Il Lombardia has forever been linked to the name of Fausto Coppi, ‘the Heron’, who holds the record for the most wins, with a tally of five.
Only one of these – the last one, back in 1954 – came down to a closing sprint.
All his other victories followed the script that came naturally to him: he would drop all his opponents on the way up, soloing over the finish line.
In 1947, he bridged across to Fiorenzo Magni, dropping him along the Valbrona, and landing a masterful win at the Arena Civica in Milan, after a 70‑km solo breakaway, 5’24” ahead of Gino Bartali.
In 1948, when he clipped off, the finish was still 83 km away. From there onwards, his lead increased steadily, becoming unbridgeable after he cleared the 8.8 km of the Ghisallo ascent in the new record time of 25’20”.
He crossed the finish line at the Vigorelli velodrome nearly 5’ ahead of the first “human” contenders, Leoni and Schär.
In 1949, he was first again at the top of the Ghisallo, ahead of Molineris, who failed to hold his wheel along the descent. Coppi was left alone with 56 km out, and so he continued all the way to the Vigorelli velodrome, where he finished 2’52” ahead of a small chasing peloton – with Kübler and Logli at the fore.
As we have said, 1954 was the only year when attacking along the ascents was not enough for him to secure victory. Anyhow, the Campionissimo kept his cool and caught his breath, waiting for the closing sprint, which he masterfully controlled ahead of Magni and De Rossi.