Saturday, February 4, 2012

Venerable Milano-Torino Returns...

Guiseppe Olmo, winner in 1932

The oldest of the Italian classics makes a return to the racing calendar this season, after a four year absence from the professional schedule. The nearly 200 km long race, was last run in 2007 when it was won by Italian Danilo Di Luca, and will slot into the calendar on September 26, three days before the final classic of the year, the Giro di Lombardia (Race of the Falling Leaves). Technically classified as a semi-classic race, Milano-Torino was first run in 1876 when it was contested by eight riders and won by engineering student Paolo Magretti. Over the years many of the most prominent racers in the sport have added Milano-Torino to their palmares, including Henri Pelissier, Ferdi Kubler, Gianni Mota, Roger de Vlaeminck, Giuseppe Saronni, Francesco Moser, Phil Anderson, Gianni Bugno, Laurent Jalabert, and Michele Bartoli. Costante Girardengo holds the record for the most wins, with five, captured between 1914 and 1923. The most recent multi-winner has been Mirko Celestino, who won in 2001 and 2003. Infamously, the race may be best known recently as the location of Marco Pantani's crash into a vehicle mistakenly allowed onto the course in 1995. Pantani suffered multiple leg breaks which caused him to sit out the entire 1996 season.

memorial to the late Marco Pantani

Interestingly the race traditionally (up until 1987) was held in March where it served as preparation for Milan-San Remo, which was raced seven day later. Between 1987 and 2005 the race was given an October date in an attempt to avoid the inclement weather characteristic of northern Italy during the early part of the year. The 2006 and 2007 editions returned to their traditional spot on the calendar - March. Both dates, either March or October (now September), would seem to be ideal, as lead-ins to major races. Hopefully, by settling in to a consistent spot in the racing schedule Milano-Torino will regain its status in the hierarchy of the peloton.

Vladimiro Panizza, racing for the Brooklyn Chewing Gum Team winning the race in 1975

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