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Giro di Lombardia preview

Josh Cunningham
29 Sep 2016

With the last WorldTour race due to commence this Saturday on the roads of Italy, we take a look at what to expect.

The Giro di Lombardia, Il Lombardia, or 'Race of the falling leaves' is the last WorldTour race of 2016 - a position its held since the inception of the WorldTour, barring the few years that the Tour of Beijing was on the calendar in October. But another title it has always traditionally possessed - and continues to do so - is that of the final Monument of the year. 

Held in Lombardy in the Lake Como region, Il Lombardia forms part of a cluster of late-season Classics and Semi-Classics that precede the World Championships on the 16th October. However, with teams disbanding, and the number of WorldTour teams being limited to 17 next year, the points on offer could be even more hotly contested than usual as teams and riders scramble to secure their place for the following season. 

Fausto Coppi holds the record of most wins with an astonoshing five, as well as three more podiums, but more recent kings of Lombardy have been Michele Bartoli, Damiano Cunego, Philippe Gilbert and Joaquim Rodriguez, who between them won nine editions between 2002 and 2013. Vincenzo Nibali was the victor last year, but the Astana rider - now destined for Bahrain-Merida - remains off the start list in 2016.

The route

In a reverse of last year's edition, the race starts in Como and finishes in Bergamo, which lies 248km and eight discernible - although only five categorised - climbs away to the east. It's a largely similar route to that of 2014, but with some alterations in the finale. 

The Madonna di Ghisallo climb - famous for its statues of Bartali and Coppi, as well as the chapel filled with cycling memorabilia at the top - kicks off proceedings after 54km - an early showing for a climb whose history is synonymous with the race. The Velico di Valcava is next, topping the altimeter at 1,336m, before a succession of three shorter climbs start at 182km. 

These three - the Sant'Antonio Abbandonato, Miragolo san Salvatore and Selvino - will be where the majority of the race will be decided. It's where the key players will likely make themselves known and come to the fore, and with 30km to go between the top of the Selvino to the finish, the winner will likely come from the first riders over the top here. 

One final crack of the whip comes in the form of the Bergamo Alta climb, which has pitches of 12%, and could therefore provide a launchpad for a lethal attack, with all that remains after it a technical descent down to the finish 4km later. 

The contenders

Esteban Chaves and Simon Yates - Orica-BikeExchange

The Australian outfit's double-pronged attack at the Vuelta looks set to make a reappearance at the Giro Lombardia this year. Chaves has backed up his 3rd overall at the Vuelta by winning the Giro dell'Emilia recently, while Yates' strong showing at the Vuelta - including a stage win and 6th overall - means a result now can not be written off, despite his quietness since. 

Romain Bardet - AG2r

Since finishing second to Chris Froome at the Tour de France, Romain Bardet has had a solid diet of one-day races. Most have passed without too much noise from the Frenchman, but 2nd at Giro dell'Emilia and 9th at Milano-Torino seem have signalled a return to form, and put him back on the radar for a result.

Julian Alaphilippe and Daniel Martin - Etixx-QuickStep

Alaphilippe is fast turning into one of those riders that will be on the 'favourites' list for any race he starts, but his place here is justified because of his 10th place in Montreal, followed by 2nd to Peter Sagan at the European Championships two weeks ago. On paper Il Lombardia is a perfect course for the young Frenchman, too. Martin, meanwhile, is a former winner at the race, and is another that can both climb and sprint (among climbers). 

Rigoberto Uran - Cannondale-Drapac

Another Colombian - this time Rigoberto Uran of Cannondale. With two 3rd places recently, at Giro dell'Emilia and Milano-Torino, the man is potentially in winning form, and before that was also riding well at the WorldTour races in Canada. 

Fabio Aru - Astana

Aru has finished in the top ten in five out of his last seven races, and most of these have been held on courses that aren't quite as difficult as that of Lombardia. A few more kilometres of uphill will suit the young Italian climber, and if all goes well for him then this weekend could see him take his first major one-day victory. 

Bauke Mollema - Trek-Segafredo

Usually a man known for his stage racing abilities, the Dutch Trek rider pulled off a fantastic solo victory at San Sebastian after some very solid riding at the Tour de France, and has since backed that up with 8th at GP Quebec. Don't be too surprised if it's Mollema riding away from everyone come Saturday.

The rest

Tony Gallopin and Tim Wellens of Lotto-Soudal can climb, finish well, and show a bit of panache in a race finale. Wellens won the Tour of Poland this year, and another peak in form here could pose problems for the rest. Darwin Atapuma of BMC ended the Vuelta Espana well and is listed at the top of the BMC team sheet, while his teammate Philippe Gilbert has generally had a strong second half of the season after regaining the national champion's jersey - you can never write off a rider of his pedigree either. Alberto Contador of Tinkoff is riding, but has done nothing since the Vuelta, and former double winner Joaquim Rodriguez is being made to ride - instead of retire - by his Katusha team, but will he be in any condition to be competitive? It's unlikely given the circumstances. 

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