Il Lombardia Preview

Can Tadej Pogačar make it three in a row? This time it’s not a rhetorical question as he’s been beaten last weekend and hasn’t looked so incisive in several recent races. So we’ll see if Primož Roglič or Remco Evenepoel can dethrone him, or whether someone else surprises this Saturday to break the grip of the big teams. Here’s the usual preview with course details, TV timings and a note on whether any leaves will be falling.

The Course

238km and close to 4,500m of vertical gain. This year it’s a Como start and a finish in Bergamo, a near identical course to 2021 and the simple label is an Alpine course with long climbs, rather than sharp walls when it’s raced the other way around. The first climb is to the Madonna del Ghisallo chapel but the sacrilege of climbing up from Asso rather than Bellagio.

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 via Selvino 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 Finish
Bergamo Alta and riders storm the city, riding up narrow cobbled ramps through ancient gates and medieval streets, the twist this time is the curva Pinot. The profile above doesn’t show the corners nor the cobbles which make this a leg breaker. The descent is the substantive change to the course this year, the Giro-style finish straight off the descent where the last bend is with 700m to go.

The Contenders

It’s Tadej Pogačar versus the rest. He won the last time the race used this course in 2021, he won last year too. His UAE team are strong, the long climbs suit and he packs a mean sprint. So far so good but he’s looking beatable right now. He’s probably running on fumes after a long season, certainly his attacks in the Giro dell’Emilia and Tre Valli Varesine didn’t leave skidmarks on the road, instead he got countered. So he might love a spectacular victory but his best route to victory might be to make the front group and bide his time until the sprint. Marc Hirschi is back to winning ways and versatile too but the long climb to Ganda late doesn’t suit, instead Adam Yates is another card to play but both look like foils for their Slovenian boss.

Primož Roglič said his win in the Giro dell’Emilia was a parting gift to Jumbo-Visma but he can keep on giving here, just get to Bergamo with front group too and let his sprint do the rest although the flat finish isn’t what he’d chose.

Parting gifts? Who knows what happens with Soudal-Quickstep and Remco Evenepoel? He’s long been a phenomenon but his weakness was sprinting, come to the finish in a group or even with just one rider and he’d often get beaten in the past. Not any more as he’s much better at harnessing all the power on tap plus he can always revert to going solo like he did in Liège, this time the only doubt is that we haven’t seen him compete since the Vuelta. His team mates are even more incentivised to land a result so – pending the team announcement – Andrea Bagioli and Ilan Van Wilder are worth watching.

All the statistics point to one of these big name riders cited above winning, they each win so often that putting them in the same race means one of them is more likely to win than the rest of the field. The thrill of live sport is seeing surprises and rival teams must to hatch plans to grab hold of the race. Easier said than done though – here comes a bucket of cold water – and especially on a marathon course with long steady climbs where the big teams can deploy their trains. Even last year saw a cohesive UAE team demolish the field to set up Pogačar.

EF Education-Easypost have a very strong team, every rider looks capable of winning and some of them have already. But they’ll still find it hard to dent the stranglehold of the top teams. Richard Carapaz has had a season to forget but is looking at his most dangerous again, if he can get a few metres he’s hard to bring back; Ben Healy can try a longer range move.

Enric Mas (Movistar) was second last year and has been looking good in recent races too, but he’s often going to be outsprinted and it’s hard to see him barge clear for a solo win either but while he’s temperamentally cautious in a grand tour, here there’s less to lose. Likewise Pavel Sivakov and Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos) both in form, both aggressive so they can place but how to win? Ditto Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-hansgrohe) who is on adopted-home roads, he should feature in the finale but the top step is the challenge and if he can find a way then it’ll do him some good amid the team’s pecking order as they start to look top-heavy for 2024. Simon Yates (Jayco) is in form as well but whether it’s his decent sprint or ability to go solo and stay away for the win, others do it better now.

We’ve seen Ben O’Connor (Ag2r Citroën), Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain), Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic), Michael Woods (Israel-Premiertech) and Cofidis tandem Guillaume Martin and Ion Izagirre in the action of late but a win would be a shock.

Thibaut Pinot has won here before but won’t again. He’s put the ill in Il Lombardia of late as his build-up to this farewell race has seen him sick and injured, including an intestinal parasite so he’s been struggling to find form just to finish the late season races. So the goal is to make to Bergamo Alta and the curva Pinot and then bow out and team mates Valentin Madouas and Romain Grégoire are likely to finish ahead.

Pogačar, Roglič
Carapaz, Hirschi
Mas, Vlasov, Formolo, Bagioli, Healy, Sivakov, Rodriguez

Weather: a pleasant autumnal day, locals haven’t had to break out their winter coats yet.

TV: the race starts at 10.35am CEST and it’s live on Eurosport-GC from the start. Local coverage on RAI TV begins at 1.00pm, with on RAI Sport then RAI 2. The finish is forecast for 5.00pm CEST.

Race of the falling leaves? It’s going to be another warm edition and the leaves are barely turning. The original nickname is the classica delle foglie morte, literally the “classic of the dead leaves” which we translate to falling leaves in English. The name comes from early editions of the race, indeed the first race in 1905 happened well into November and decades later the race settled in October and a late slot at that, then it moved to a mid-month date. 2012 saw the race happen in September and now it’s settled in early October. There’s still a wistful autumnal feel to the course at this time of year as mornings begin with clouds hanging over the lakes, the afternoon sun creates longer shadows and nights feel chillier but the race’s poetic title doesn’t quite match the look.

47 thoughts on “Il Lombardia Preview”

  1. A late call up for Ganna after his surprising performance in Gran Piemonte (he said he was going on holiday). We can only dream 🙂

  2. Nice preview, thanks! Seen this a few times live-in-person (no links to blog posts about those, OK?) and always enjoy this time-of-year despite it being the end of another cycling season.
    Would love to see Pogacar make it three wins, hoping he’s coming back to top form just-in-time 🙂

  3. I’m surprised that with IR giving twelve riders one or more rings that neither of the Yates twins even merits a single ring. It’s also surprising that several teams including Soudal-QS and UAE don’t seem to have formalised their squads yet. The riders must already be present close to the start.

    Cyclism’Actu suggests the JV – Soudal-QS merger won’t take place after all. Good news for the middle ranking QS riders and maybe bad news for Ineos looking to complete their 2024 squad.

    • I think Adam Yates is bound to work for Pogačar, maybe they could have tried a co-leader race in Emilia last weekend but the downhill flat finish is much more suited to Pogačar, it’s harder to see how Yates is in the picture but Pogačar isn’t but we’ll see. It’d be nice if Simon wins just to see a different rider than the obvious picks winning and from a “smaller” team, at least one outside the big stables.

    • They all have more riders present in Italy than they can start in the race, so maybe they already have a good idea about who will be in the squad, but there might be 1-2 spots that are still in a balance (maybe also depending on minor injuries or other things?).

    • Fixed, thanks. The climb and descent are known climbs for local cyclists but the Passo di Ganda isn’t really a proper mountain pass, the nearby Passate di Ganda is the actual pass but it’s not on the race route; just as people say “Il Selvino” for the climb but there’s again no pass, just the village with this name.

  4. Does anyone else find it strange that the UCI Gravel World Championships are held on the same weekend as supposedly one of then biggest big races of the season? Why are they, and Paris-Tours sharing a weekend when we aren’t exactly short of free weekends going forward?

    • My guess is they don’t really care all that much about Gravel World’s? The women’s race won’t even be shown live. And I can’t argue much, I’m home in front of the TV all day for Il Lombardia today but tomorrow’s Gravel World’s will be watched in our house only AFTER a nice bike ride and lunch.
      IMHO if they see a need for ’em, UCI should award rainbow jerseys for gravel racing to the winner of Strade Bianche each year and be done with it! OTOH, Paris-Tours should be next Sunday.

      • There are quite a few top level pros doing the gravel worlds that arent doing Lombardia. Lombardia and Paris Tours should be on separate weekends and the Gravel worlds the week after. Pozzato’s new races can fit around them. It feels like Emilia gets a better slot in the calendar now for some reason.

        • I didn’t claim nobody was interested, just the UCI it seems. Plenty of entrants are there to race for a rainbow jersey…I figure they must think they’ve got a much better chance tomorrow than they do today to pop the cork on any Prosecco?

    • Separate disciplines? Some road riders are taking part but can’t imagine the gravel drains or overlaps with much of the audience from Lombardia, just as the UCI World Series gravel races this season haven’t displaced other events, but all the same curious that we get both events in Italy on the same weekend.

      It doesn’t look like much of a spectator sport. Gravel riding, cycle touring, bikepacking… or just going for a ride etc can be enjoyable but it TV coverage looks less compelling it’s not spectacular to watch, there are better ways to tell the story like photography, writing etc.

      • TV coverage of last Worlds was a mess. Given the nature of the sport and the route no big surprise. Paris-Roubaix roads are a highway compared to the small paths they rode. One moto camera behind some unidentifiable riders in the dust ahead is all I saw.

      • Van Aert and Mohoric are doing the gravel worlds. Two of the best one day riders in the world. Two of the best ‘medium mountain’ riders as well. Having the worlds gravel on the same weekend and the Lombardia course like a high mountain stage has watered it down to well below the level of the other monuments in my opinion.

      • It’s him or MVDP, mostly depending on if you value 2nd at the TDF as a great result or a serious defeat. MVDP was impressively effective, a sniper, and nearly literally destroyed the rest in his 3 big shots. 3 big ones, indeed. Pogi was racing more and more varied terrains and looked to be able to win even when his athletical superiority wasn’t as crushing – this Lombardia. Counting points, it’s clearly Pogi, whereas if you value the sensation of relative improvement on his own benchmarks and the feeling of “overwinning”, it must be MVDP. OTOH, the Ronde was a direct match on MVDP’s terrain… and Pogi won that.

        • It’s a funny one. On MVDP’s terrain, he lost comfortably to Pogacar. On Pogacar’s terrain, he lost comfortably to Vingegaard.

          If Vingegaard hadn’t agreed to gift Kuss the Vuelta, would a 2 GT season make him the best rider of the year?

          • Lost comfortably to Vingegaard is debatable – in 2023 he broke a bone 8 weeks before TdF and still pushed Vingegaard at least early on.

            In 2022 Pogacar was arguably stronger but was out classed by Vingegaard with a lieutenant who was capable of winning as a teammate plus WVA.

            Pogacar also has won yellow.

          • No agreement from the very beginning would have meant that Rogla was probably going to win it, not Vingo. So it’s quite much about cherry-picking pieces of an alternate universe choosing all the option you like best, rather than a “close result” of sort.

    • Amstel and Flèche.

      On an even smaller scale, well, bronze at the Worlds and Paris-Nice.
      Some 55-60% of the times he starts a race or even a stage, he gets on the podium.

      Crucially, it’s also especially hard to win Ronde and Lombardia on the same year, two extremely different types of efforts are required and it’s complicated to achieve excellence in both during the same season. Just as to win three of any Monuments in a row, because of the very nature – pretty much a chaotic one – of classics racing.

      • I agree and I put Pogi above all else. My view on his TdF second is highly positive. When was the last TdF podium (or even top-20 finisher) also a Ronde winner? I have NEVER seen anything like this.

        You’re right on, to win that Ronde, he had to directly battle MVdP, WVA and all of the northern classics specialists. Then he had to reset, retool and build back for a shot at yellow – and he still comes in with a team that won’t stack up.

        Pogi for top rider of the season, then MVdP, Jonas, Roglic, Remco and WVA. WVA needs to be more selfish next year.

  5. Fantastic race thoroughly enjoyable, the weather, the scenery just beautiful. Cannot imagine the feeling of riding solo those last few km’s soaking up the achievement. What a win.

    • Lombardia is currently comfortably the most predictable bike race of the year. If next years finish is in Como, which presumably it will be, and they use the long way up the Civiglio in the final, which they will, and Pogacar is fit and hasn’t decided he’s completed Lombardia, then he will win.

      • Predictable in that if Pogacar shows up in decent shape, he wins. Is that the fault of the course…or his competitors?
        While there’s no argument about the nice scenery I’m reminded of back-in-the-day when we’d get requests for tours in this region after people would watch this race. What they never saw is on any other day, these same roads are FULL of automobile and truck traffic. The area around Bergamo might be one of the worst places to ride in Italy! We know because we’ve ridden there with locals, both top-level pros and everyday enthusiasts….who say the same thing.

          • Leaves the obvious – how would YOU fix it? I don’t see any problems – everyone knows when the race is scheduled, the course is mapped-out way in advance and Pogacar kicks their a__ for three years running. But OTOH, I like MSR too…so…?

          • I’ve said about a million times on every preview and review or this race since about 2015 that they should go back to the courses when the likes of Bartoli, Bettini and Gilbert could and did win this race. None of those would even bother entering now.

      • I’m surprised that there hasn’t been more comment about the manner of this win, though. Eight of them went over the top of the last climb together. He was allowed to take 30+ seconds on the descent and then, of course, cooperation was expectedly poor.

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