Alfonsini Morini Strada and the gender gap

Alfonsina Morini Strada was the first woman to participate in the “Giro d’Italia” in 1924, the most important cycling competition in our country. Thanks to her passion for bikes, born almost by chance thanks to a gift from her father, Alfonsina managed to go beyond the prejudices of the time, to establish herself as a champion in cycling in Italy and abroad. The girl and the bicycle became inseparable. On the bike Alfonsina felt free and strong. She began to participate in the competitions of her village. He often beat male competitors. At the age of 18 she followed the Grand Prix of Petersburg out of the race. Tsar Nicholas II was so impressed that gave her a gold medal.

Despite the successes, the family continued to disapprove her passion for two wheels. So Alfonsina got married. But from the day of the wedding it was clear that things would not go as their parents had imagined … Alfonsina and her husband Luigi Strada moved to Milan, where they began training on the new racing bike. Alfonsina’s dream was to participate in the “Giro d’Italia”. That year the registrations for the Giro were scarce and the organizer allowed her to participate. Alfonsina would compete wearing a pair of Zuava trousers instead of cycling shorts. It was registered under the name of Alfonsin Strada. Only at the departure everyone realized that she was a woman. For the first time in Italy a woman ran in an important men’s competition. It was 1924. Within a few days she became the darling of the public. It was raining heavily. Alfonsina fell repeatedly. See pierced and repaired several times. At the umpteenth fall her handlebars broke. She arrived at the Perugia finish line with a broomstick instead of a handlebar. She was out of time. In the jury, there were judges who wanted to exclude her from the tour, as required by the regulation, and those who were in favor of letting her continue. That year only 30 cyclists out of 90 managed to finish the Giro d’Italia. Alfonsina was among them.

In the following years she was no longer allowed to participate in the tour. But she followed it anyway for long stages, making friends with champions as a constant Girardengo, in different European countries. She won 36 times against male colleagues and in 1938 in Paris she broke the women’s hour record with 35.28 kilometers. She was 47 years old. In Milan she set up a bicycle repair shop. Until she was too tired to ride and then bought a motorcycle. In these too she was a pioneer. After Alfonsina’s feat, cycling races reserved for women were also established in Italy, but she remained the only one to have participated in the Giro d’Italia together with the men.

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