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NEW: ISSUE 18.6 NOW AVAILABLE

Vigorelli Velodrome: An Italian Renaissance

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The rich history of the Vigorelli Velodrome in Milan; renovated and restored and featured in Rouleur issue 17.3

Words:
Photographs: Offside/l'Equipe & Archivi Farabola

From Hour record attempts to the finish of the Giro d’Italia and the Tour of Lombardy, the Vigorelli Velodrome has seen it all.

 

The infield of the 397m wooden track was also famous for hosting concerts for the likes of the Beatles, the Clash and Led Zeppelin – the latter’s 1971 gig famously descending into a violent riot involving police and fans.

 

 

Located in the centre of Milan, the first taste of pandemonium came in 1947 when Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi arrived at the finish of the Giro d’Italia.

 

Giro winner Fausto Coppi arrives in the velodrome

 

The partisan crowd – reflecting the national divide in post war Italy between fans of the modern, forward-looking Coppi and the traditional Bartali – were split down the middle. Amongst the noise and febrile atmosphere, a food fight ensued.

 

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The Vigorelli was the venue for a spate of Hour record attempts during the 1950s and 60s. In fact from the day in October 1935 when Giuseppe Olmo rode 45.090km just three days after the velodrome’s official opening, subsequent Hour records were set nowhere else until 1967.

 

In 1956, Ercole Baldini, pictured above, beat the record by riding 46.394km.

 

 

The man Baldini beat was Jacques Anquetil, whose record of 46.159km had been set earlier that year.

 

The Frenchman, who had morphed from prodigious upstart to quintuple Tour de France and double Giro winning superstar, was back at the Vigorelli 11 years later.

 

In 1967 he extended the record to 47.493km but saw his effort disqualified following his refusal to take a trackside anti-doping test.

 

 

Beryl Burton failed to set a new record in her attempt in 1960.

 

The partially covered track made Vigorelli an irresistible choice for anyone serious about inscribing their name into the record books until the Olympic velodrome in Rome opened in 1968.

 

The Vigorelli’s bread and butter was track meets; packed to the rafters like a roman amphitheatre, it was a home venue for Italian cycling during its golden era.

 

 

In the 1990s the velodrome fell into disrepair, with the infield being used by local American football teams and the track slowly rotting away.

 

However in 2015 and 2016 the Vigorelli underwent extensive repairs, re-opened in late 2016 and was christened by the last Hour record Italian master: Francesco Moser