Koblet, thinking he had the Giro wrapped up, was soon put into difficulty as they started the climb from Prato. Sensing his opportunity, Coppi put in a stinging attack some 11 km from the summit, immediately dropping Koblet. Coppi crested the summit alone, extending his lead on the descent to win the stage in Bormio. Desperate to claw back the time he had lost on the ascent, Koblet, a good descender, pushed too hard and crashed twice. A subsequent puncture sealed his fate and he conceded the Giro.
“I had destiny with me,” Coppi said afterwards, adding “I hadn’t imagined the Stelvio would be so hard . . . I can say it with certainty: no more stage races for me. I’m getting old.”
In 1965, in honour of his achievement the race organisers introduced the Cima Coppi prize for the first rider over the highest point in the race – which is invariably the Stelvio when included in the route.
It has not always been in the interests of the organisers to include the Stelvio. In 1984, the Italian Francesco Moser, a mediocre climber, led the race but the Stelvio stood in his way. On the advice of Anas, race director Torriani cut the Stelvio from the route, citing the risks of avalanches for his decision. Helicopter images later showed the road and summit to be clear. Moser went on to win the race in Milan.
Clearly the Stelvio is close to Italian hearts. Every year the climb is closed to motorists for one day in August, Stelvio Bike Day, giving the opportunity for 13,000 cyclists to ride the climb traffic-free.