Though today’s major European stage races like the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France are about as difficult as any form of bike racing, their early incarnations were brutal beasts in ways the modern races are not. Racers would set out for 300km stages over unpaved roads on single speed bikes with little if any organized support along the way. Winning was as much about surviving as anything and the winner would often finish hours ahead of the lanterne rouge. Simply completing these races was an impressive feat. To do so as the only woman in history to race in any of the three Grand Tours elevates Alfonsina Strada to “serious bad ass” status.
Adventure Journal posted a link to the Wikipedia entry on Strada last week. She was a dedicated racer in early 20th-century Italy known for winning nearly every race she entered against women and many of those against men. Her reputation once earned her an invitation to race the Russian Grand Prix. Thanks to some clerical slight-of-hand, Strada was able to enter to enter the 1924 Giro d’Italia.