Strange things were beginning to happen in cycling by 1990, the same year that Gianni Bugno won the Giro d’Italia after leading the race from start to finish and dominating on all terrains. He began that
particular annus mirabilis with a career-altering victory at Milan-San Remo – at a record average speed of 45.8kph – that marked his passage from eternal promise to an apparent heir to Fausto Coppi.
Introverted, pensive and softly-spoken, Bugno’s guarded exchanges with
the press earned him the moniker of Vedremo – “We’ll See” – from
Italian journalist Gianni Mura, and that same reticence seemed to blight
him on the bike. The man from Monza had entered the professional ranks
in 1986 with a glittering reputation, but proceeded to frustrate
observers with his tendency to second and even third guess himself in
the finale of major races and miss out on the biggest prizes.
Bugno’s instinct won out over reason in the 1990 Milan-San Remo,
however. Crosswinds along the Riviera had broken up the peloton earlier
than normal, scattering it into three large echelons, and when Angelo
Canzonieri took a flyer off the front after passing Imperia, Bugno – for
once – didn’t think twice about tracking the move. Once on the
Cipressa, Bugno pulled clear alone and had 15 seconds in hand on the
chasers over the Poggio.
Although Rolf Gölz stalked Bugno all the way to San Remo, he held on to become the first home winner of La Primavera since Moser six years earlier, and his victory was to pre-empt a decade
of classics dominance for Italy and its teams. “Is the world changing,
or at least Italy?” Gian Paolo Ormezzano wrote in La Stampa the
following day, with perhaps inadvertent foresight.
Rai asked John Degenkolb about his Milano-Sanremo lucky charm, a Sanremo magnet (?). He explained 7 was his lucky number and the Rai team’s reaction was hilars. “Seven? That’s Cancellara’s number!” “He needs to change his lucky number now.” Science and tech add a modern polish to the sport of cycling, but superstition can never be snuffed out.