I remember, in 1992, watching Clas’ Tony Rominger win the Tour of Lombardy, churning a huge gear along a straight, flat road to the finish for kilometre after kilometre; even Duffers was lost for words.
Like that font of cycling wisdom Viktor would say; “Watchin’ paint dry!” It’s different now – the finale is frantic. Ghisallo, Civiglio, Battaglia… there’s no room for error and no time to relax.
It’s 44 kilometres from the bottom of the Ghisallo to the finish, beside the Lake in Como.
We watched it on Italian TV in the café at the top of the climb, after we’d seen the real deal. For that afternoon, the cente of world cycling is the Ghisallo.
Some of the worlds most dedicated fans (outside of Flanders, naturally) are up there. There’s the cyclists’ chapel, the cycling museum, and the views really have to be seen to be believed, and of course, there’s the race.
It’s like Stephen Roche says; “You can’t win the race here, but you can loose it.”
If you’re not with the “capos” over the top then you have to be a demon descender or there’s no chance you can win. Tosatto lead past us, but he had been in the break of the day and was tiring; when Kroon caught him on the Civiglio – he was finished.
It’s hard to pick out all the favourites in a situation like there is on the Ghisallo, with the cars, motorbikes, spectators and excitement, but I clocked Schleck, looking very strong, and Cunego looking very determined. Sanchez wasn’t having fun, but his fearless drop off the top got him out of jail.
Ricco was the man of the finale, but he’s too extravagant with his efforts – which suited Cunego just fine.
Coming into the sprint, it looked like the two had blown it, but the chasers were messing around even more than the two little fugitives and it was Cunego all the way.
But if RiccÃ³ doesn’t come a cropper, and continues up the curve he’s described this year, then he’ll win a big one in 2008, ‘for sure!’.
The course has to be seen to be appreciated. Apart from the climbs, the roads between the ascents are small, twisting and demanding of total concentration. “Monument” is the right word for this race, it sounds corny, but there is magic in the air.
Maybe it’s just because I worship Tom Simpson, but I’ve never felt more aware of his legacy or more admiration for him than I did over the weekend, and that’s despite the Italians ignoring his brilliant win, in the museum and getting the date of his success wrong in the race brochure – 1964 instead of 1965.
Talking of 1964, the winner that year was Gianni Motta; who this year rode the Fonda around Lombardy on the Sunday after the race. He was at the Giro too, one of the big banks had him and Francesco Moser kitted-out in their clothing and they were around the start each day for autographs and photos.
Moser lapped it up, but Motta is a little more reserved character. Scotland’s Adam Syme rode the Fondo too, we tried to catch up with each other on the Saturday night, but I was having a nervous breakdown with Italian internet connectivity and failing miserably to get my pictures away.
I rang him again early on the Sunday morning, but his mobile was off – not surprising with a run through the mountains of Lombardy with 1700 others, all mounted on the best bikes that euros can buy – ahead of him. We caught-up with each other on Sunday, but by that time I was in Tuscanny.
Apart from the traffic and internet hassles, which I’ve already ranted about on Pez, I found the media coverage of the race to be disappointing. The TV feed was late and coverage finished very soon after the podium presentation.
The Gazzetta’s front pages barely acknowledged the race and cycling coverage is way-back inside; behind page after page of football and Formula One.
For the Tour of Flanders, the Belgian papers have eight-page full-colour pull-outs covering the route, past winners, the favourites, and just about everything you could ever wish to know about the race.
But I’m known to rant. This is one of the races which makes our sport special, so if you’re a serious fan, make sure you see Lombardy and Milan – San Remo live before you die, you’ll thank me for this advice, one day.