Lombardia Preview

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 thoughts on “Lombardia Preview”

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

    • 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..

    • 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.

    • 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. 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…

  8. 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.

  9. 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

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

    • 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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