Standing on the top step at the end of a grueling three weeks worth of Grand Tour racing is the dream of every professional cyclist.

Reaching that step means never having to buy another beer for the rest of your life. It means juicy sponsorship deals. It means invites to end-of-season criteriums.

More than any of that, it means becoming immortal with your name engraved on the trophy forever. This is what drives every professional athlete, cyclist or not. They sacrifice everything to win that Tour de France trophy.

Just as each of the Grand Tours has its own culture and feel, each of the trophies here helps to tell the story and the history of the race and the culture of the country.

In this article, we look at the trophies of the grand tours and try to decide which is the best of them all. Along the way, we will look at the inspiration behind the trophies and the stories contained within them.

© A.S.O./Pauline Ballet

Giro d’Italia Trophy: Trofeo Senza Fine

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Let’s start with the first Grand Tour in the racing calendar and the real favorite amongst real cycling fans. Alongside the iconic pink jersey, the winner of the Giro d’Italia gets to raise the famous Trofeo Senza Fine, Italian for the “Trophy Without End”.

Like almost everything in Italy, it is a thing of beauty.

Despite the huge technological leaps in the professional peloton, the Grand Tours reflect the great tradition of cycling, of man against nature. It is why we love the sport for all its many flaws. It knows where it came from and stands on the shoulders of pioneers.

The Trofeo Senza Fine is no different. Since 1999, when the design was first conceived, the trophy has been handcrafted in the small village of Padova in the north-east of Italy.

Back then, Fabrizio Galli won a competition run by the Italian Institute of Copper. Designing it was one thing but building it was another challenge altogether. Like the trophy itself, the costs spiraled.

It takes a whole month to make the trophy, a week longer than it takes the riders to cover the grueling race itself. The copper is first rounded to remove the sharp edges and then given its first lick of polish.

Heat is then applied to soften the metal and make it easier to wind into the iconic spiral shape.

It is cut to size before the names of the past winners are etched on with a laser, with the past winners snaking up from the base to the last space reserved for the as-yet-unknown winner of the race.

After all of that, the finished trophy stands at 54 centimeters and weighs a hefty 9.5 kg, which is almost as heavy as the bikes in the peloton! The trophy has not been built with the skinny arms of your typical mountain goat Grand Tour winner in mind.

Maker and trophy travel together on the last day of the race to ensure that the name of the winner is engraved in time for it to be lifted at the presentations and so the winner can see what it feels like to read their name alongside the greats that came before them.

Taking off my helmet and putting on my art critic hat (perhaps a beret), the endless spiral of the Trofeo Senza Fine evokes images of the infinite mountain roads that make the Giro d’Italia so brutal.

Roads that have no right to be built on the side of mountains. Roads that never end. Roads that split the race into a million pieces.

Whether by accident or design, the spiral suggests the famous double-helix DNA structure. A nod perhaps to the outright superhuman qualities of the riders etched on the trophy.

The fact that the most recent winners of the Giro are engraved at the top of the trophy neatly pays homage to a sport built on the shoulders of the giants that came before.

The bikes might be different and the riders are no longer fortified with wine but they all overcame the most brutal test of the body and spirit.

Tour de France Trophy: Coupe Omnisports

Tadej Pogacar holds the 2021 Tour de France trophy.
© A.S.O./Pauline Ballet

Everyone knows that the winner of the Tour de France gets to don the famous maillot jaune (yellow jersey). So iconic is the jersey that it tends to overshadow the trophy that goes alongside it, the Coupe Omnisports.

As the name suggests, the trophy was commissioned in 1971 by then president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing to celebrate the best athletes across the board, and not just Tour de France winners.

The trophy presented to Tour winners today is made from ceramic at the Manufacture National de Sèvres, just outside of Paris on the banks of the Seine.

This isn’t just any porcelain, but some of the finest in the world. It was fit for the royal courts of Louis XV back in 1759 and graces state dinners at the Elysée today.

The stately ceramic is formed into a deep chalice that wouldn’t look out of place at the first Olympics in Athens. The 24-carat gold details contrast beautifully against the deep blue.

The trophy has been handed to the winner of the Tour de France since 1975. Some say it started then to mark the first time the Tour finished on the cobbles of the Champs-Élysées.

Some people suggest it was because it was the year that a Frenchman finally defeated the immortal Eddy Merckx.

A new trophy was a fitting way to mark a restoration of the natural order and a Frenchman finally back in yellow after eight long years.

The most obvious, but exceptionally hard way, to get your hands on the Coupe Omnisport is to simply turn up and win the Tour de France. Another way is to steal it from a past winner, as happened to Geraint Thomas after he loaned his Tour de France trophy to a bike show.

Someone out there has the most prestigious cycling trophy of them all without having turned a pedal! It takes cheating on a Strava KOM to a whole new level. Too bad that they probably can’t show anyone.

Alongside the main Coupe Omnisports trophy, all jersey winners at the end of the Tour de France get presented with a beautiful lead crystal trophy by Czech car manufacturer and long-time Tour de France sponsor ŠKODA.

The designs change subtly every year but the same graceful shape remains. ŠKODA might be known for their reliable and utilitarian cars, but the trophies however are anything but.

This secondary trophy is arguably just as beautiful than the main winner’s trophy, and much better at holding a celebratory beer!

Vuelta a España Trophy

Sepp Kuss holds the Vuelta a Espana trophy.
© Rafa Gomez/SprintCyclingAgency

Coming in at the end of the racing calendar, the Vuelta a España represents a last-chance saloon for the riders to rescue their seasons and get their hands on some silverware.

It makes sense that in a land with arguably the best-stocked larder of the three, the Vuelta a España trophy resembles a large plate. It would make an ideal canvas for some Spanish charcuterie, especially at the end of the hottest Grand Tour of the lot.

The Royal Glass Factory of La Granja (La Real Fábrica de Cristales de la Granja) has made the trophy since 2008, but the roots of the factory go back to Philip V of Spain back in 1727.

The large crystal plate itself represents a bicycle wheel with the names of past winners fanning out from the center to represent the spokes. The modern version has red enamel at the center of the plate to emphasize the color of the race winner’s jersey.

The last spoke remains empty until the last day of the race when it is etched on location.

Which Is The Best Cycling Grand Tour Trophy?

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Let’s not sit here and pretend that there isn’t an obvious winner here.

The Tour de France might be the biggest cycling race in the world and the one known by even the most casual of cycling fans but even its trophy looks on jealously at the Trofeo Senza Fine presented to the man in pink at the end of the Giro d’Italia.

The Trofeo Senza Fine is iconic. It fuses the story of the race with the bold yet elegant swagger of Italian design. It somehow manages to tell the story of the race. A bowl and a plate were never really in the race.

Unlike the trophies from the Tour de France or the Vuelta a España with their regal traditions and state-backed seal of approval, the Trofeo Senza Fine is hammered and bent into shape in a small village using muscle and artisanal skill.

The dedication to making the Trofeo Senza Fine is the same dedication that it takes to win the biggest bike races.

The Giro d’Italia is the race that the real cycling fans love to watch. It is brutal, unpredictable, and shorn of the publicity that can sometimes burden the Tour de France. It is fitting then that it is also the race that has the best trophy.

Every true cycling fan knows its curves and that it is as idiosyncratic as the great race itself.

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