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awarded by the UCI to Switzerland,
with the Swiss Federation delegating
the responsibility for the two road
events - including the choice of circuit
- to the Velo Club Lugano, situated in
the Italian-speaking Canton Ticino,
close to the Swiss border with Italy.

The circuit finally chosen was one of
12 projected within the Lugano
environs, and was named Crespera in
honour of its gruelling one mile hill. The

Coppi & Defilippis Early Lap

circuit was duly inspected by the UCI committee in November 1952, when
it met with general approval and was declared “fit for purpose”. The 9.3
mile course was described variously by the sporting media as being
relentless and fatiguing, and likely to wear down the competitors on the
day. Rino Negri - then a trusted Gazzetta dello Sport writer - accompanied
the Italian UCI delegate Alfredo Binda on foot to the Crespera and was
taken into his confidence. It was Binda’s view, as an ex-World Champion
himself, that no-one would risk staying with an inspired Coppi on this
exacting course for the full 18 laps, totalling 168 miles. The scene was then
set finally for “Mohammed to come to the Mountain” - at long last - but
also for the “(Crespera) Mountain to come to Mohammed” as it were! Gino
Bartali (Coppi’s greatest rival in Italy) put it more succinctly however, “If
Coppi fails to win this World Championship, he is a man finished”.

I have visited Lugano a number of times over the last 20 years and one of
my favourite outings has always been walking and filming the neighbourhood
racing circuits, including the original Crespera. With the benefit of hindsight
the cycling media in 1996 - on the occasion of the more recent Lugano
World’s - described the old circuit as a bit “Mickey Mouse” and I suppose
in some reality it really was. Notwithstanding the near post-war period
however, even the ex-neutral Swiss probably did quite well. Armed with some
1953 period Xerox pages from “Cycling” (courtesy of the late Dennis
Donovan) some of the original features were found to be a bit makeshift,

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