. The winners were Luca Raggio and Annalisa Prato in the GranGiro and Luca Cingi and Antigone Payne in the MedioGiro.

Godfather of the gran fondo

The Giro has been organized since 1997 by the godfather of the Italian gran fondo circuit, Antonio 'Tonino' Scarpitti. He discovered the gran fondo in 1995. That year he started cycling gran fondos himself such as the Nove Colli, the Maratona dles Dolomites and the Gran Fondo di Lazio. He liked it so much that he wanted to organize this also in Sardinia. There were no gran fondos taking place on the island at that time. He realized that people might not come to Sardinia for a one-day gran fondo and hence the idea arose to organize a stage race (a giro). The first editions were real tours from point a to b and then from point b to c and so on (for example, the first edition went from Cagliari to Olbia). However, this became logistically too complicated and after ten editions the Giro was organized in one place each time (start and finish in the same place).

The beginning was difficult: in the first year there were only sixty participants. But Tonino did not give up. The next year there were 120 participants and the following year 240. Once there were even 1,600 participants, but that was too many. According to Tonino, the ideal number of participants is between five and six hundred. This year there were around 450 participants, all categories included. That's a slight decline and still the result of the corona crisis. Nevertheless, Tonino is that he has organized a Giro every year, even in the corona year 2020. Tonino is also president of the association of Italian gran fondos, the Assofondo which represents about forty gran fondos and 85,000 participants (at least that was the number before corona). They are joining forces to obtain a common insurance policy so that member gran fondos are covered for liability. According to Tonino, that's the only way to survive as a gran fondo: working together to be stronger.

Volunteers are key

The model of the Giro Sardegna is still based almost exclusively on the cooperation of numerous volunteers who have gathered around Tonino for years to organize this event. He himself wants to continue with it as long as possible, perhaps until the fiftieth edition. But he recognizes that the future will require more professionalization in which the gran fondos will have to pay for all kinds of services. We have heard this before in the gran fondo realm.

In any case, this edition was again very successful, now on to the 28th edition in 2024!

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