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.
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.
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.
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.
|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.