When one thinks of Bergamo’s cycling history, one thinks of Felice Gimondi. Picture an ace champion like him, one of the few who has brought all Italians together, winning a stage at home, in front of a totally delirious crowd. It happened in 1976 and, to put a romantic icing on the cake, that would turn out to be Gimondi’s last success at the Corsa Rosa, the third last of his career, since two days later he would take home his third Giro d’Italia.
But that entire Giro was for faint-hearted only, because Gimondi, 34 years old, did not start out among the favourites. He himself had stated to be on his twilight years, and several insiders had started referring to him an “old guy”. Instead, at Lake Laceno, he snatched the Maglia Rosa from a young Francesco Moser, held on to it for 11 days after strenuously resisting his rivals’ attacks, and only gave it up to Johan De Muynck on stage 19 with the arrival at the Torri del Vajolet, on the day when everyone predicted he would collapse.
Gimondi, on the contrary, stayed absolutely afloat and two days later won the sprint in his beloved Bergamo, ahead of his old rival Eddy Merckx (the Belgian was indeed in his twilight years) and Gianbattista Baronchelli. “The one in Bergamo was one of my most beautiful victories, among the top five ever,” Gimondi said a few years later. “Can you imagine? Winning in my city, in front of my people!“.
The next day, absolutely galvanised, Felice found the strength to take back the Maglia Rosa in the Arcore time trial that preceded the final catwalk in Milan, beating De Muynck by just 19 seconds. The 1976 Giro d’Italia belonged to Gimondi, 9 years after his first triumph.