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Five iconic climbs telling the tale of Il Lombardia: Coppi and the Ghisolfa flyover

26/08/2021

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.

This, however, is the tale of another edition and of another climb: the one that earned Coppi his first victory at the Lombardia, in 1946.

The country was coming back to life after the war and cycling too was playing its part in rebuilding and sustaining the national spirit.

The 46th edition of the Giro di Lombardia took place on October 27, 1946.

The route, 231 km overall, started from the Boldinasco shooting range, and finished – as customary – at the Vigorelli Velodrome in Milan.

Coppi stepped up the pace along the Ghisallo, as he would always do in the future, leaving his chasers behind. Along the descent, however, Motta and his team‑mate Casola managed to bridge across to him. The leading trio arrived in Milan over 1’ ahead of the peloton.

Just when the race seemed to come down to a closing sprint, Coppi took advantage of the last topographical impediment of the day – a ramp so short that it was not even an actual climb – as if it were a true Dolomite ascent: the Ghisolfa flyover.

Coppi kicked clear, as Casola sat up, hesitating a little, and Motta did not respond.

The ‘heron’ immediately gained a few hundred metres, which will be enough for him to solo into the Vigorelli, taking the first of his 4 consecutive wins at the Giro di Lombardia.

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