The 1974 Giro d'Italia was the 58th running of the Giro d'Italia, one of cycling's Grand Tours races. The Giro started in Vatican City, on 16 May, with a 164 km (102 mi) stage and concluded in Milan, on 8 June, with 257 km (160 mi) leg. A total of 140 riders from fourteen teams entered the 22-stage race, that was won by Belgian Eddy Merckx of the Molteni team. The second and third places were taken by Italians Gianbattista Baronchelli and Felice Gimondi, respectively. Merckx's victory in the 1974 Giro was his first step in completing the Triple Crown of Cycling – winning the Giro d'Italia, the Tour de France, and the World Championship road race in one calendar year – becoming the first rider ever to do so.
Amongst the other classifications that the race awarded, Brooklyn's Roger De Vlaeminck won the points classification and José Manuel Fuente of KAS won the mountains classification. KAS finished as the winners of the team points classification.
A total of fourteen teams were invited to participate in the 1974 Giro d'Italia. Each team sent a squad of ten riders, which meant that the race started with a peloton of 140 cyclists. Three riders from Rokado did not start the race after enrolling, which reduced the starting field to 137. From the riders that began this edition, 96 made it to the finish Milan.
The teams entering the race were:
Reigning champion and four-time winner Eddy Merckx returned to the race in 1974 to defend his crown. He arrived to the race the day before after racing in the Four Days of Dunkirk. Merckx came into the Giro d'Italia after not having won a single spring classic for the first time since 1965. In March, he was forced to take a rest from cycling due to a respiratory ailment. Merckx gradually returned to racing after beating the illnes in late March, and writer Giuliano Califano stated that several experts found him to be in great form coming into the Giro.
José Manuel Fuente was thought to have entered the Giro in good form after winning the Vuelta a España weeks earlier. l'Unita interviewed several of the riders and many named Merckx as the favorite to take the victory. Gino Sala named Baronchelli, Battaglin, and Moser as three young riders who have the potential to become stars during the race. The peloton also featured 1971 winner Gösta Pettersson. Giuliano Califano of La Stampa believed that Merckx's biggest rival would be reigning world champion Felice Gimondi. Amidst rumors of not participating, Luis Ocaña confirmed three days before the start that he would not be racing this edition of the Giro.
The route for the 1974 edition of the Giro d'Italia was revealed to the public by race director Vincenzo Torriani on 29 March 1974. It contained one were individual time trial. There were eleven stages containing twenty three categorized climbs, of which four had summit finishes: stage 11a, to Il Cioccio; stage 16, to Monte Generoso; stage 18, to Borgo Valsugana; and stage 20, to Tre Cime di Lavaredo. In total the race route contained 26.78 km (17 mi) of official climbing across the twenty-three climbs. The organizers chose to include two rest days, in Capri and Sanremo. When compared to the previous year's race, the race was 200 km (124 mi) longer, lacked a prologue, and had the same number of rest days and individual time trials. In addition, this race contained two more stages, as well as one more set of half stages. In Italy, the race was televised daily in thirty-minute segments at during the evening on the second channel of RAI. The race, however, was still to be broadcast normally over radio.
Upon the release of the route in March, La Stampa writer Gianni Pignata believed that the first leg of the split eleventh stage, to Il Cioccio, along with stages 20 and 21, which featured eight total climbs in the Dolomites, would be decisive in determining the race's winner. Pignata believed this edition of the Giro d'Italia was geared towards climbers. He added that if a rider wanted to best Merckx, he would need to make his move earlier in the race and not wait for the Dolomites, as Merckx would likely be in top form by then. After looking over the race route, Italian rider Marino Basso stated that there were few opportunities for sprinters to try and win a stage. Two-time winner Felice Gimondi felt the race started off hard and agreed with Pignata and Basso, in that the race favored climbers and lacked chances for sprint finishes. He stated that the route suited the riding styles of Luis Ocaña, Eddy Merckx, and José Manuel Fuente. In addition, Gimondi criticized Torriani for placing a rest day in after the third day of racing, stating that there was no justification for it there.
The first day of racing was gearing up to finish with a bunch sprint, when neo-professional cyclist Wilfried Reybrouck attacked with 400 meters to go. Reybrouck managed to hold off the chasing sprinters Roger De Vlaeminck and Marino Basso, among others to win the stage. A strike had been rumored to happen on the race route near Naples, which caused the riders to stick together and not attack. The pack of riders finished together, with Belgian Patrick Sercu taking the stage victory.
Three different jerseys were worn during the 1974 Giro d'Italia. The leader of the general classification – calculated by adding the stage finish times of each rider, and allowing time bonuses for the first three finishers on mass-start stages – wore a pink jersey. This classification is the most important of the race, and its winner is considered as the winner of the Giro.
For the points classification, which awarded a purple (or cyclamen) jersey to its leader, cyclists were given points for finishing a stage in the top 15; additional points could also be won in intermediate sprints. The green jersey was awarded to the mountains classification leader. In this ranking, points were won by reaching the summit of a climb ahead of other cyclists. Each climb was ranked as either first, second or third category, with more points available for higher category climbs. The Cima Coppi, the race's highest point of elevation, awarded more points than the other first category climbs. The Cima Coppi for this Giro was the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. The first rider to cross the Tre Cime di Lavaredo was Spanish rider José Manuel Fuente.
Although no jersey was awarded, there was also one classification for the teams, in which the awarded points to each team based off their riding's finishing position in every stage; the leading team was the one with the most points.
The rows in the following table correspond to the jerseys awarded after that stage was run.
This victory in the race gave Merckx five career victories at the Giro d'Italia, equaling the record of Alfredo Binda and Fausto Coppi. In July, Merckx entered the Tour de France. He emerged victorious, winning eight stage en route to his fifth career Tour victory, again equaling the record for career Tour victories. He won the Tour by a margin of eight minutes and four seconds over the second-place finisher and thus became the only cyclist to win the Giro and Tour in the same year three times in a career. In August, he won the men's road race at the 1974 UCI Road World Championships and became the first rider to achieve the Triple Crown of Cycling, which consists of winning two Grand Tour races and the men's road race at the UCI Road World Championships in a calendar year. For his career successes in the Giro d'Italia, Merckx became the first rider inducted into the race's Hall of Fame in 2012. When being inducted, Merckx was given the modern-day trophy with the winners engraved until 1974, the last year he won the race.