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1907: Pirelli at the Tour de France

It was July 1907 and just one month since the start of the Peking-Paris race, the most extraordinary motor race of the early twentieth century, in which Pirelli provided the tyres for Prince Scipione Borghese’s Itala, when the company signed another agreement for the supply of tyres. This time it was for bicycles made by Officine Türkheimer per Automobili e Velocipedi (OTAV) in Milan. The agreement provided for the use of Pirelli tyres for the fifth edition of the most famous cycling race in France: the Tour de France, or “Grande Boucle”, better known in Italy as the “Giro di Francia”. The Gazzetta dello Sport announced that there would be 14 stages, covering more than 4,488 km across France. They would start in Paris and go through the most important cities in the land, including Roubaix, Lyon, Nice, Toulouse, Nantes and then back to the Ville Lumière. The bicycles that were fitted with Pirelli tyres were those of Luigi Ganna, Eberardo Pavesi and Carlo Galetti, who in later years became known as “The Three Musketeers”. Eberardo Pavesi was the only one of the three Italians to complete the Tour de France, ending the race in Paris in sixth overall position, and first among the isolés – cyclists registered as individual racers who were not part of a team. 93 cyclists took part in the Tour de France in 1907 but only 33 reached Paris. After its triumph in the Peking-Paris Motor Race that year, participation in the Tour de France helped promote the commercial expansion of the Pirelli Group on the French market and a couple of years later, in 1909, in response to the Tour, the first Giro d’Italia was held, organised by the Gazzetta dello Sport.

A few years later, in 1950, Gianni Brera wrote a comment in Pirelli magazine on the importance of bicycle racing: “It is a proven fact that champions are the most effective ambassadors of a country and its products. And ours are almost unchallenged in their domination of international cycling events.” And indeed, though the Italian cycling champions did not dominate the Tour in 1907, the Italians Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi repeatedly triumphed at the Tour de France from the late 1930s to the mid-1950s. Cycling fans went wild about the sport, especially after the Second World War, when the champions began to be hailed as real heroes, becoming examples of redemption at a time when the whole country was being reborn. Pirelli tyres made an even greater mark in this climate of euphoria, taking the racing world by storm, and the “Long P” logo became the banner of champions, teams and companies that have made the history and written the legend of cycling.

It was July 1907 and just one month since the start of the Peking-Paris race, the most extraordinary motor race of the early twentieth century, in which Pirelli provided the tyres for Prince Scipione Borghese’s Itala, when the company signed another agreement for the supply of tyres. This time it was for bicycles made by Officine Türkheimer per Automobili e Velocipedi (OTAV) in Milan. The agreement provided for the use of Pirelli tyres for the fifth edition of the most famous cycling race in France: the Tour de France, or “Grande Boucle”, better known in Italy as the “Giro di Francia”. The Gazzetta dello Sport announced that there would be 14 stages, covering more than 4,488 km across France. They would start in Paris and go through the most important cities in the land, including Roubaix, Lyon, Nice, Toulouse, Nantes and then back to the Ville Lumière. The bicycles that were fitted with Pirelli tyres were those of Luigi Ganna, Eberardo Pavesi and Carlo Galetti, who in later years became known as “The Three Musketeers”. Eberardo Pavesi was the only one of the three Italians to complete the Tour de France, ending the race in Paris in sixth overall position, and first among the isolés – cyclists registered as individual racers who were not part of a team. 93 cyclists took part in the Tour de France in 1907 but only 33 reached Paris. After its triumph in the Peking-Paris Motor Race that year, participation in the Tour de France helped promote the commercial expansion of the Pirelli Group on the French market and a couple of years later, in 1909, in response to the Tour, the first Giro d’Italia was held, organised by the Gazzetta dello Sport.

A few years later, in 1950, Gianni Brera wrote a comment in Pirelli magazine on the importance of bicycle racing: “It is a proven fact that champions are the most effective ambassadors of a country and its products. And ours are almost unchallenged in their domination of international cycling events.” And indeed, though the Italian cycling champions did not dominate the Tour in 1907, the Italians Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi repeatedly triumphed at the Tour de France from the late 1930s to the mid-1950s. Cycling fans went wild about the sport, especially after the Second World War, when the champions began to be hailed as real heroes, becoming examples of redemption at a time when the whole country was being reborn. Pirelli tyres made an even greater mark in this climate of euphoria, taking the racing world by storm, and the “Long P” logo became the banner of champions, teams and companies that have made the history and written the legend of cycling.

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