Thinking of the Stelvio Pass kept Fausto Coppi awake. It was 1953, the Giro d’Italia was on its 36th edition, and the Stelvio – a passage crossed by a state highway that twists around 84 hairpin turns between Lombardy and Trentino-Alto Adige – had been included in the popular bicycle race for the first time. It is an extremely steep climb, 2,758 meters, and the highest the Giro had ever gone. Every rider that year was wary of it.
The night between May 31 and June 1, Coppi couldn’t sleep worrying about the challenges he would have to overcome – and Hugo Koblet, the Swiss athlete who was leading the race, was two minutes ahead of him. The Stelvio stage – 125 kilometers, from Bolzano to Bormio – was the second-last of the Tour, and therefore crucial to the final result.
Sometime during that night, the Campionissimo – or “Champion of champions”, as the fans called him – decided for an aggressive strategy. The thirty-four-year-old had the right idea: he won after a sprint towards the snowy pass, so powerful he got to the finish line over three minutes before his competition. That was the key to conquer the 1953 Giro d’Italia, the fifth and last of his career.
Up and down these turns you can breathe the same air of that June 1, 1953: the air of beauty and victory.