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The history of the Il Lombardia

03/08/2021

Il Lombardia 2020

The race was first organised in 1905, based on an idea by the journalist Tullo Morgagni. Reportedly, the purpose was to give Pierino Albini the chance to confront Giovanni Cuniolo and have his immediate revenge, after being defeated in the Coppa del Re. That first and storied edition was won by Giovanni Gerbi, instead, 40 minutes ahead of Giovanni Rossignoli and Luigi Ganna. La Gazzetta dello Sport has been organising the event since 1907.

For nearly 70 years, when the World Championship were held in late summer, between August and September, the race was referred to as the “Autumn World Championship”. Il Lombardia later lost this special ‘role’ following the UCI’s decision to change the international cycling calendar (scheduling the Giro d’Italia in May, the Vuelta a España in September and the World Championships in October). It continued throughout the First World War, but was stopped in 1943 and in 1944, during World War II.

Until the 2004 season, the Giro di Lombardia was the closing event of the cycling World Cup. From 2005 to 2007, it was the final event on the UCI ProTour calendar. The 100th iteration was held in 2006, and victory went to Paolo Bettini, one of the six riders who succeeded in winning the Lombardia right after nailing the world title (the other five being Alfredo Binda, Tom Simpson, Eddy Merckx, Felice Gimondi, Giuseppe Saronni and Oscar Camenzind).

Fausto Coppi holds the record for the most wins of the race, with five overall (including four in a row), followed by Alfredo Binda with four, and by Henri Pélissier, Costante Girardengo, Gaetano Belloni, Gino Bartali, Sean Kelly and Damiano Cunego with three. Bartali also holds the record for the most podium placements, nine overall, having finished in first three times, in second four times, and twice in third.

The evolution of the route through the years

The route changed repeatedly over the years, but the iconic climb leading from Bellagio all the way to the tiny sanctuary of Our Lady of Ghisallo – the patron saint of cycling – has been the symbol of the race since forever. Equally legendary is the Muro di Sormano, which featured on the route from 1960 to 1962, and was later reintroduced in 2012. Traditional finish locations include Milano, Como (for the first time in 1961), Monza and Bergamo (in the late 1990s). From 2004 to 2010, the finish was moved back to the lakefront in Como, with one last punchy bit a few kilometres before the closing – the Valfresca, near San Fermo della Battaglia. From 2011 to 2013, the race finished, quite uncommonly, in Lecco. Bergamo and Como took turns in hosting the finish from 2014 to 2018, and Como was then confirmed for 2019 and 2020.

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