Milano-Torino preview

This year in particular we’ve been bemoaning the disappearance or shortening of certain races as a result of the current economic climate. But here’s a race that’s making a welcome return to the calendar. Milano–Torino is a semi-classic ranked 1.HC on the UCI Europe circuit which hasn’t been run since 2007. The event is owned by RCS  – proprietor of La Gazzetta dello Sport, Giro d’Italia, Milan-San Remo etc – was first run in 1876, making it not only the oldest of the Italian classic races but also one of the oldest in the world.

Prior to 1987 the event was held the week before Milan-San Remo but on account of increasingly inclement weather at that time of year, it was switched to October just before the Giro di Lombardia and formed part of the autumn treble with the Giro del Piemonte. In 2005 it returned to its traditional date in early March but was then moved back again for 2008 only to be cancelled. An agreement was eventually reached between the race owners and the Associazione Ciclistica Arona, who will organise the race for the next three years.

What sort of race is it?

Milano–Torino is one of the fastest of the Classics-style races. Swiss rider Markus Zberg holds the record average speed of 45.75kph when he won in 1999. Italian Costante Girardengo took a record five victories between 1914 and 1923. The last winner in 2007 was Danilo ‘The Killer’ Di Luca (Liquigas).

What happened last time?

Danilo Di Luca (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

The 92nd edition of the race started in Novate Milanese, just to the north-west of Milan, and headed in a south-westerly direction on broad flat roads for 95km before tackling the Vignale Monferrato climb followed by undulating terrain until Asti after 130km. Here the parcours turned north-west towards Turin climbing steadily before crossing the Colle di Superga, 16km from the finish line. It was then a swift descent down the Strada Panoramica to the finish in the Fausto Coppi velodrome.

Di Luca attacked on the final climb, the Superga, along with Juan Mauricio Soler (Barloworld), and claimed victory in the resulting two-man sprint. Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile) was the best of the rest some nine seconds back to round out the podium.

Here’s Di Luca’s winning attack:

After the race, speaking to La Gazzetta, Di Luca explained:

In a sense, I was a little stupid on the climb. I went better than I had envisioned and I was able to make the difference. On the other hand, on the descent there were two or three types of turns I did not like. But Soler and I were able to hold a good advantage. Then in the sprint I went well.

1. Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) 4:32:40

2. Juan Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) same time

3. Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile) +0:09

4. Stuart O’Grady (CSC) s/t

5. Mikhaylo Khalilov (Ceramica Flaminia) s/t

6. Christian Moreni (Cofidis) s/t

7. Daniele Pietropolli (Tenax) s/t

8. Gabriele Bosisio (Tenax) s/t

9. Linus Gerdemann (T-Mobile) s/t

10. Luca Solari (Lampre) s/t

This year’s race

The new organisers have sought to make the parcours a bit more interesting by making better use of the iconic Superga climb with its basilica at the top, overlooking Torino.

Race route

After 170km on pretty much flat roads, the riders will climb the mountain twice, starting from different sides with a quick trip into Torino in between. The final climb will take the classic route up to the basilica from Sassi. This will probably be one of the most challenging finishes of any of the big one-day races – 5km at an average of over 9%.

This isn’t dissimilar to the San Luca climb in the Giro dell’Emilia which is a bit steeper but only 2km in length. The Superga has similar ramps to the San Luca but also some longer stretches at slightly easier grades taking the average just below 10%. With the first ascent going up another slightly longer and easier 7km route the finale should be more selective.

Who to watch

Defending champion Di Luca (now Acqua & Sapone) will be wearing the number one bib and will be hoping to retain his title. He’ll have support from Colombian climbing sensation Carlos Betancur. Most teams feature riders who played a key role in Sunday’s World Championships road race, although not Philippe Gilbert (BMC). However, his Belgian teammates Kevin De Weert and Dries Devenyns (both Omega Pharma-Quick Step), who worked hard to control the race for PhilGil, will be taking part along with other animators such as Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) plus., Vincenzo Nibali and Moreno Moser (both Liquigas-Cannondale).

Garmin-Sharp is coming with Giro winner Ryder Hesjedahl while the Colombia Coldeportes team is packed with capable climbers and shouldn’t be discounted. Damiano Cunego, assisted by the wonderfully named Columbian Winner Anacona (both Lampre-ISD) might be looking to salvage something from a disappointing season. However the hot money, given the 18% ramps on the final ascent of the Superga, is likely to be on two pocket rockets: Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Domenico Pozzovivo (CSF-Colnago).

There is no live coverage of the race although RAI will be showing an hour of highlights this evening.

Link: Official website

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