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Memories of the Simplon Pass, 1952: Geminiani, first ever at the summit


The very first time the Giro d’Italia included the Simplon Pass on its route was in 1952, in stage 19, the penultimate one, which took the riders from Saint-Vincent to Verbania for a total of 298 km. At that point, the Corsa Rosa was pretty much over, as Fausto Coppi was firmly in command and had already been leading the race since stage 10.

After departing from St. Vincent, the “girini” (Italian nickname given to participants in the Giro) reached Aosta to then tackle the Great St. Bernard Pass. After descending to Martigny and crossing Sion, Sierre and Visp, the race reached the town of Briga to tackle the ascent of the unprecedented Simplon Pass, followed by a swoop over Domodossola and across the Ossola plain to Verbania.

Behind the unchallengeable Coppi, the pursuers were all packed within a few seconds. The first attack on Simplon was by 38-year-old Gino Bartali, followed by world champion Ferdi Kubler, with Coppi, however, very much in control of the race. Thus, the first to reach the peak was the transalpine Raphaël Géminiani, who not surprisingly went on to win the best climber classification.

The descent turned out to be the decisive point of that stage, when Coppi let five riders gain a margin: after more than 10 hours of racing, the victory went to the Swiss Fritz Schär, ahead of Alfredo Martini, Armando Barducci, Luciano Pezzi and Vittorio Rossello. The following day, in Milan, Coppi celebrated the conquest of his fourth Giro d’Italia.

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