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Five iconic climbs telling the tale of Il Lombardia: Bettini and Civiglio

21/09/2021

Paolo Bettini won his first Giro di Lombardia in 2005, outsprinting Gilberto Simoni and Fränk Schleck.

He kicked clear along the Civiglio, the second to last ascent of the day, making a real difference together with Simoni.

Along the descent, he was caught up by Schleck first, and then by Caruso. By the time the race reached the finish in Como, however, ‘the cricket’ had dropped everybody else. No contest.

The following year, on the 100th running of the Giro di Lombardia, he took the start wearing the most coveted number, “1”, over the World Champion jersey that he had won in Salzburg twenty days before, ahead of Zabel and Valverde.

However, there was a different reason which made that day so special.

Ten days before, the Tuscan ace had lost his brother, Sauro. He thought of retiring, but ultimately decided he would race for him that day.

The decisive feature of the race, which started in Mendrisio that year, was once again the Civiglio ascent: 2,200 metres, averaging 8%. At the summit, the finish line would still be 15 kilometres away.

After the break was over, ten riders – all the best ones – remained at the fore, including Di Luca, Bettini, Rebellin, Schleck, Moreni, Wegmann and Boogerd.

A little into the climb, Di Luca tried to break away, but was brought back swiftly by Rebellin and Wegmann.

Bettini caught everybody off guard when he put the hammer down, pushing the big gear and dropping his opponents on the way to the summit.

Di Luca sat up, suffering the blow. Rebellin continued along at a solid tempo, but was soon caught up by the chasing peloton.

Despite continuing to push, solo, along the descent leading to Como, Bettini was caught up by Wegmann in the short flat stretch before the closing ascent to San Fermo della Battaglia.

At the base of the climb, at 7 kilometres out, the two were 20’’ up the road.

Clenching his teeth, gurning and enduring the pain, Wegmann tried to keep pace with the World Champion, only to give in shortly after. That’s when Bettini kicked clear, alone.

He cleared the summit 12’’ ahead of the German rider, who was brought back by Samuel Sánchez shortly after.

And then he continued to push along the descent, fiercely and alone, into the final kilometre on the waterfront in Como. A few seconds tumbled off his advantage, but nobody could rob him of such a perfect day.

Paolo Bettini crossed the finish line crying, pointing at the sky.

“This is my biggest and most beautiful victory. Never again will I ride alone, I know”, he said after this stunning achievement. Just like the year before, the ramps leading to Civiglio proved to be decisive for his final success.

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