Alfonsina Strada, the only woman ever to ride in and complete one of cycling’s three Grand Tours, has had a piazza in Italy named after her to mark today’s International Women’s Day.
The honour has been accorded to her by the town of San Salvatore Monferrato in the province of Asti in Italy’s Piemonte region, which was on the route of the Giro d’Italia when Strada, maiden name Morini, rode the 1924 Giro d’Italia.
More pictures on the San Salvatore in Rete Facebook page.
Strada, who had previously completed the Giro di Lombardia twice, road the 12th edition of the race at the invitation of then director of the Gazzetta dello Sport, Enrico Colombo.
Aware of the potential for scandal, Colombo hid the rider's true identity until a few days before the race began, entering her under the name, Alfonsin Strada.
But the story of the woman riding the Giro thrilled the Italian public, who cheered her throughout.
Despite being ruled outside the time limit on the eighth stage after her handlebars snapped – she used part of a broom-handle provided by a bystander to improvise – Colombo convinced the race jury to let her continue, albeit outside the general classification.
She received a rapturous reception at Milan’s Sempione velodrome when she completed the 3,613km race 28 hours behind the winner, Giuseppe Enrici.
Strada’s exploits at the Giro led to a lucrative career touring velodromes throughout Europe for exhibition races. Nor was she just a curiosity; she was a talented cyclist, winning a reported 36 races against men during her career.
Born to a peasant family near Modena, Strada’s love for cycling began in 1901 when her father acquired a second-hand bike in a poor state of repair.
Soon, she was racing, but kept that fact hidden from her parents, telling them instead that she was attending Sunday mass.
When her mother found out the truth, she told her that if she wanted to carry on racing, she would have to get married and leave the family home.
At the age of 14, therefore, she married a mechanic and engraver, Luigi Strada, and moved with him to Milan. As a wedding present, she asked him for a bicycle, and he became her manager.
After World War II, she opened a bike shop in Milan with her second husband.
She died there at the age of 58 from a heart attack brought on the effort of attempting to right her motorcycle, which had fallen over as she parked it up having just returned from watching a bike race.
In 2012, a play based on Strada’s life, called It Ends In A, was staged in London. This year, to mark the 90th anniversary of her participation in the Giro, the original Italian version of the play will be performed at a number of stage towns featuring in the race.
The town council of San Salvatore Monferrato decided in 2013 that each year it would show support for International Women’s Day by renaming a public space after a woman prominent in areas such as sport, culture, the arts or the voluntary sector.
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