Vittorio Adorni is a Giro winner and a world champion. This accolades alone are for sure enough to put somebody in the discussion of the best ever. Toss in ten top-10s in the general classifications (GC) of Grand Tours (GT), 11 stage wins in the Giro, a national championship, and several other important victories, and you get an extraordinary career.
Vittorio Adorni turned professional roughly around the time Miguel Poblet retired, so early 1960s. In 1961 he rode his first Giro d’Italia, finishing in a modest 28th place. However, his 4th place in the time trial (stage 9) won by Jacques Anquetil, was a sign of the potential of the Italian rider. He was still only 24 years of age.
The following year Adorni claimed his first stage win in the Giro, arriving solo at Aprica, on stage 15. This was also the first time the Italian would finish a GT in the top-10, placing 5th in the GC, won by fellow Italian Franco Balmamion.
Adorni’s 5th place in 1962 marked his first of seven (1962-1968) straight top-10 placements in the Giro, which included two 2nd place and an overall win in 1965. In fact, this streak wasn’t extended to 1970 because, in 1969, he finished in 12th place. A year later, the final of his career, he once again (narrowly) reclaimed the top-10, finishing his last Giro in exactly 10th place.
In 1963, he improved on his previous result and climbed on the second step of the podium below Franco Balmamion, who repeated as Giro champion. On his way to his first podium in a GT, Adorni won two stages, including a time trial. During that same season, he also finished on the podium of the Liége-Bastogne-Liége (3rd) and in 5th place in the Milano Sanremo.
Despite mostly being known for his consistent performances in GTs, Adorni was also skilled in the classics. Unfortunately, his only major one-day race win was the 1968 world championship. Unfortunately is likely not the best word to describe a rainbow jersey win, but Adorni’s performances in the classics throughout his career deserved more than just one victory. 1963 was just the beginning of what could have been a great classics career that “simply” ended up being a solid one.
One year later, Vittorio Adorni was not able to build upon his podium place in the Giro the year prior and dropped all the way to 4th in the GC. Jacques Anquetil won his second and final Giro that year. The Italian still managed two more stage wins to add to his 4th overall.
Despite the drop in the Giro standings, he picked himself up that same year and achieved his first and only top-10 in the Tour – 10th overall. He had five top-5 results in stages, including in all three time trials (all won by Jacques Anquetil, by the way), but did not manage a stage win. Also in 1964, he repeated his 3rd place in the Liége Bastogne Liége and took the silver medal in the world championship won by Dutchman Jan Janssen. His one-day race career that was plagued by near-misses is beginning to take shape.
Nevertheless, no matter how much disappointment he endured, Vittorio Adorni was about to reach the pinnacle of his career: the 1965 Giro d’Italia victory. He did it with authority too, 11m26s in front of Italo Zilioli, and future Italian megastar Felice Gimondi. Adorni won three stages, including a time trial (Anquetil did not participate in this edition of the Italian GT). As a curiosity, Zilioli’s second place in 1965 was a repeat of 1964. He would repeat it again in 1966. Heartbreaking, no doubt.
Beating Anquetil in a time trial seemed impossible for Adorni until 1966. He claimed his sole stage win in the Giro that year in a time trial, beating the Frenchman for the stage win. This was the bright spot of the Italian’s Giro. He was unable to defend his title, finishing 7th in the GC.
1966 marked the first and only time the Italian would finish the Tour of Flanders, doing so in 9th place. To round out his career in the Monuments, he also finished the 1966 Giro di Lombardia in the top-10 (6th). With these results he finished in the top-10 of all monuments at least once in his career.
The 1966 Giro di Lombardia had possibly the greatest top-7 of the history of the Italian classic – in order: Felice Gimondi, Eddy Merckx, Raymond Poulidor, Jacques Anquetil, Michele Dancelli, Vittorio Adorni, and Italo Zilioli. By this point, the most anonymous of these riders is Dancelli, who is an 11-time Giro stage winner, Milano Sanremo and Fléche Wallone winner. Not a slouch by any means.
As it’s becoming a pattern, 1967 was another year in the top-10 (4th) of the Italian GT and another stage win. And more honorable places in one-day races: 5th in the Liége Bastogne Liége and 3rd in the national championship.
The following year, however, this top-10 and podium curse would be broken. And what a way to break it: Vittorio Adorni was world champion. On Italian soil too. His win happened through a breakaway of nearly 100km and he arrived at the finish 9m50s before the silver medalist, Belgian, Herman Van Springel. Seems like this was the only way for Adorni to make sure that he would win a major one-day race. By escaping with almost 100km to go and getting to the finish nearly 10 minutes before the 2nd.
To that remarkable feat he added his last podium place ever in the Giro (2nd, behind Eddy Merckx and in front of Gimondi) and his first and only top-10 in the Vuelta – 5th. That edition of the Vuelta a España was won by Gimondi.
Vittorio Adorni retired in 1970. During his final two season he finished the Giro in 12th and 10th place, rounding out his ten career-top-10 finishes in GTs. He added another stage win in the Italian GT to his palmarés and won the Tour de Suisse in 1969. That year he also won one of the most important one-day races of his career, taking home the tricolore – the jersey worn by the Italian national champion.
Throughout his career Adorni coincided with many legends of the sport, none more so than Belgian champion Eddy Merckx. In fact, Adorni raced in the early period of the Gimondi-Merckx rivalry, and was teammates with both of them, at different points of his careers. He was in the same as Gimondi in 1965-1966 (Salvarani) and Merckx in 1968 (Faema). There are reports that Adorni acted as a mentor to a young Merckx during their time together, sharing his vast GT experience with the Belgian. In fact, the Eddy Merckx had Vittorio Adorni by his side during his first ever GT win – 1968 Giro d’Italia. As mentioned, the Italian finished this GT in 2nd, which meant a 1-2 double for the Faema team.
Other notable teammates of Adorni included Franco Bitossi, Ercole Baldini, Vito Taccone, Imerio Massignan, or Patrick Sercu. Ir could be said that Adorni mimicked the career of Baldini, given that both have one pink jersey and one rainbow jersey as their main achievements – Baldini won both in 1958.
After retirement, Vittorio was briefly a team manager for the team that he won the Giro with (Salvarani) and later became a commentator in Italian TV. He served in the Union Cycliste Internationale’s Management Committee during Hein Verbruggen’s presidency.
An agreeable champion, liked by everybody. That’s Vittorio Adorni’s legacy. Who wouldn’t want to be remembered like that?