December 19th, 1976: exactly forty years ago, Fausto Radici, Piero Gros and Gustav Thoeni clinched an all-Italian podium on the Canalone Miramonti
The sky was grey and looming on that December 19th 1976 in Madonna di Campiglio. Light snow was falling on the Canalone Miramonti, where the race was still run with daylight: the spotlights of the night slalom were still a long way to go. And still, that day was due to become one of the shiniest of the Italian alpine ski’s history.
Forty years ago, the Valanga Azzurra made the fans in Madonna di Campiglio scream of joy, taking all of the three podium positions at 3Tre. Fausto Radici, Piero Gros, Gustav Thoeni, in the order. Rounding out the celebration were the 7th place of Franco Bieler and the best time of the second run for youngster Paolo De Chiesa.
The azzurri were already ahead of the field after the first descent, but it was Pierino Gros leading with 60 hundreths of second on Radici and 83 on Thoeni. For once, 3Tre was not the race of Ingemar Stenmark, eighth and uneasy on the course drafted by the Italian slalom team’s trainer, Alfons Thoma.
In the second run, the first 15 bibs’ order was inverted: Fausto Radici came down with the best time. Then it was up to Stenmark, who tried too hard to come back and ultimately missed a gate. Thoeni was next, but was not fast enough in the final part, and was behind Radici by 42 hundredths. In the attempt of managing his advantage, Piero Gros saw victory come away from him for a mere 4 hundredths. So it was the day of Fausto Radici, and of the Italian ski as a whole. It was the last Italian hat-trick of that golden era.
The reality and meaning of the Valanga Azzurra is explained by the words of Mario Cotelli, Technical Director of that group: “We weren’t realizing it at the time, we didn’t actually understand how big were the things we were doing. The Valanga was a social phenomenon. It was something for the Italians to cheer about, and forget about the austerity, and the political and economic issues.“
In spite of an encouraging start of the season for the Italian ski team, particularly among women, repeating the 1976 exploit sounds like a dream, rather than a goal. Nevertheless, the Italian fans are hoping for Gross, Razzoli, Moelgg, Thaler & Co. to return on the Canalone Miramonti podium every time they come to Madonna di Campiglio to take place by the Canalone Miramonti, one of the World’s slalom temples since 1967, the inception of the FIS World Cup 50 years ago.
On the night of December 21st, the main protagonists of that day – Cotelli, Gros and Thoeni, along with late Fausto Radici’s wife, Elena – will be special guests of the SciVolando con Stile talk show at the Salone Hofer in Madonna di Campiglio. On Thursday, instead, they will be in the parterre, looking at those who will try to imitate their feats (1st run at 17.45, 2nd run at 20.45, tickets on the official website and at the Funivie Campiglio ticket offices). Hoping to live another memorable day: after all, Canalone Miramonti has always been a special place to make history.