The last of the year’s five monuments, Il Lombardia could again prove instrumental in determining the winner of the individual WorldTour rankings.
What sort of race is it?
The race is run largely around the towns of Milan, Como, Lecco, Varese and Bergamo but one constant has been the Madonna del Ghisallo climb that typically appears in the latter part of the race and on which there’s a shrine dedicated to cyclists.
Fausto Coppi holds the record with five wins while in recent years a number of riders – Paolo Bettini, Michele Bartoli, Damiano Cunego and Philippe Gilbert – have all won back-to-back titles which may augur well for defending champion Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and make up for his bitter disappointment last weekend in the Worlds.
The most recent winners are:
2008: Damiano Cunego (Lampre)
2009: Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto)
2010: Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto)
2011: Oliver Zaugg (Leopard Trek)
2012: Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)
What happened last year?
Pocket rocket Joaquim Rodriguez soloed to his first major one-day race victory. He threw caution to the wind in the pouring rain, attacked on the final climb and held on to become the first ever Spaniard to win this race. The points from his victory ensured he took top spot in the UCI’s year-end WorldTour ranking, replicating his 2010 triumph.
Indeed it was an all-Spanish speaking podium with runner-up (again) Samu Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Giro del Piemonte winner Rigoberto Uran (Sky) in third.
1. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) 6:36:27
2. Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) +0:09
3. Rigoberto Uran (Sky) same time
4. Mauro Santambrogio (BMC) s/t
5. Sergio Henao (Sky) s/t
6. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) s/t
7. Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) s/t
8. Oliver Zaugg (RadioShack-Nissan) s/t
9. Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) s/t
10. Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) s/t
This year’s race
After the success of last year’s parcours which included – at the fans’ request – the Sormano Wall, making its first appearance since 1926, the slightly shorter 2013 edition will again start in Bergamo and finish on Lecco’s lakeside Isonzo Lungolario.
The first 60km section is largely flat as it heads east from Bergamo before turning back towards Brianza and the first climb of the day, the Valico di Valcava and its 14 hairpin bends – 11.65km at an average of 8% – followed by a fast technical descent.
Next up there’s the shortish Colle Brianza climb and then, just under 20km later, the Muro di Sormano. The first part of the climb averages a taxing 6.6% but the gradient increases substantially in the last 1.9km, with an average of 15.8% and sections at a leg-juddering 27%. If that wasn’t enough, the climb is narrow with several sharp hairpins.
Thereafter, the route follows the southern shores of Lake Como before climbing the iconic Madonna del Ghisallo from Bellagio – 8.6km at an average of 6.2%. Riders pass by the small chapel and museum at the top before swooping down to the finish in Lecco via Villa Vergano -3.25km at an average of 7.4% – which is where last year’s victor, like many of those who preceded him, launched his winning attack.
Who to watch
Favourites for victory should include those who stayed the distance at last Sunday’s World Championships road race, including new world champion Rui Costa (Movistar) – who will give the rainbow jersey its maiden outing – and his podium companions, defending champion Rodriguez and fellow Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
There are a lot of riders still without contracts for next year and few opportunities to impress. Expect a number to both animate the race and go for the win. Equally, there are riders looking to salvage a disappointing season. In other words, there’s contenders aplenty among the 19 WorldTour and six wild-card teams.
The forecast is for wet weather at the finish, so expect those that coped best with the torrential conditions at the Worlds to be in the mix towards the finish. Rodriguez will wear number one and will look to defend his title so as to challenge for the UCI number one rider spot again.
Results from this week’s races also revealed who’s in form. To add to those already mentioned above, there’s Costa’s future teammate Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida), who won Milano-Torino, Alberto Contador and Rafal Majka (both Saxo- Tinkoff), Purito’s wing-man Dani Moreno, Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale).
To be honest, looking at the start list, it’s almost a World’s rematch and the only big name missing is that of last year’s runner-up Samu Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) who, on account of injuries sustained at the Worlds, has called time on his season. So look out for those who were disappointed last weekend, including September’s VeloVoices rider of the month Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
Il Lombardia takes place on Sunday 6th October. Delayed coverage will be shown by Eurosport in the UK. For other options check cyclingfans.com.