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5 iconic climbs telling the tale of Il Lombardia: Schignano

24/08/2021

Il Lombardia 1972: Eddy Merchx inizia la sua fuga solitaria sulla salita di Schignano che lo porterà alla vittoria

This is the story of a climb that hasn’t been used for several years now, but which often proved decisive in the past.

This is a story that took place along the climb of Schignano – 6.1 km at a 6% gradient – on October 7, 1972, on the 66th edition of the Giro di Lombardia.

Despite some immediate attacks and counterattacks, the favourites – Merckx, Gimondi and De Vlaeminck among them – were in control of the situation.

Merckx started setting the pace at the foot of the Passo d’Intelvi. Gimondi struggled, losing ground to the front of the race. Only Lazcano, Poulidor, Ritter, Verbeeck, De Geest and G. Pettersson continued along with Merckx.

Together, they cleared the Passo d’Intelvi (with 58 kilometres remaining to the finish) 15” ahead of the chasers. Gimondi pushed up the pace along the descent, and the peloton eventually caught up with the break.

In Argegno, at the foot of the climb that is the setting of our story, 19 riders were still at the front – a few too many for Gimondi. The time had come to whittle down the competition, he thought.

So here is what happened.

Shortly before the ascent, Merckx called his team car to have his saddle fixed, and that was when Gimondi attacked. The front group splintered.

Having realized how pivotal this moment was, Merckx pushed on, full throttle, and dropped the ‘insubordinate’ Gimondi. Only Lazcano and Ritter managed to keep up with him. Verbeeck tried to follow, but to no avail. Gimondi struggled, and De Vlaeminck didn’t even try.

The “Cannibal” held on, attacking repeatedly and – finally – continuing alone.

His lead increased steadily, reaching around 2’ by the time he merged onto the lakefront.

Houbrechts and Guimard, together with Gimondi, Verbeeck, Zoetemelk and Delisle, attempted to chase him down, but as the race took the first pass through Como, the breakaway rider was still 1’40” up the road.

Along the San Fermo, the final climb, all Merckx had to do was to manage his lead. He entered the Senigallia stadium and took a final, triumphant lap around the track.

Guimard and Gimondi took second and third place, respectively, 1’27” behind him, on a very rough day with 158 starters and as little as 17 finishers.

The ramps of the climb of Schignano served as a springboard for Merckx to seal his second (and last) victory at the Giro di Lombardia. Although no longer that famous, therefore, this ascent deserves to be remembered.

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