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A Belgian bandit on the Blockhaus

04/04/2022

The 10 most iconic climbs of the Corsa Rosa: the Blockhaus

After the Zoncolan, the Stelvio, the Gavia and the Colle delle Finestre, it’s the Blockhaus turn.

Discover the 10 most iconic climbs of the Giro d’Italia with a dedicated section with tales, facts and statistics for each one.

A Belgian bandit on the Blockhaus

This climb, whose name is apparently suggestive of a German scenery, is actually located almost at the very centre of Italy, nestled in the Maiella massif, in the Abruzzo region.
The name ‘Blockhaus’ – meaning ‘stone house’ in German – is thought to come from an Austrian commander who was stationed atop the mountain, where a stone fortress was standing, with a squad of riflemen to fight banditry in the early years after the Unification of Italy.
Shepherds and bandits left their names and thoughts in a large slab of rock, called the ‘Tavola dei Briganti’, which can still be seen nearby. The most famous engraving, dating back to 1867, goes “1820 marked the birth of Victor Emmanuel II, king of Italy. In the past, 60 was the kingdom of flowers. Today, it is the kingdom of sorrow”.
The Blockhaus first featured in the route of the Giro d’Italia exactly one hundred years later, on 31 May 1967, marking one of the greatest moments in the history of cycling. The hero of the day was a young man from Tielt-Winge, in the Flanders region. Aged less than 22, and on his maiden Giro, he was already twice a Milan-Sanremo winner.
The front-runners on the starting line in Caserta were José Perez (the GC leader), Anquetil, Motta, Gimondi, Adorni, Zilioli and Vito Taccone, the local idol, ‘the chamois of Abruzzo’.
Cheered upon by his people, Taccone attacked first and solo. The finish, however, was still a long way to go, so he had to give in some 13 kilometres before the summit.
As the race continued, the favourites acted strategically and cunningly, examining each other without attacking.
When Schiavon and Zilioli eventually kicked clear, 2,000 metres before the line, the stage seemed to come down to a head-to-head dash between them for the line. Most unexpectedly and much to everyone’s surprise, however, that young Belgian rider aged less than 22 counter-attacked out of the peloton.
He caught up with the attackers and jumped away just before the final kilometre. Nobody could counter his attack. He won by a 10” margin over Zilioli and over the GC leader, Rosa Perez.
That day, many said ‘Victory on the Blockhaus went to a sprinter’, as to emphasize that the ‘others’ – the climbers, the front-runners – played a waiting game.
They still didn’t know that what they had just witnessed was bound to change cycling, forever.
They still didn’t know that the young man who had just conquered the summit of the Blockhaus would eventually become the greatest rider of all time – Eddy Merckx.

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