In March, the regions of Lombardy and Liguria host the Gran Corsa di Primavera, which plunges participants even further back in time. For this vintage cycling event, only bikes (or replicas) from 1930 or prior are permitted, making it an even more committed homage to the history of the sport.
The route covers the same ground as the famous professional Spring Classic, a gruelling one-day 298-km race from Milano to San Remo. But Gran Corsa riders take four days to complete the course, and with their beautiful vintage equipment, they look more like the cycling pioneers who started the race over a century ago. Who were these pioneers? In the early days of the Milano-San Remo race, roads were unpaved and often muddy, bikes single-geared, and the weather wild and unpredictable. The legendary 1910 race saw a spring snowstorm pelt the peloton, and only four out of 63 riders crossed the finish line.
Between 1917 and 1928, the great Italian cyclist Constante Girardengo podiumed each year, and won the race six times. His record wasn’t beat until Eddy Merckx—dubbed “The Cannibal”—won seven times, a record yet to be beaten.
So great a role did this race come to play in the Italian imagination that the press eventually dubbed it “La Classicissima”—the greatest of all classics. And what more classic way to enjoy the route than on a classic vintage bicycle?