Photos by Kristof Ramon
Words by Beppe Conti - Editor of LA PASSIONE
That sweet hill overlooking the city of Sanremo will always be linked to the classic opening of the great cycing year, the Milano-Sanremo. That sweet hill is the Poggio.After the war, Vincenzo Torriani, discovered and inserted it as he took over the organization of the Giro d'Italia, the Milan- Sanremo and of other races owned by the Gazzetta dello Sport, succeeding to Armando Cougnet.Vincenzo Torriani had realized that the Milan-Sanremo at the end of the '50s had become too easy and it was not selective anymore, it was not spectacular as the cyclers where trained with a remarkable series of other previous challenges, from the winter in the velodrome and to intense and targeted specific training. In 1959, in fact, something happened that horrified the patron and many other cycling enthusiasts. The Milan-Sanremo that Fausto Coppi had won in 1946 with an advantage of 15 minutes, and the rest, almost a hundred runners, played in the sprints. That had never happened before. And that was a historic Sanremo, the number 50, which was then called the "nozze d'oro". At the sight of the great sprinters of those days (the Spaniard Miguel Poblet who defeated Rik Van Steenbergen in the Sanremo 1959 and had already won in 1957; Van Looy first in 1958 as well as the other Belgian, world champion French Dedè Darrigade), the Italians did not know how to win our most glamorous spring race. Therefore, there it came the invention of Torriani, the insertion of the Poggio in the grand final since Capo Berta, so far the finish line of Via Roma, could not be an expedient of selection anymore. The Poggio is a gentle hill that from the 60's features the grand finale of the race, and in those first few seasons made the fortune of some French riders. That first season served as a springboard for René Privat, winner in Sanremo. In 1961 was the same for Raymond Poulidor, who threatened to derail everything: he was at the top with a slight advantage thanks to his sprint on the hill. When he arrived at the fountain of Sanremo, at the beginning of the straight finishline road in Via Roma, he went the wrong way and took the detour of the flagships . He got shouted at and went back on the right path and won for 3'', completely exhausted, hunting his pursuers, as the world champion Van Looy and the other sprinters who were reaching him. A Frenchman, Joseph Groussard, won even in 1963. Then Merckx came (seven victories out of nine races, from 1966 to 1976) and the Poggio soon became a fantastic scenery for his performances. Uphill and downhill. A important point, that gave to every season strong emotions, in accordance with a script of a challenge of a kind. There is not another great classic so compelling and fascinating as the Sanremo, for the simple reason that when you are on the hill, a few miles from the landing in the city, yet you do not know who will win. Certainly the hill has not favored the Italian runners for a long time, as Vincenzo Torriani would have liked. Michele Dancelli finally won Sanremo in 1970, after 17 years of losses, thanks to a sprint began with some racers from Novi Ligure, and then continued on his own from Loano. Somehow, after some years, the Poggio could not ensure the right selection in the grand final due to the fact that the season of cycling was starting at the beginning of February, with some day races, as well as many small and short stage weekly races. Torriani decided to add another correction: he inserted a new climb of Cipressa, before the Poggio, from Aurelia in San Lorenzo al Mare, 5 km of ascent, 4 km descent, and then back to the traditional route, 20 km to the end. Recently some people talk about new other changes, such as inland climbs of the steep part of the Mania. But it would be wrong to distort a challenge which remains unique over time with its own characteristics. Certanly this race is linked to that gentle hill, that over time has become a reference point for all fans. Il Poggio.