Il Lombardia, the last of the five monuments, brings the curtain down on the WorldTour and gives riders one last chance to grab a big win. The parcours follows some of the most beautiful roads in Italy, including the stunning area around Lake Como. Wet weather can turn this event into a war of attrition but with its punishing distance (245km) and series of hills, this is still a race for puncheurs.
- For its 109th edition, the route starts in Bergamo heading south and then along the Val Cavallina, all the way to Casazza, for the first climb: Colle Gallo (763 metres). A fast-running descent and flat plains lead to the Colle Brianza (533 metres) before meandering to Bellagio, for the famous Madonna del Ghisallo climb (754 metres) – with a maximum gradient of 14%.
- The long straight descent off the Ghisallo takes the riders to the Colma di Sormano climb (1,124 metres). The first few kilometres have a moderate gradient, before the parcours turns left to tackle the Muro di Sormano (literally ‘the wall’, the hardest section of the Sormano climb; 2km at 15%). The road is tight and very steep, and it runs partly through the woods with very narrow hairpins and short, sharp leg-sapping gradients exceeding 25%.
- The route then drops down into Nesso, a narrow, technical descent with several hairpins. The road then hugs the lakeside to Como followed by a stiffish climb to Civiglio (614 metres), with steady 10% gradients before the descent back through Como again and onto the final climb in San Fermo della Battaglia (397 metres), just 6km from the finish. It’s that last climb which may provide the springboard to victory from out of a reduced bunch, whittled down by the two previous ascents.
Riders to watch
Il Lombardia is not too dissimilar in terms of route and length to Liege-Bastogne-Liege, but the only riders to have won both in the same season are Eddy Merckx and Moreno Argentin. It’s hard to look beyond the favourites which include a few former winners.
Katusha climber Joaquim Rodriguez is a two-time winner of this race (2012 and 2013) and will be looking to consolidate his second place in the Vuelta a Espana with another victory here. [Update after publication: Purito’s not going to be able to take the start as he is out after injuring his knee during training on Friday.] His compatriot, Movistarlet Alejandro Valverde has strangely never won the ‘race of the falling leaves’. El Embatido threw away the opportunity of victory last year by allowing Cannondale-Garmin’s Dan Martin to distance him in the final kilometre. A win here would be the cherry on the icing of a fantastic 2015 season. Valverde leads Rodriguez by 141 points in the WorldTour rankings and there are only 100 on offer here for the winner. However, it’s much closer in the team rankings where Movistar is only 33 points ahead of Katusha.
It would be impossible not to mention BMC’s Philippe Gilbert, back-to-back winner in 2009 and 2010 when the race also concluded in Como. However, recent route changes have made it harder for the former world champion to excel. Another man in form, despite claiming he’s suffering from jet-lag, is Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali, who won this week’s Tre Valli Varesine. Italy last won this race back in 2008 with Damiano Cunego, who’s also taking part in this edition. Nibali is seeking to redeem his miserable season with his first victory in one of the biggest one-day WorldTour races. Nothing would be better for the home crowd than to see their national champion crossing the line first.
Link: Official race website
Header image: © Fabio Ferrari – LaPresse/Il Lomardia