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Giro di Lombardia
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History

Written by Wicky (2009-09-21 00:00)
Translated by Tommy Ventoux (2009-09-21 00:00:00)

Just like in the good old days before the Protour, the Tour of Lombardy is the last Classic of the season. In the Race of the Dead Leaves (also known as Course of the Falling Leaves), the fresh new World Champion gets a chance to show his rainbow jersey to the public. During the cycling world cup era, the Giro di Lombardia often proofed to be decisive for the final ranking of this classical course cup battle.

From its’ early existence the Tour of Lombardy is highly valued, both in Italy and abroad.
Because it’s highly regarded, there’s always a high standard of quality among the participating riders. Normally, the race ends up in a battlefield, in which the strongest rider often will survive and cross the finish line first.

In 1905, Giovanni Gerbi’s idea of a late autumn cycling contest is realised for the first time. That year The Tour of Lombardy is making its’ debut on the cycling calendar and won by Gerbi, a very good cyclist, himself. On November 12 and under extremely bad circumstances he reaches Milan with the exceptional lead of more than forty minutes over the exhausted number two, Giovanni Rossignoli.

As the season ends the cyclists have to endure some serious climbing in the Lombardy mountains. In contrast with other classic races the Tour of Lombardy’s racing circuit has been changed several times throughout the years. Como and especially the city of Bergamo have hosted the arrival the last decade. In general, the race circuit is situated in the mountains surrounding the Lake of Como.

Even more often than the finish line, the town of departure and the track through the hills and mountains has been changed to further improve the race. The only climb to survive all those changes is the famous Madonna del Ghisallo. This mountain has become a symbol for the Italians, who historically link the monstrous climb with five times winner Fausto Coppi.
The road to the top has an average ascending percentage of 6.2%. This average however is a bit on the downside, because there’s a rather flat part in the middle of the climb.
Whatever mountains are included in the race, the climbs provide in a spectacular race each year. Towards the end of the season and with most riders dreaming about the winter break, only the best can show their skills one more time.

The Tour of Lombardy used to be one of the World Cup races, and provided the final general classification of that competition. The predecessor of the World Cup was known as the Super Prestige, and of course the Tour of Lombardy was one of the highlights of that competition too.

In 1978, Italian Francesco Moser wins the race after a combine of Italian teams was formed to prevent Frenchman Bernard Hinault from winning. However, the very next year Hinault gets his revenge sportsmanlike. In heavy weather, Hinault sets up an heroic early attack with Silvano Contini that will make it to the finish where Hinault beats him in the sprint, winning this race and the Super Prestige competition as well, while previous winner Moser had to settle for an anonymously 14th place.

Especially Italians love the race. The early “Campionissimo” tried very hard to win the Tour of Lombardy, which was one of their main goals for the season. Their ambition can easily be found by taking a closer look at the race’s list of winners. Binda, Belloni, Bartali and Girardengo all won the race 3 times or more. Fausta Coppi holds the record with an unequalled five victories.

In 2005, the Race of Lombardy celebrated its’ 100th anniversary. Excluding 1943 & 1944, the race was held every year so far. 2007 will landmark the 100th time this classic is organised. By now, the race has transformed from a ProTour to a Historical UCI race.


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