Cycling | 4 comments
By: Zdenko Kahlina
The end of the track
The Velodromo Communale Vigorelli – the Vigorelli, for short – has perhaps the richest history of any cycle track in the world. Built in 1935, for the first 30 years of its life the Vigorelli was the beating heart of world track cycling. By 1962, it had hosted the World Championships four times – more often than any other track of the same period. During its lifetime, the Vigorelli was the stage on which more than 150 records were set, at every distance between 200m and 100km.
The Vigorelli was also the home of one of the greatest track sprinters of all time. Antonio Maspes was professional world sprint champion seven times between 1955 – when he won his first title at the Vigorelli – and 1964. This puts him in joint second place in the list of all-time winners, level with Belgian Jef Scherens. Only Japan’s Koichi Nakano has won more, with an incredible 10 consecutive titles from 1977 on.
But the Vigorelli’s reputation owes most to the track’s association with the hour record during a period in which this was still cycling’s blue riband event. The Vigorelli celebrated its inauguration in 1935 with the setting of its first record mark by Giuseppe Olmo, who rode 45.090km.
November 7th, 1942. Fausto Coppi rounds the bank at the Velodromo Vigorelli aboard his Legnano (there are some rumors it was built by Faliero Masi) for a successful attack on the hour record distance. At the end, he would set the new standard at 45.798km.
Below is a sampling of the lap times of interest:
|Half Hour Mark||22.946km|
|Hour Mark||45.871 km, later corrected to 45.798 km|
From 1935 to 1967 eight PO cyclists set the world hour record at Milan’s Vigorelli Velodrome on ten separate occasions, making it the most heralded venue in the lore and legend of the almighty Hour. No other velodrome has seen as many successful attempts to further the distance a human being can power a bicycle over 60 immensely painful minutes:
- 1935 October 31…Giuseppe Olmo (ITA)…45.090 kph
- 1936 October 14…Maurice Richard (FRA)…45.325 kph
- 1937 September 29…Frans Slaats (NED)…45.558 kph
- 1937 November 3…Maurice Archambaud (FRA)…45.747 kph
- 1942 November 7…Fausto Coppi (ITA)…45.871 kph
- 1956 June 29…Jacques Anquetil (FRA)…46.159 kph
- 1956 September 19…Ercole Baldini (ITA)…46.394 kph
- 1957 September 18…Roger Riviere (FRA)…46.923 kph
- 1958 September 23…Roger Riviere (FRA)…47.346 kph
- 1967 September 27…Jacques Anquetil (FRA)…47.493 kph
And then The Clash rolled into the Vigorelli Velodrome in May, 1981.
Roof for Vigorelli velodrome?
Some major improvements may be in the works for the famed Vigorelli velodrome in Milan, Italy. The velodrome has played host to a number of world hour records and other historic events, as well as finishes for road races and Giro d’Italia stages.
As a result, it had also developed a renown that extended beyond the narrow confines of the cycling world.
In 1967, two years after The Beatles’ visit, Jacques Anquetil returned to the scene in an attempt to better Riviere’s mark. He succeeded, but the record was never ratified, as Anquetil refused to submit to a request for a urine sample.
The controversy surrounding this incident moved all future hour attempts to the Olympic velodrome in Rome. The Vigorelli velodrome was declared guilty by association. The Vigorelli’s fall from grace was slow in the following years. Though still in use, the 1970s and 80s become a vicious circle. No famous names meant no prestigious events, which in turn meant no new famous names.
By the early years of this century the track had closed its doors to cycling for good. The prospect of demolition is now staved off only by the stadium’s continuing use – as home to the Milan Rhinos, the city’s nascent American football team.
The 333m wooden track received recent restoration work, thanks to Mapei’s Dr. Squinzi. Now it appears that the Comune Milano is interested in building a roof over the track. With funds remaining from the Italia Novante World Cup soccer tournament proceeds, a proposal will be presented by Milano Sport, which runs all sporting facilities in Milan. This proposal will be put before the Lombardia region for approval. Reportedly the funds are available, and the project only needs the region’s approval to proceed.
About Masi: The history of Masi dates back to the 1930s when Faliero Masi, who rode the Giro in 1931 and 1932, retired from the sport and launched his own line of bikes. With growing notoriety, Masi moved his company to a work shop under the Vigorelli Velodrome in 1949, and soon began supplying bikes to many of the sports great riders, including Eddie Merckx, Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil, and Vittorio Adorni. Faliero sold the Masi brand to a group of California based investors in the 1970s, and relocated to the US to produce frames for the American market. But, longing for his native Italy, Faliero returned to his country with the intention of retiring. Today Masi is led by his son Alberto who produces a limited number of high-end frames in the same workshop his father established under the velodrome. Masi sells its frames in the US under the Milano brand since the investor group still owns the rights to use the Masi brand and logo in the US market.
Have a good and healthy season.
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