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Giro di Lombardia 1968: A Double Win for Van Springel
CR Timeline 1968
At eight o'clock on Saturday morning October 12 th near the Central Station in Milan the contenders gathered for the start of a classic battle. The start list included Eddy Merckx, Herman Van Springel, Walter Godefroot, Raymond Poulidor, Jan Janssen, Rudi Altig, Felice Gimondi, Rik Van Looy, Gianni Motta, Franco Bitossi, and Marcel Dancelli. Befitting such a strong field of riders, this year's race was not only for the great honor of winning one of cycling's 5 Monuments, but also for the season long “ Super Prestige Pernod Competition” (a forerunner of the UCI Pro Tour and designed to identify the “best all-rounder”).
These were the standings in this World's " best all-rounder " contest before the race started:
Herman Van Springel 194 points
Felice Gimondi 180 points
Walter Godefroot 165 points
Jan Janssen 158 points
Eddy Merckx 141 points
The points at stake in the 1968 Giro di Lombardia were for the first ten places, ( 1st - 60 points, 2nd 40, 3rd 30, 4th 20, 5th 15, 6th 10, 7th 8, 8th 6, 9th 5, 10th 4 ). All of the top 5 in the standings had a legitimate shot of taking the prestigious Trophy.
At 08:45 the 62nd Giro di Lombardia was under way. 142 riders sped off into the misty and wet roads of Milan .
Giro di Lombardia Profile (Courtesy Gazzetta dello Sport)
A flurry of early breakaways including several by the aggressive Italian Walter Panizza was easily neutralized. The race began to heat-up at the start of the two climb combination, the Wall of Sormano and the Madonna del Ghisallo. Coming only 50 km into the race the tough duet served to split the field of riders. Three riders, Giancarlo Polidori, Wout Wagtmans, and Raymond Riotte, escaped as the climbing began.
By the end of the three mile Sormano climb the three attackers were caught by the elites of the race. On the steep descent the group became 40 riders strong as the Ghisallo climb began. By the summit 22 year old Frenchman Francis Campaner had a 30 second lead. The young Frenchman made a breath-taking descent and by Bellagio his lead had grown to 50 seconds. At the head of the lake in the Town of Lecco Guido Neri and Campaner's teammate Jean-Pierre Genet joined the breakaway with the chasing group 30 second back. The lead quickly extended to 50 seconds but through the town Campaner dropped the Neri and Genet.
The chasers caught Campaner, but the attacks continued. Rudi Altig broke away solo, chased hard by Franco Bitossi and Martin Vanderbossche. Once together the trio had a 2'15” lead on the Felice Gimondi led chasers.
Within the final 19 km the race broke apart. The leader's time gap began to fall with Jan Janssen and Herman Van Springel chasing. Eddy Merckx quickly bridged to the chasers and accelerated to over 50 km/h. Altig lost contact with the leaders and abandoned. The Merckx led group joined Bitossi and Vanderbossche flying through the Town of Cernobbio only 17 km to the finish in Como.
The leading quintet had a 1 minute lead going into Como . Merckx set a blistering pace up the final steep climb. Vanderbossche and Janssen were dropped. A sea of humanity lined the San Fermo della Battaglia climb as Van Springel re-joined Merckx and Bitossi.
The grand finale lay at the end of a 3 km descent, 1 km flat main road and a quick drop to the finish. Merckx led onto the flat section when Van Springel attacked. Bitossi was the first to spot the move and looked to Merckx to chase. A moment's hesitation cost dearly when a tired Merckx was unwilling to tow the Italian up to Van Springel. Van Springel pounded a huge gear into the velodrome and sprinted to a lone victory. Bitossi easily outsprinted Merckx for second place.
Joyously Herman Van Springel celebrated the biggest victory of his career and gained the “ Super Prestige Pernod Trophy” for his efforts.