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The toughest Sanremo ever

23/02/2021

La Milano-Sanremo è la prima Classica Monumento della stagione, e storicamente inaugura la primavera del ciclismo mondiale

3 April 1910.

Milano-Sanremo, the first monument classic of the season, has been the opener of the springtime cycling season worldwide since forever.

More than once, however, winter had not left yet. So did it in 1910, which was remembered as one of the toughest editions in history.

Sixty-three riders kicked off from Milan under a laden sky, way before the sunrise.

It started to rain in Pavia, then the rain turned to hail in Tortona, and eventually it turned to snow as the peloton was negotiating the Passo del Turchino, heading for Ovada.

Legend has it that Cyrille Van Houwaert – who at that time was leading the race, solo – came across a couple of skiers along the pass. It makes you wonder whether he or the two of them were the most shocked.

 

Along the descent, Van Houwaert – nearly frozen to death – decided to call it a day. He sought refuge in a house and withdrew from the race.

Eugène Christophe, too, took shelter in a hotel after clearing the descent, only to continue racing after he saw four riders zip by through the window. He caught and dropped them all, soloing into Sanremo 12 hours and 24 minutes after setting off from Milan.

Giovanni Cocchi, the runner-up, came through after 1 hour and one minute, and Giovanni Marchese took third place 1 hour and 17 minutes later.

Only 4 riders out 63 arrived at the finish in what might be termed the toughest ‘Classicissima’ ever.

Back in the pioneering era, bicycle races were not like the ones we are now used to. They were more like long-distance randonnées, in which the sense of adventure and adaptability were as important as (and sometimes even more important than) strong legs. Maybe this is why we love them so much.

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