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Milano - Sanremo
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Written by Wicky (2005-03-01 00:00)
Translated by DZI (2006-01-09 15:46:00)

This used to be the opening race of the Worldcup season, up to the introduction of the ProTour. The longest one day race, but more importantly, the one every Italian dreams about to have on their palmares. This race originated in 1907. Eugenio Costamagna, general manager of La Gazetto dello Sport, entered a local café in San Remo during his holiday. By chance he talked to some of the locals and the idea of a local race was born. The area needed the publicity, he needed a new race because the local automobile race was a farce at the time. Due to very bad road conditions only two out of 30 cars made it to the finishline. So the descision was made to send some cyclists to scout the road for compatibility.

In this way a new race was born on the 14th of april the same year. The first edition of Milan – San Remo was won by Lucien Petit-Breton, who also won the Tour de France later that same year.

For decades the “Passo del Turchino” is the main obstacle in the route. This mountain provided the scenery for great finales and heroic victories. Eugčne Christophe was the one who probably had to endure the worst weather in 1910. In really awful conditions he manages to cross the mountainpass, which is covered in 20 centimetres of snow! At that time it didn’t matter to him, he had a lead on the number two, Giovanni Cocchi, of more than one hour. Afterwards he probably regretted it, for he was hospitalised for more than a month and it took him two years to get back to his former level of cycling.

A very special victory is Fausto Coppi’s one in 1946. All the riders declare Coppi mentally unstable when he jumps at the 50 km mark. Soon after, he overtakes the lead group to head the field with more than 145 kilometres to go. Fausto stays ahead and no-one is able to catch him. His solo gets him a herioc victory, leaving his chasers 14 minutes behind him.

Alas, the “sting” is taken out of the race. The Turchino is no longer responsible for great climbs and sprinters, all of a sudden, take victories in Milan – San Remo. In 1960 this changes again. The race organisation determines a new obstacle should be integrated in the route. Only a few kilometres before the finishline the Poggio di San Remo now provides the scenery of this race’s finale. With only a short ascending route, this climb is an ideal moment to launch an attack, thus preventing the sprintfinish. Still the race remained to be a “sprintersrace”. To add more spectacle “la Cipressa” was included into the route in 1982. The Capi Berta, Mele and Cervo have also found their way into the race. Still, the finish at the Via Roma regularly ends up in a sprint. Plans are being made to include a steeper climb into the race now.

But despite a major chance of a sprintfinish, “La Primavera” has it’s share of big names on the winnerstable. Few exceptions excluded, many great champions of cycling have got their names on the leaderboard. Fausto Coppi, Roger de Vlaeminck, Alfredo Binda all are great names in the list. Though, none of these riders come close to the greatest champion of all, Eddy Merckx. He actually won this race seven times, although Constante Girardengo came close with six victories in San Remo. Merckx’s record will probably stand for years to come, if not decades...

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