The fourth out of six climbs that the riders will tackle in today’s Tour of Lombardy is the Muro di Surmano, which they will face after 195 kilometres. It’s an incredibly difficult climb that was left out of the Lombardy route for nearly 50 years.
The reason why it was omitted from the race was that the riders felt it was just too hard. The climb is only 1.92 kilometres longs, but it has an average gradient of 15% and an incredible maximum gradient of 27%.
The climb only made its debut in the race in 1960 after organiser Vincenzo Torriani felt that the route wasn’t difficult enough. Torriani visited the climb earlier that year with Rino Negri a journalist from La Gazzetta della Sport, and was said to be very excited with what he found as it would really increase the focus on his race.
It was a time when the ridiculously steep climbs weren’t used in races, and World champion Ercole Baldini used a 44×29 in that first edition using the climb with Jacques Anquetil using a 42×27.
In Daniel Friebe’s book Mountain High, he outlines that riders weren’t particularly happy with its inclusion.
“I can’t fathom the reason why Torriani wanted a novelty like this,” said Baldini after the 1961 race won by Vito Taccone. “I understand that the Ghisallo didn’t offer the guarantee of breaking the race up any more, but frankly he’s gone overboard in the opposite direction This climb is simply beastly, impossible to get up.”
Despite his complaints the previous year, in 1962, Baldini set a new record for the climb of 9’24”. However, he acknowledged afterwards that he had received lots of pushes from fans, and that was one of the big problems. Italian riders received lots of pushes from partisan fans, whilst foreign riders received no help. The 1962 edition was the last time that it would be used until 2012.
When the Sormano returned, Romain Bardet was the first rider to cross the summit, with Joaquim Rodriguez going on to take the victory. Once again, it would be left off the route, but has returned again this year.
With rain forecast for today’s race, it’s quite likely to cause problems for riders with them unable to get traction. We could witness riders once again having to dismount as they did back in the early ’60s.