Lombardia Preview

The same but different. The course changes every year but the race remains the same, a long distance test across the plains, valleys and climbs of Lombardia, a scenic race for viewers and a technical challenge for participants with double-digit gradient climbs and numerous twisty descents.

The Route: 239km and over 4,500m of vertical gain. The race keeps switching between Como and Bergamo as start and finishing points and this year it’s from Como to Bergamo. The first climb is to the Madonna del Ghisallo sanctuary only the climb is tackled “backwards” to the usual route, it’s a steep climb followed by more open descent once past the chapel and then along the shores of Lake Como. The climb to Roncola is 9km with a middle 7km at over 8%, it’s selective and should start thinning the field and tiring legs. The next climb to Berbenno is more gentle, almost a big ring climb. The same for the next climb to the Colle di Zambla via Dossena, a long steady climb to sap the legs and chased by a big descent.

The Passo di Ganda is the crucial point, 9.2 km at 7.3%, maxxing at 15% and crucially the upper slopes are the steepest. This is a wilder climb than the others and the descent is tricky too with many hairpin bends and narrow. Dropped riders will have to take risks and burn up energy to get back. Then comes more than 10km on the flat, a tactical nomansland that could see breaks flounder and riders huddle in anticipation of the final climb above Bergamo.

The race reuses the Bergamo Alta route it’s borrowed before. The riders will storm the city riding up narrow cobbled ramps through ancient gates and medieval streets. The profile above doesn’t show the corners nor the cobbles which make the last climb a leg breaker. The descent isn’t symmetrical, it’s on wider roads with large hairpin bends and the road for the finish levels out in the last kilometre with one right hand bend with 250m to go before the line.

The Contenders: Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) has won his last two races but they each had a hilltop finish and if he’s got a kick like a Thai boxer, here the flat finish is harder for him, does he move on the climb into Bergamo or hope for the best in the sprint? Team mates Steven Kruijswijk and Jonas Vinegaard looked handy in the Giro dell’Emilia too but they could well be deployed to mop up moves from others.

Deceuninck-Quickstep come with three ace cards. Julian Alaphilippe was last seen being dropped on Turin’s Superga climb but if you’re a fan, don’t worry as he’d said the race was for training and had been working to split the group on the plains. Still the test is whether he can cope with 20 minute plus climbs in order to make the front group coming into Bergamo and it’s not obvious. Remco Evenepoel is back to the race where he had that horror crash. He’s got one way of winning and it’s to go solo from afar and if rivals know he’ll do this he’s still irresistible, especially when his team have several cards to play. João Almeida is the third ace, in form and a strong rider but with a less obvious route to victory than his two team mates. Andrea Bagioli and Fausto Masnada are outside contenders but likely to fulfil team roles.

UAE bring another very strong team. Tadej Pogačar has come up a little short in recent races but only just and can probably win at 90% form. Davide Formolo is in form but a rare winner, Diego Ulissi can score more often and from a sprint while Marc Hirschi still looks a touch short of form to save his season.

Vincenzo Nibali is enjoying some late season form. He’s just won his home Giro di Sicilia and not by some crafty ambush, instead he dropped the other GC contenders on a long climb and this was something he hasn’t done for some time. 2019 Lombardia winner Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) is back and could try another mugging on the flat road to Bergamo, the form seems about there.

Adam Yates leads Ineos but how to win? He’s not a regular in one day races and in stage races he’s usually winning atop a summit finish but can has the race craft to win a sprint too, if he comes in with a small group he’s got a good chance. Gianni Moscon is versatile, but enough to go from leading Paris-Roubaix to coping with the Passo di Ganda?

A broken collarbone in the Vuelta and then 40 days later Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) won a stage of the Giro di Sicilia. The wins don’t come so easy these days and Lombardia ought to suit but it’s a race he’s never won, three second places make this an elusive race.

EF Education-Nippo have some good outsiders with Rigo Uran, Sergio Higuita and Neilson Powless but imagine you’re the team DS, how to you turn this into a plan to beat the others?

Now for some climbers who’d prefer a hillier finish. Michael Woods (Israel) is a hard pick for a flat sprint but should feature. Ag2r Citroën’s Clément Champoussin has looked good of late. Bora-Hansgrohe’s climber Matteo Fabbro is due a big win. Romain Bardet (DSM) knows this race well and copes well with long distances. David Gaudu is Groupama-FDJ’s leader with Thibaut Pinot in support and unlike the names listed so far Gaudu’s got a handy sprint from a group, it got him on the podium in Liège earlier this season but he’d sign for a podium place again, it’s hard to see how he can win here. Stephen Williams (Bahrain) has just won the Tour of Croatia but unpicking a big one day race is another matter.

Remco Evenepoel
Julian Alaphilippe, Primož Roglič, Adam Yates
João Almeida, Tadej Pogačar, Diego Ulissi
Powless, Gaudu, Nibali, Mollema, Valverde, Woods
Vinegaard, Masnada, Hirschi, Pinot, S Yates, Higuita

Weather: if the leaves are still on the trees for the “race of the falling leaves” it’ll still feel autumnal. Expect cloudy skies, some weak sunshine and a cool 16°C in the valleys.

TV: live from start to finish. The race starts at 10.20am CEST and finishes around 5.00pm CEST. Local coverage on RAI is relayed by Eurosport/GCN in many countries from pm onwards. Tune in early because this is the last time you’ll see a stellar field racing this year and for some time into next year but if you have to ration your viewing, tune in around 3.45pm for the Passo di Ganda and more.

19 thoughts on “Lombardia Preview”

  1. 5 stars for Remco seems a brave shout. He’ll attack with 100km to go, so probably on the flat before Berbenno, but he’ll still have two climbs and two descents to go. I think if he’s a minute up the road by the bottom of the Ganda Pogacar and Roglic will probably be able to ride up to him. Also, his bike handling may lose him it on the descent even if they don’t. He’s probably still favourite though. Unless he saves it up for a solo TT effort on the run in to Bergamo? Presumably if he’s in a lead group on the Ganda strenuous efforts will be mate to drop him.
    I hope there is a group before the Bergamo Alta climb as it’s a spectacular little climb. Tricky and technical but not monstrously steep. The descent is arguably even better.

  2. I wasn’t going to like this version of the course, the Ghisallo backwards etc but the finish sounds like its open to all. Keep an eye on Lotto’s Kron.

    • Kron’s been a revelation this year, an outside pick if a sizeable group comes in but can he hang with the best over the Passo di Ganda? I’d imagine the race will be shredded to pieces by then and he likely won’t have much help to pull things back if he goes make it over either.

  3. Williams looked in great form and full of confidence in the CRO tour. This is 240 km but he can sprint a little and climb. A surprise could happen if he can make the distance and isn’t riding for Landa.

    S Yates if prepared could do well too though the spark seems to have left BikeExchange. One can only squeeze a budget so far.

  4. That is a big call putting Remco out on his own above Roglic. I like the confidence, but what about these descents? After seeing him in the Giro, it’s confirmed that he’s not a great bike handler so being out on his own pinning tight descents could be a bit sketchy. One thing about Remco though is that he seems like a determined mf so I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s trained his descending loads and gotten better fast. I guess we’ll find out.

    • descending can be improved; overall bike handling is harder.
      remco should be spending the winter getting much better going downhill and also a bit more confident on rougher terrain. chris froome applied himself to his descending and turned it from a weakness to a strength.

  5. I will agree with the others. Considering what happened last year and the descending he showed in the giro it is difficult to see Evenepoel winning. I have not been able to see him racing toherwise so i don’t know if the giro was a result of him still being a bit affected by the crash or the crash was a result of his comparatively poor descending compared to the rest. But if has not improved i would not take him to this race.
    My favourite is the world champion but at the end of the season its a hard race to call.

  6. I raised my eyebrows at first seeing Remco picked as most likely to win from this field, but then thought he at least has a very clear path to victory. Probably the only way he can win is to escape alone from the lead group or breakaway on or before the Zambla and stay clear. In that respect his objective is to be clear of Alaphilippe, Roglic, Pogacar and potentially Nibali and Bardet (and Valverde at a stretch) over the Ganda, as he almost certainly can’t win if he isn’t. Noting of course that unlike at Worlds he and Alaphilippe are on the same team, and Ala need not chase. Nor Almeida if he’s still there too, which is quite likely on recent form.

    If Remco is able to execute that what might be a surprise is that he won, but not that that was how he won. He hasn’t won yet, but a win in this manner, against this field, would mean the hype is actually real.

  7. Seems far too soon for the season to be drawing to a close, perhaps because Paris Roubaix was last week. Not sure who I would pick, but the 5 rings for Remco seems rather “brave”, I am still inclined to the view that at the moment he is more style over substance. Perhaps this is one for Julian Alaphilippe.

  8. I agree with our host. If he has the legs Remco will go for a long one. Not only because he’s Remco, but also because that’s the best shot for his team. I reckon he’ll go early on the second to last climb to Dossena. And then nobody with a shot at winning this thing will go with him except for maybe Pogi.
    Even more so because the field is so stacked with high quality riders of whom an unusually big number seem to be in great shape.
    Most will shake their heads in disbelief and look at each other while Remco rides away.

    Whether he successfully makes it to the finish line remains to be seen. But if he is on his own he can descend decently as shown when he won San Sebastian where he was the fastest in the descend before he made his move coming back to the front group which he had lost in the climb due to a mechanical.
    It surely also depends on how much cohesion there is behind him – probably not too much – and who’ll have team mates late into the race who can make the pace.

    I’m really excited for this race. One of the best races of the year IMHO, and even more so this year with such a strong field. For me that’s kind of the real WC race.

    • So Remco didn’t have it today. Was suffering early as some TV shot of his face showed at the beginning of the climb to Dossena.
      DQT still rode a great race – with Masnada being the man of the match IMHO – until Alaphilippe decided to not work with the others in the pursuit. They had brought down the gap to just 30′ and were working well together at that point until someone decided that he’s not going to pull the world champion to Bergamo. Had Alaphilippe contributed the others might have potentially continued to work and DQT’s chance of winning the race (with Alaphilippe) would have been significantly bigger than the 0.1% of Masnada (100% slow twitch muscle fibers) winning the sprint versus Pogacar.

  9. A last chance to for those without a contract to make themselves visible too, at least if they are allowed by team instructions to do so. Even more worrying are the riders who won’t have a final chance to shine. It could have been a race for James Knox, not selected but for whom the terrain would have suited. From promising to forgotten almost overnight?

    • I’d imagine it’s very difficult for any rider to boost their value or land a job today, the course just suits the big names with the long climbs, distance and big squads ready to shape the race.

      The rider market is a mess right now. Astana are looking to recruit but meanwhile Qhubeka-Nexthash on the verge of stopping a lot of riders are on the market, the team doesn’t have any big stars but does have a lot of riders who could slot into many teams well. Lefevère says this morning he’s got 29 riders on his books for next year and might go to 30 so sounds like plenty of renewals but they haven’t been confirmed.

  10. Checked last night but as far as I can see only moreno argentin 1987 and merckx 1971 and 1972 have done liege lombardia doubles. Eddy added the tour too.
    History awaits pogacar.

    • Nice guess. Cyclingnews states that only Merckx and Coppi managed to win two monuments and the TdF during the same season. Quite a company for Pogacar.

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