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Il Lombardia: Who will win the final Monument of 2017?

Joe Robinson
3 Oct 2017

We run you through the favourites to take the final monument of the year this Saturday at Il Lombardia

Il Lombardia this Saturday usually marks the end of the professional season. Despite WorldTour races still to come in China and Turkey, the one-day race in the north of Italy usually acts as the ceremonial end of the season.

Known commonly as the 'race of the fallen leaves', the 247km route is amongst one of the toughest single days racing in the pro calendar with around 4,000 metres of altitude gain.

Within this lies the mythical climb of the Madonna del Ghisallo and brutal Muro di Sormano, the later averaging 15.8% over 1.9km with a maximum gradient of 27%.

With these short and steep climbs, amongst a collection of others, the race usually lends itself to the punchy riders who also prosper earlier in the season at the Ardennes Classics in Spring.

Last year saw Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) out-sprint Diego Rosa (Team Sky) and Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) to take Colombia's first ever victory in a monument. However, due to a fractured shoulder experienced at the Giro dell'Emilia last weekend, Chaves will not be defending his title.

With the absence of Chaves, attention has shifted towards the likes Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Team Sky for the victory. Below Cyclist unveil our favourites for the win:

Vincenzo Nibali

The Shark of Messina never attempted a defence of his 2015 Lombardia title but goes into Saturday as one of the clear favourites. 

Nibali boasts a rounded skill base, taking the title in 2015 with an attack on the final climb before out-descending the chasers into Como.

The Sicilian took the title whilst riding for Astana but now finds himself at Bahrain-Merida, who arguably boast a stronger team than their Kazakh counterparts.

Confirmed to be riding in support of the Italian are compatriots Giovanni Visconti and Franco Pellizotti. Visconti will be a vital lieutenant to Nibali, after showing his form with victory at last weekend's Giro dell'Emilia.

Besides his previous success at the race and strong team, Nibali himself is carrying one-day form after finishing second at Giro dell'Emilia behind Visconti. 

Nibali looked impressive marking several counter-attacks in the final 16km before managing to escape late on the take the second spot on the podium.

Nibali then backed up this performance at dell'Emilia with third at Tre Valli Varesine despite the parcour suiting faster finishers.

One drawback for the 32-year-old however could be that other riders will be unlikely to work with him. If strong riders are able to escape from further out, Nibali will have to rely on his team or himself to chase breaks back as there is little chance many will want to aid the Italian to the line. 

Despite this, Nibali will go into the race as favourite and almost certainly launch a number of attacks throughout the day.

Julian Alaphilippe

If the Frenchman had been joined by more than just Gianni Moscon (Team Sky) on the final climb of Salmon Hill at the World Championships, we could easily be referring to the new owner of the rainbow jersey.

Whilst this scenario is hypothetical and failed to become reality, one thing for certain is that Alaphilippe is on fine form.

Despite launching this late attack, the 25-year-old managed to still contest the bunch sprint, finishing tenth. This came only weeks after an impressive first Grand Tour stage victory at the Vuelta a Espana.

Injury plagued the rider throughout the middle section of the season, yet it is clear Alaphilippe is back to near his punchy best and goes into Lombardia as one of the favourites.

Podiums at Flèche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege in the past suggest that the punchy climbs of northern Italy will lend themselves to Alaphilippe who is still yet to take a major one-day win.

Quick-Step Floors will enter the race boasting former winners Daniel Martin and Philippe Gilbert amongst their ranks yet it is Alaphilippe who will carry the best chance of victory.

However, this could be one of the downfalls of the Frenchman. As usual, the Quick-Step team will ride with more than one option for the win and therefore not all allegiances could full behind the one rider.

Team Sky

It's easier to mention the team as one of the favourites as opposed to one individual rider, such is the strength in depth of the British WorldTour team.

Amongst the riders taking to the start line in Bergamo will be Mikel Landa, Michal Kwiatkowski, Diego Rosa and Wout Poels. Credible arguments could be made for all four of these riders to take the eventual victory.

The Team Sky approach of controlling a race with an iron fist often failed them in regards to the major one-day classics but with victories in the 2016 Liege-Bastogne-Lige and this year's Milan-San Remo, it appears that the monkey may be off their back.

Kwiatkowski, who has already taken three major one-day wins this season, will no doubt lead the charge but with cards to play at all potential scenarios, it is hard to envisage a Team Sky rider not being in the thick of any attacking move.

Landa's form will be an unknown as the Spaniard has not raced since his Vuelta a Burgos victory in early August. However, with imperious performances at both the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France, it is likely Landa will be able to have an effect on the race.

Victory at the final monument of the season would round off an impressive season for the team that already boasts the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana titles as well as Milan-San Remo and Strade Bianche.

Tim Wellens

Will Tim Wellens ever take a major one-day race victory? Despite countless attacks and endless kilometres off of the front, the Lotto-Soudal man has never managed to secure one of cycling's big races.

The 26-year-old is one of the most entertaining riders in the pro peloton and often brings life to races wth long-ranged attacks that usually go nowhere.

The Belgian has carried good form into the later part of the season with a victory at the Grand Prix de Wallonie as well as a stage and second overall at the BinckBank Tour.

The chances are that Wellens will go long if he decides to attack on Saturday, and a lot will have to fall in his favour for the move to stick.

An outsider for the victory but a fan favourite, if Wellens manages to make one of his kamikaze attacks stick it will certainly be a popular win.

Egan Bernal

Image Source - Team Sky Online

Egan Bernal is the next big thing in Colombian cycling. Snapped up by Team Sky for 2018, Bernal at only 20-years-old has already made a name for himself against the WorldTour elite and promises to be a Grand Tour contender in the near future.

With the General Classification and two stages of the Tour de l'Avenir, the baby Tour de France, this year, Bernal is set to follow in the footsteps of compatriots and fellow L'Avenir winners Nairo Quintana and Esteban Chaves.

It is clear that Bernal has an abundance of climbing talent, and it will be interesting to see if he manages to hang with the hitters on the likes of the Muro di Sormano. 

Riding for Italian Pro-Continental team Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec, Bernal will not be able to boast the same team strength of his competitors and this could prove his undoing.

Yet, whilst the big name riders and teams look at one another, do not be surprised if Bernal tries his luck on one of the many inclines and spends some considerable time at the head of affairs.

Bernal will not win Il Lombardia but we will be watching closely to see how the young Colombian fares against the world's best climbers and punchers.