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Giro di Lombardia preview

Milan to Lecco, 241km

Saturday sees the 105th running of the Giro di Lombardia. Also romantically known as the ‘classic of the falling leaves’, it is the last of the ‘Five Monuments’ of the European cycling calendar. While the flat profile of last weekend’s Paris-Tours race generally favours the sprinters, Il Lombardia is very much the domain of the climbers. This year’s route includes five major climbs, with the last coming just 9km from the finish and likely to result in a decisive selection.

Race profile

After a relatively gentle start, the middle third of the route features three tough climbs. The first and last of these are long, hard grinds where the gradient never eases off. At 1,336m, Valcava is the highest point of the race and averages 7.7% on a winding road, with its steepest section near the top. 80km further down the road after a fast descent and the intervening Brianza climb comes the Colma di Sormano. This mountain is new to the race this year and reaches 1,124m above sea level, never really dipping below 6% all the way up.

Lombardia’s signature climb is the Ghisallo, which is 46km from the finish this year. At the top of the mountain is a shrine to Madonna del Ghisallo, the patron saint of cyclists. The main part of the climb is 8.5km long and essentially comprises two separate ascents with a false flat in between: an initial 4km grind which includes ramps of 14% and another sharp kick-up for the final 1.5km, with both averaging around 9%. The Ghisallo is not close enough to the finish to be decisive but will almost certainly lead to a selection which splits off the genuine contenders from the mere pretenders.

The final climb, the 3.4km Villa Vergano, has its summit situated just 9km from the finish. With only the descent and then a closing 2.8km flat section into Lecco to negotiate after it, we should see a race-defining attack here from either a solo rider or a small group. Should the race come down to a sprint, positioning in the final kilometre will be vital as the last 250 metres features 90-degree left and right corners. Whoever leads into the final bends will have a distinct advantage in the short dash to the line.

Race history

The Giro di Lombardia was first run in 1905, and has undergone several revisions to its route during its history. Until 1960 the race started and ended in Milan, but since then has been mostly run between Milan and Como. This year’s edition is the first time since 2002 that the race has neither started nor finished at Como.

Italian riders have dominated the race over the years, winning 67 out of 104 previous editions, including a record five by Fausto Coppi between 1946 and 1954. More recently, Damiano Cunego is a three-time winner, while Philippe Gilbert has won in each of the last two years.

The last ten winners of the Giro di Lombardia are:

2001 Danilo Di Luca (Acqua & Sapone-Cantina Tollo)
2002 Michele Bartoli (Fassa Bortolo)
2003 Michele Bartoli (Fassa Bortolo)
2004 Damiano Cunego (Saeco)
2005 Paolo Bettini (Quick Step-Innergetic)
2006 Paolo Bettini (Quick Step-Innergetic)
2007 Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital)
2008 Damiano Cunego (Lampre)
2009 Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto)
2010 Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto)

Riders to watch

Gilbert will be aiming for his third consecutive Lombardia victory

In his final race for Omega Pharma-Lotto before he departs for BMC, Philippe Gilbert will be the most closely watched man in the pack as he attempts to become only the third man ever to win three years running.

A strong Italian contingent will be led by the Lampre-ISD duo of Michele Scarponi and three-time winner Damiano Cunego, Liquigas-Cannondale’s Grand Tour-winning pair of Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali and national champion Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli).

The Spanish challenge is most likely to come from either Katusha’s Joaquim Rodríguez or one of a trio of Euskaltel-Euskadi contenders: Samuel Sánchez, Igor Antón and Mikel Nieve. Meanwhile the Dutch Rabobank squad can boast two strong young climbers in Steven Kruijswijk (who was ninth at the Giro) and Bauke Mollema (fourth at the Vuelta).

The winner is likely to come from one of the above dozen riders, although there is always potential for the bold to make a breakaway stick over the final climb. Europcar’s Thomas Voeckler can always be relied upon to be sniffing around any such opportunities.

One thing is for sure: we will not see a mass sprint at the end of one of the toughest and most vertical one-day races on the calendar.

Live coverage and highlights will be shown by British Eurosport in the UK.

2011 ‘Five Monuments’ recaps:

Milan-San Remo

Tour of Flanders

Paris-Roubaix

Liège-Bastogne-Liège

Link: Official website, steephill.tv

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

2 Responses to Giro di Lombardia preview

  1. Sheree says:

    I’ve ridden significant portions of the parcours, most notably the Ghisallo, on my 53 x 39. I spent most of the time thinking why didn’t I bring my bike with the compact gearing 50 x 34? It’s a lovely part of the world to ride in and this year, as opposed to last, the riders should enjoy fine weather and enthusiastic crowds. Sadly, I’ll be cheering in front of the television but I’ll be there in spirit.

    Today’s Tour du Piemont might be a pointer to form for Saturday. Fast Phil won in 2009 and 2010, but today Katusha’s Daniel Moreno prevailed. Completing the podium: 2nd BMC’c Greg Van Avermaet and 3rd Katusha’s Luca Paolini.

    • Tim says:

      Ah, interesting. Moreno seems to be in fine late-season form, having done well at the Vuelta. (Er, which stage was it he won? Sierra Nevada?) Katusha haven’t been blessed with too many great results this year – Galimzyanov’s heroics in Beijing notwithstanding – so that must have been a welcome 1-3 for the team.

      Should be good. I must confess to not being at all knowledgeable about Lombardia, so very much looking forward to it on Saturday.

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