62nd Giro di Lombardia 1968 (Italy)


By Barry Boyce, CyclingRevealed Historian



A Double Win for Van Springel

CR Timeline 1968

Saturday morning October 12, 1968 at eight o'clock on near Central Station in Milan the contenders gathered for the start of a classic battle for the Giro di Lombardia victory. The start list included Belgians Eddy Merckx, Herman Van Springel, Walter Godefroot, Rik Van Looy, Frenchman Raymond Poulidor, Dutch Jan Janssen, German Rudi Altig, Italians Felice Gimondi, Gianni Motta, Franco Bitossi, and Marcel Dancelli. Such a strong field of riders for 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:

Super Prestige Pernod Competition
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 edition of Lombardia was under way. 142 riders rolled off into the misty weather and the wet roads of Milan .

Giro di Lombardia Profile (Courtesy Gazzetta dello Sport)

A flurry of early breakaways attempts, including several by the aggressive Italian Walter Panizza, were easily neutralized. The race began to heat-up at the start of the two climb combination, the Muro di Sormano and the Colle del Ghisallo. Coming only 50 km into the race the tough climbing 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 only 30 second back. The lead quickly extended to 50 seconds but through the Town Campaner dropped both Neri and Genet.

The chasers caught Campaner, when Rudi Altig broke away solo. The German was 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 steadily with Jan Janssen and Herman Van Springel leading the chasing group. Eddy Merckx quickly bridged to the chasers and accelerated to over 50 km/h. Altig lost contact with the leaders and abandoned the race. 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 both dropped. A huge number of tifosi lined the San Fermo della Battaglia climb as Van Springel re-joined Merckx and Bitossi in the front of the race.

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 also gained the “Super Prestige Pernod Trophy” for his efforts.

These were the standings in this World's "Best All-Rounder" contest after the race:

Super Prestige Pernod Competition
Herman Van Springel 254 points
Felice Gimondi 188 points
Jan Janssen 178 points
Eddy Merckx 171 points
Walter Godefroot 165 points

GdL October 12, 1968
266 Km, Milan-Como

1. Herman VAN SPRINGEL (Bel) 6h58'58"

2. Franco Bitossi (Ita) +15"
3. Eddy Merckx (Bel)
Starters: 146
Finishers: 105
Average Speed: 39.705 km/h


Lomb 1967

Lomb 1969

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