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  • Race Preview: Il Lombardia

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    The final Monument of the season, and for many the most beautiful, Il Lombardia offers the climbers one last chance for redemption

    Photographs: ANSA/Claudio Peri
    Il Lombardia

    111th Giro di Lombardia
    One-day classic


    October 7, 2017
    Lombardy, Italy
    Start: 10.30am (CEST)
    Finish: 4.40pm (earliest), 5.26pm (latest)
    Distance: 248km


    Il Giro di Lombardia, La classica delle foglie morte, the race of the falling leaves, might receive less attention than the spring Monuments but to many it is the most iconic, and most beautiful, of them all.
    One reason for this is the chapel of Madonna del Ghisallo. One of the few permanent fixtures of the route, it sits at the top of an eight and a half kilometre climb overlooking Lake Como.


    The chapel was sanctified in 1949 by Pope Pius XII, who declared it the site of the patroness of Italian cyclists. An eternal flame, carried there by a relay of riders including Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali, burns inside. The chapel, and a more recently built museum, have welcomed thousands of pilgrim cyclists in the decades since.


    Born in 1905 as “the Autumn Classic”, the once flat Tour of Lombardy soon evolved into a chance for climbers to redeem their seasons, attracting those eager to roll the dice one last time before turning in for the winter.


    It is the least interrupted of the classics, with the only gap falling between 1943 and 1944. Italians dominated the race for its first half century, when Belgians and other nations’ riders got the hang of it. But even in latter years, the locals have never had to wait long for a race win, the six editions between Cunego in 2008 and Nibali in the 2015, the tifosi’s driest spell.


    The Route

    Since 2014, Il Lombardia has alternated its starts and finishes between Bergamo and Como. This year it’s Bergamo’s turn to host the Depart, which means the Madonna del Ghisallo takes its traditional place towards the end of the race.


    Although the official site lists it as the second climb on the course, Strava from 2015, when the race went the same way, begs to differ. The actual second in line, Colle Brianza, won’t affect the race too much, but nonetheless will call for a not insubstantial 14-15 minute effort.


    The Colma di Sormano is the real bruiser, however. An average 9 per cent gradient, distributed across seven kilometres and 18 separate hairpins, takes the riders up to the highest point of the race. The Tour of Lombardy then descends to Nesso, the last two climbs and the finish-line in Como.



    Previous winners
    2016 Esteban Chaves (Col)
    2015 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita)
    2014 Daniel Martin (Ire)
    2013 Joaquim Rodríguez (Spa)
    2012 Joaquim Rodríguez (Spa)
    2011 Oliver Zaugg (Swi)
    2010 Philippe Gilbert (Bel)
    2009 Philippe Gilbert (Bel)
    2008 Damiano Cunego (Ita)
    2007 Damiano Cunego (Ita)


    Most Wins
    Fausto Coppi 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1954


    Alfredo Binda 1925, 1926, 1927, 1931


    Gino Bartali 1936, 1939, 1940
    Gaetano Belloni 1915, 1918, 1928
    Henri Pelissier 1911, 1913, 1920
    Sean Kelly 1983, 1985, 1991
    Costante Girardengo 1919, 1921, 1922
    Damiano Cunego 2004, 2007, 2008


    The Church at San Biagio: Coppi, Magni and la Dama Bianca


    This Year’s Contenders
    Saturday’s startlist points to a proper poker match at Il Lombardia, as a host of teams take their seats around the table with a handful of cards to play.


    Reigning champion Esteban Chaves is out with a chip in his shoulder, which makes the bookies’ favourite the 2015 winner Vincenzo Nibali. Should the Nibali card not work for them, Bahrain Merida will look to the Shark’s countryman Giovanni Visconti, who won last weekend’s warm-up race, Giro dell’Emilia.


    Quickstep start with two former winners and one young pretender. A win for Philippe Gilbert would put him in the Il Lombardia hat-trick club, while it would be the third Monument overall for Dan Martin. Julian Alaphilippe stands to take the biggest victory of his career to date, which some would see as deserved after his audacious swoop at last month’s World Championships only just failed to come off.


    Michal Kwiatkowski will be looking to bookend the season with his second monument and fourth classic. Sky could also go with Wout Poels, or Mikel Landa in his last race before his Movistar move. Perhaps throw in Diego Rosa as a wildcard.


    Astana rock up with any of Aru, Fuglsang or Miguel Ángel López in with a shout, while Dumoulin, Kelderman or Barguil could crown a golden year for Sunweb.


    Did we forget Rigoberto Uran? Because after his commanding win in Milano-Torino, he’s definitely got a good chance,too.


    Safe to say, we don’t make predictions, and we never will.