Lombardia Preview

Friday, 12 October 2018

Winter is coming and Lombardia is the last great race of the year. Nevermind the season fatigue you’ve accumulated, time for a last show of stamina as this is often a rewarding and dramatic race to enjoy before the off-season arrives.

The Route: Unlike the other Monuments Lombardia often changes its route substantially but this year’s route is a lot like last year’s, only with a different finish. It’s 241km from Bergamo to Como with 4,000m of vertical gain backloaded into the final two hours. The Colle Gallo is a good steady climb of 6km at 6.9%, maxxing at 10% and followed by a wide descent with some tight bends yet few surprises before the race takes the Serio valley back to Bergamo and the feedzone. The climb to Colle Brianza is 4km at 7% which sounds fine only near the top it’s 20%. A descent and then the scenic loop alongside the shores of Lake Como to Bellagio and the start of the heartachingly beautifulMadonna del Ghisallo climb.

The climb, thanks to this race and the sanctuary at the top, is among the most well-known roads in the sport, a marriage of sport and religion. It starts hard with 10% gradients and tight hairpin bends. The first four kilometres continue at 9% with some steeper ramps before the road levels out from Palaino to Civenna before the final ramps and hairpins to the Ghisallo chapel. It is really two climbs, a steep early section followed by flat and even downhill sections as the route goes through the village of Guello before the final kick via snaking bends to the chapel… and then there’s a pesky false flat that drags on and then a high speed descent with blind bends and some off camber corners.

Next comes the Muro di Sormano, a climb so steep that it’s hard to attack with 2km at 15% and 25% for a while. It’s an infamous climb, described by 1958 Giro winner Ercole Baldini as unnecessary and “beastly, impossible to ride” but today’s gearing makes it more accessible. If anything the climb is the manageable part as you’ve either got what it takes or not and the descent is harder because it’s wild in places.

Next is the climb to Civiglio, a regular 10% ramp all the way up for 4km making it very difficult after 220km. The difference this year is the climb of San Fermo is avoided, the road is off limits due to works and instead there’s the small climb of Monte Olimpino which sounds more grand than the reality.

The Finish: the climb of Monte Olimpino is small, just 1.75km at 5.7% and that 9% section is only there if you take the inside line on one of the gentle climbs but still the climb is above 6% for the most part and so selective, especially with almost 240km in the legs. The descent has some corners but they’re big and wide before it flattens off and there’s a left-hand bend with 800m to go.

The Contenders: Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) started the classics with a win in Sanremo and could end the year with a win here. He’s got then experience and the skills, and the local knowledge as he lives a short ride away over the border in Switzerland. The question has been over his form but with the Vuelta and Worlds in his legs he should be coming to the boil now.

Valverde rainbow jersey

Alejandro Valverde got worked over on the slopes of the Superga on Wednesday. This finish suits him much more, he can let others attack and instead track the moves and then win the sprint out of a group, just as he did in Innsbruck, just as he has done in Liège and so on.

Thibaut Pinot

Thibaut Pinot won Milano-Torino and has a strong Groupama-FDJ team to help with youth and experience in David Gaudu and Sébastien Reichenbach. He can sprint out of a small group but the Olimpino climb is less advantageous for him.

Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) is in form and is suited to this race but like others the finish isn’t as selective as last year so how to shake off a faster finisher?

Team Sky seems to be pivoting to South America with Egan Bernal and Ivan Sosa but for now surely their best bet is Gianni Moscon. The course is a challenge but so was Innsbruck and he was close the and this time the way the course’s hardest moments aren’t saved for late suit him.

Astana bring a strong team but who to pick? Jacob Fuglsang is an infrequent winner.

Bauke Mollema has just started winning and Trek-Segafredo would be delighted with the win but how to outdo everyone else?

The Yates brothers return after a Worlds where the only time they were noticed was when they were ejected. Now back in Mitchelton-Scott jerseys both could feature.

EF Education First-Drapac bring the old and the new with Michael Woods and Rigoberto Urán, Woods is in form but lésant of a pick from a sprint compared to his wily Colombia colleague.

Alejandro Valverde
Gianni Moscon
Thibaut Pinot, Vincenzo Nibali
Romain Bardet, Michael Woods, Alesssandro de Marchi
Mollema, Roglič, Urán, Fuglsang, Yates², Barguil, Hermans, Mohorič

Weather: autumn can wait, it’ll be a pleasant 24 degrees and sunny.

TV: it’s on the same channel you watch the Giro on. The finish is forecast for 5.00pm

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

Sam G October 12, 2018 at 3:33 pm

Is Rui Costa riding? Back from injury and looked good in the worlds. Outside bet maybe??

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Tricky Hawes October 12, 2018 at 3:41 pm

Yup, he’s riding. Along with Dan Martin and Aru.

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nortonpdj October 12, 2018 at 3:36 pm

As the season draws majestically to a close, it’s time to thank our (almost) omniscient and seemingly indefatigable host, the inimitable Inrng.
Thank you sir!

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Pax October 13, 2018 at 5:46 am

Double that thank you Inrng – keep it up, and let us know if we can help in any way!

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Simon October 13, 2018 at 10:25 am

Amen to that. Predictably, INRNG’s preview of today’s magnificent race is the only one that kept my attention beyond the first 2 sentences (and also taught me a few things, as it invariably does). Chapeau.

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Steve October 13, 2018 at 3:39 pm

Agreed. Even if INRNG left Bernal out of the selections.

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RonDe October 12, 2018 at 3:49 pm

Moscon gets more chain rings than Pinot? Would spoil Saturday afternoons for many readers here if the Italian triumphed. But I don’t see how he can. He wouldn’t win a sprint with the likes of Valverde and maybe not even with the Frenchman and both seemed to be climbing better than him on Wednesday. I can’t really see past Valverde to be honest. And that depresses me.

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Ecky Thump October 13, 2018 at 1:04 pm

I like to think of this race as offering redemption for the cycling sinner, it seems a fitting setting and at a timely point towards the racing season’s end.
And so, with that in mind, it would be quite appropriate for Moscon to triumph here in the same redemptive manner as Nibali after his Vuelta sticky bottle of three years ago.
I’m sure the winning rider will have to repeat a thousand Hail Mary’s on some of the frightening descents too.

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Chuffy October 12, 2018 at 3:50 pm

Where’s Dan Martin? Is he busy with nappies & early morning feeds?*

* – and good for him if he is. 🙂

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The GCW / Strictly Amateur October 13, 2018 at 2:59 am

Dan Martin is often one of the riders I’m rooting for…

I hope He doesn’t say He slept like a baby the night before the race; it means He woke up crying every 2 hours. Har har.

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Sam G October 12, 2018 at 4:18 pm

Yates^2 = 4 Yates brothers or (2×2 = 4)

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Francisco October 12, 2018 at 4:42 pm

Yates^2 = 1 Yates brother or (1×1 = 1). But why should we hold our gentle host to the rules of mathematical notation if we all get the meaning of “Yates squared”?

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DJW October 13, 2018 at 6:11 am

And discussion is academic as Yates is, in this case, singular. (Simon on the beach, in Bury market…)

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Tom October 16, 2018 at 12:31 pm

“2(Yates)” doesn’t look as nice next to the chainring.

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Kavan October 12, 2018 at 5:19 pm

It will be interesting to see how Bernal does.

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Michael B October 12, 2018 at 6:28 pm

Valverde the clear favourite although it’ll be interesting to see how close Moscon or Bernal can push him. Bernal would probably have to go long, while Moscon plays the patient game if it comes back together. Having said that patience wasn’t really his strong point at the Worlds.

Of the rest I would have picked De Marchi as my outside bet given his win at the Giro dell’Emilia but, since INGRNG has name checked him, I’ll go Fraile as a long shot.

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Richard S October 12, 2018 at 8:41 pm

Are Quick Step not entering?!

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Cinjet October 12, 2018 at 9:25 pm

Would love for Mollema to win, he is due a big one but seems only to shine in San Sebastian as far as one day races go.

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RonDe October 12, 2018 at 11:46 pm

Nibali in Cycling News: “I’d be flattered to receive an offer from Team Sky, I’d like that. It’d be a really nice challenge that I opted not to take up in the past. I don’t have any regrets about that but Team Sky is a unique team; they can perhaps help you achieve things that you’ve never done before.”

Surely that would break Larry T?

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Chuffy October 12, 2018 at 11:58 pm

He’s optimistic isn’t he? I can’t see much point in Mr Nibbles hitching up his skirt & flashing a bit of leg at Dave B. Sky wouldn’t touch him with a bargepole..

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STS October 13, 2018 at 12:37 am

And you believe he was serious when he said that? Com’on.
Vincenzo has really matured in the last few years. He now says things like that to be polite and make everyone happy.

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Chuffy October 13, 2018 at 10:35 pm

Fair enough. If he wasn’t serious (and it would be a very odd thing to say) then perhaps he was taking the piss or even having a subtle dig at Froome & Thomas, perhaps. Who knows.

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KevinR October 13, 2018 at 8:52 am

Obviously Nibali is one of the modern greats but Sky seem to have set their long-term GT course and it doesn’t fit with having him on board. Unless he’s talking one-day races

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Stuie October 13, 2018 at 10:13 am

Someone will wind from a long range attack. I’m going for Bernal or Nibs.

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Sarper G. October 13, 2018 at 10:42 am

Thanks again for this great website INRNG!!

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Matty October 13, 2018 at 12:14 pm

Willing for Bardet but might not suit.

His attitude is always good and i like his approach……never try never know

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Davetherave October 13, 2018 at 1:05 pm

Very odd comments from Nibali: you have a year left with a team which pays you very well and you appeal to Sky, a team you have criticised. I’d have thought the last thing Sky need is another big £££ leader.

Would love Woods to win today – he comes across in Phil Gaimons book very well. Or Dan Martin, an honest no BS dude. Or Bardet with his Terminator-meets-Descartes vibe.

Last real day of the season today, enjoy it folks and thanks Inrng for a good spring n summer.

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Barbarossa October 13, 2018 at 1:49 pm

Have to think Nibali talking up Sky is most likely a negotiating tactic with Bahrain.

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Noel October 13, 2018 at 1:25 pm

I’ve really enjoyed watching Pinot recently – I’d love to see him bag a big win, and maybe that would give him the confidence to make the step to that very top level of names for GTs etc…

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Cinjet October 13, 2018 at 4:20 pm

It certainly looks like your prayers are being answered. What a ride!

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Anonymous October 13, 2018 at 4:32 pm

It was beginning to feel inevitable, just needed the final piece to fall in to place.

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Cepphus Grylle October 13, 2018 at 4:54 pm

Thought he rode really well at the Worlds too; covered a lot of moves for Ala in the last 60km. I wondered at the time if he could have won if he’d been leader. Happy he got his rewards today, in his favoured country too!

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Noel October 13, 2018 at 5:01 pm

Woohoo! Chapeau Thibaut!

Anonymous October 13, 2018 at 4:30 pm

Some cracking form at the tail end of the season!

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DUNCAN(oldDAVE) October 13, 2018 at 4:34 pm

Brilliant race. Very happy for Pinot.

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Anand October 13, 2018 at 4:36 pm

Great win from Tibo. Of the climbers it’s him and D Martin for me, attack even if it’s no use!
But sometimes(hopefully many, many times) it’s what separate the winners from the losers.

And “half” a Nibali, second. The guy is unbelievable.

Love this race.

And big kudos for LottoNL for this season, bringing the game to the big guys with a cast not really thought to be this good aforehand.

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Anand October 13, 2018 at 4:45 pm

Oh, and Dylan Teuns. What a freaking talent. Last year he was remarkable, winning smaller races by stunning performances, this year podiuming much larger ones in just as stunning ways.

Seems suited as one-day guy, but in the Vuelta he was shining quite nicely over larger timespan. The new Spilak, ‘heps

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gabriele October 13, 2018 at 5:00 pm

What a race. Torn in pieces with some 50 kms to go. People getting on the front or falling back, nice show both by Roglic and Bernal, plus tactical games in the chasing group, and finally a couple of very deserving winner and runner-up. Happy I could watch it!

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Steppings October 13, 2018 at 5:52 pm

Happy to see Pinot bag a major win for him and the team. A confidence boost I am sure will stand him in good stead for next year.

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Michael B October 13, 2018 at 6:58 pm

Really pleased Pinot won, always seems a good guy and you’ve got to have a soft spot for a GC rider who takes the classics serious. Speaking of which hats off to Nibali as well, amazing fighting spirit and a great way to bookend the season after his MSR victory.

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Mortinsky October 13, 2018 at 8:28 pm

Hats of to Pinot and Nibali, two of my favorite riders in the peleoton! As someone said above, good to se GC guys that take on the Classics in a serious matter. Today was a thriller on a wonderful course.
Hats of to Inrng as well for indepth analysis through this season, a beacon of light!

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Rooto October 13, 2018 at 8:30 pm

Loved that race!
Apart from Pinot’s repeated attacks which were great to watch , I particularly liked Nibali getting caught because he was knackered, and still managing to ride away from the field purely due to his racing nous and enormous balls. What a guy!
But mainly, fantastic to watch from Thibault.

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Martin D October 14, 2018 at 12:56 am

Yes. A great race!

And a very popular winner.

I’m very happy for him. And also for myself having had the good fortune to watch that beautiful race.

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Paul October 15, 2018 at 10:57 am

+ 1

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Othersteve October 14, 2018 at 11:49 pm

Great road race to end the year

Thanks all, and especially you INRNG.

Time to hang up the road bike and check the tires on the cross bike.

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DUNCAN(oldDAVE) October 15, 2018 at 2:50 pm

Is this the most popular victory of the year?

I’ve been thinking about this race all weekend.

I’m a big Pinot fan, but it seems like this comment section has given him and the race a big thumbs up also.

Of the other big victories – Geraint + Team Sky are never going to be loved (plus we missed a grandstand moment from Geraint in the race to win everyone over), Froome Giro and Yates Vuelta were either repelled or unloved (Yates isn’t the most immediate media presence out there) – Alaphillipe coming through was nice, probably only Sagan’s PR was as widely loved.

Oh other than Nibali’s M-S…

Anyway, I want this to be Pinot’s CadelEvansWC moment… where he kicks on a lands a GT.
Any rider who finishes Top3 at a GrandTour can win it – fingers crossed it’s Pinot next year.

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Motormouth October 15, 2018 at 4:02 pm

I think Nibali’s MSR was my most emotional (I couldn’t believe it when I was watching!)

Yate’s Vuelta was both awesome (the race, and his performance), and it was a poetic win after his icarus’ fall in the Giro. So that was very satisfying end to the gc calendar.

I think Strade Bianchi was my #3… I’m a big cyclocross fan, and seeing Benoot win, with Bardet and Wout 2/3 was a fantastic result.

This was a great race too, but those are my top 3 I think.

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Ecky Thump October 15, 2018 at 8:55 pm

Sagan’s Paris – Roubaix victory for me, though sadly overshadowed on the day by the tragic events.

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