VALICO DI VALCAVA
Valico di Valcava, from the Giro di Lombardia with love
Final stages of the 1986 cycling season: the Giro di Lombardia is underway, Gianbattista Baronchelli challenges Sean Kelly, winner that year of Milano-Sanremo and Paris-Roubaix, and Laurent Fignon, who had won the Fleche Wallonne and already had two Tour de France in his palmares. As tradition dictates, the riders tackle the Madonna del Ghisallo climb, but immediately afterwards comes an unprecedented one, which is known to be tough, but until you are there it is difficult to really know how much. It is the Valico di Valcava: the riders tackle it with a good 100 km to go but the selection is nevertheless very strong. Fignon goes into major crisis, on the hardest stretch he even has to put his foot down. Exhausted, the Frenchman is forced to withdraw. Four men reach the summit first: Baronchelli and Kelly along with Flavio Giupponi and Acacio Da Silva. They would later be reached by Phil Anderson and Leo Schönenberger on the descent. The six remain together until the arrival in Milan, when “GiBi” Baronchelli leaves everyone behind in a remarkable sprint.
In that autumn of 1986, the Giro di Lombardia and all Italy discovered the Valico di Valcava, a true balcony over Lombardy, which would remain a landmark of the Classica delle Foglie Morte until 1990. The climb, which measures a total of 11.8 km with an average gradient of 8%, begins about a thousand metres downstream from the town of Torre de’ Busi and connects the San Martino Valley (province of Lecco) with the Imagna Valley (province of Bergamo).
The deadliest section of the ascent, even tougher because it comes after several kilometres of demanding climbing, is the “wall”, which begins about 4 km from the pass: immediately after a right-hand bend, the road climbs straight for 250-300 metres with an 18% gradient (indicated by a road sign before the bend), then continues with less extreme but still very demanding slopes for about 2.5 km, with other sections at 14% and 17%, and an average of over 11%. It was on that very stretch at 18% that Fignon got off his bike and got on the flagship car.
The Giro d’Italia only got to know this climb in 2012, in the 15th stage, which took the peloton from Busto Arsizio to Pian dei Resinelli.
Listen to the episode of In Cima dedicated to the Valico di Valcava: