Il Lombardia’17: The PEZ Preview!

Giro di Lombardia Race Preview: The 2017 season comes to its end on Saturday, there are still some other races, like Paris-Tours on Sunday, but Il Lombardia is the sting in the season’s tail for the big men of the WorldTour peloton. Ed Hood takes a good look at the ‘Race of the Falling Leaves’ and who might win.

Anquatil was smooth, but…

The coolest pro cycling images ever? ‘Maitres Jacques’ flying in full chrono action? ‘Le Gitane’ floating over the pave in ‘The Hell of the North?’


Tom Simpson en route to his Tour of Lombardy win with that snow white rainbow jersey on his back? It has to be right up there?

World champ Tom Simpson on the road to Lombardia

Latterly the race has bounced back to being one of the most desirable on the calendar albeit with the season now starting in January many riders are thinking more of sunshine and the beach rather than the Sormano and it’s 30% grades.

With all that in mind, lets’ take a look at the 2017 IL LOMBARDIA…

The Muro di Sormano- 30%!

This will be edition 111 of the ‘Classic of the Falling Leaves’ with Giovanni Gerbi winning the first edition in 1905, no editions were lost to the First World War but there was no race in 1943 or 1944 as World War Two raged in Italy.

Fausto Coppi in Il Lombardia 1950

‘Recordman’ is il Campionissimo, the late, great Fausto Coppi on five wins – but it was almost six; in 1956 it took the finishing speed of the fastest sprinter of the time, France’s Andre Darrigade to deny a Champion whose Golden Time was coming to an end. Coppi was also third on two occasions with four of his wins coming in straight years 1946 to 1949.

Vincenzo Nibali on his way to win Lombardia 2015

The home nation has won the race on 68 occasions with the most recent being ‘The Shark of the Straights,’ Vincenzo Nibali two years ago year – before that it was Damiano Cunego who scored his third and final win in 2008 and whose 2004 win makes him the youngest winner at 23 years-of-age.

Philippe Gilbert on the attack in 2009

Belgium is a distant second on 12 wins – with Philippe Gilbert netting two of those in 2009/10. France comes third on 11 wins but you have to go all the way back to Laurent Jalabert in 1997 to find the last French winner.

World champion Oscar Camenzind won the 1998 Lombardy

Switzerland has won five times, Oliver Zaugg was a surprise/shock winner in 2011 and Oscar Camenzind won in the rainbow jersey in 1998 – but the less said about that one, the better.

The Sean Kelly years – 1983 and 1985

Ireland has won four times; courtesy a hat trick from ‘King’ Sean Kelly and a certain Dan Martin who made it four just three years ago. The Netherlands has won on three occasions – but it’s a long way back to Hennie Kuiper in 1981. Kelly is also the oldest winner at 35 years-of-age.

Hennie Kuiper riding for DAF Trucks in 1981

Remarkably for a nation of climbers, Spain has only won twice – with both of those victories belonging to Joaquim Rodriguez in 2012 an 2013.

Joaquim ‘Purito’ Rodriguez in the 2013 Lombardia

Lithuania (Rumsas), Luxembourg (Faber), Russia (Bobrik) and GB with the late, great Tom Simpson have all won it once – as have Columbia with the Esteban Chaves taking a well earned victory just 12 months ago.

I’ll let the organizers explain:
The race sets off from Bergamo, southbound. The route initially leads through the Bergamo plain (over the first 40km), and then up along the Val Cavallina, all the way to Casazza, to tackle the first climb of the day: Colle Gallo (763m). A fast-running descent leads back from Val Seriana to Bergamo; here the route goes back on flat roads and eventually arrives in Brianza. The course passes briefly across Colle Brianza (533m) and descends into Pescate, then heads for Valmadrera and Oggiono.

Finally, it rolls past Pusiano and Asso, and drops down into Onno, heading for Bellagio, where the Ghisallo climb (754m) begins. The climb has a maximum 14% gradient, on a wide road, with several hairpins. The descent runs quickly on long, straight stretches up to Maglio, where the Colma di Sormano climb (1,124m) begins abruptly after a right-hand bend.

After some kilometers with moderate gradients, a few hundred meters past Sormano, the route turns left to tackle the Muro di Sormano (2km at a 15% gradient). The road is tight and very steep, and it runs partly through the woods, with very narrow hairpins and sharp gradients exceeding 25% and reaching almost 30% after about 1,000 meters. After clearing the Colma, the road climbs down into Nesso (initially a false-flat drag, followed by a very technical descent with several hairpins on a narrowed roadway).

Here, the route takes the coastal road that leads to Como. A harsh climb up to Civiglio follows (614m), with steady 10% gradients (the roadway is markedly narrowed at the top of the climb); the route then drops down, runs through Como again, and then heads for the final climb in San Fermo della Battaglia (397m). There are two feed zones: the first in San Sosimo (km 112-115) and the second in Onno (km 182-185).

Finale: The last 10km begin in urban Como and run along wide avenues, up to the railway underpass, where the final climb towards San Fermo della Battaglia begins. The climb has a gradient of nearly 7% (max. 10%) and runs on a narrowed roadway and rough road surface, with several hairpins leading all the way up to the summit (around 5km from the finish). The descent runs along a wide and well-paved road, with two well-lit tunnels and two wide roundabouts, and it ends 1,000m before the finish.

One last, wide left-hand bend can be found 600m before the finish. The home straight is on 7m wide asphalt road.

I’ll make just one remark; ‘30% – ouch!’

We scored six out of the top 10 on our Worlds predictions but this one is harder; it’s been a long season and many are there just because they’ve been told to. For a final check on who has legs and morale check out the results of the Tre Valli Varesine and Milano-Torino on EUROTRASH this week – the final two ‘form polishers’ for Lombardy.

Alaphilippe Julien, (Quick-Step Floors & France): Injury kept his season short but with a stage in the Vuelta and top 10 in the Worlds the punchy French climber with a finish won’t be far away.

Alaphilippe – Youth could do it

Albasini Michael (Orica-Scott & Switzerland): He won the Coppa Agostoni, was fourth in the Bernocchi, seventh in the Worlds and fourth in the Beghelli. It may just be a wee bit too hilly for him but if the weather is bad the old war horse will come into his own.

Michael Albasini is in form

Aru Fabio (Astana & Italy): The national road championship and a Tour stage would constitute a good season for most but Fabio is a ‘Big’ and more is expected. Lombardia would make it a very good season for him but with a ninth and an 11th as his previous best here, don’t bet the house on him.

Fabio Aru could do with a win

Colbrelli Sonny (Bardiani & Italy): Third in Plouay, he won the Bernocchi, was fifth in the Memorial Pantani and second in both the Sabatini and Beghelli – he has the form, is this where he’ll and that elusive ‘big one?’ Your guess is as good as mine, the really big ones seem to make him freeze…

Sonny Colbrelli – Another man on form

Gilbert Philippe (Quick-Step Floors & Belgium): He had a fantastic spring but in the Northern races experience and the strength that comes with so many seasons on the pave count for so much. But here, with those explosive climbs? He’s won here before, twice but that was seven years ago…

Philippe Gilbert has had a good season, another win would top it off

Landa Mikel (Sky & Basque Country): His last outing was the Tour of Burgos where he won two stages, the GC, points and mountains on the back of his stellar Tour – he’s not known as a one day man but this year he’s surprised us. Hard to say but can’t be ignored.

Mikel Landa – Possible

Martin Dan (Quick-Step Floors & Ireland): Was second in the Fleche and Liege, he already has a big contract with UAE for next year so no pressure that way – but like all the best, he’s proud and will want to add another ‘Classic of the Falling Leaves’ to his 2014 win. We’d be surprised if he hasn’t prepared meticulously for this one.

Dan Martin – Lombardia winner in 2014

Martin Guillaume (Wanty-Groupe Gobert & France): Pro Conti Wanty have been on fire these last few weeks with Martin as one of the main arsonists; a stage in Limousin then a stage and the GC in the Tour de Gevaudan Languedoc-Roussillion and Giro della Toscana tell you all you need to know about his form. And don’t forget he’s won the U23 Liege-Bastogne-Liege…

Toscana’17 winner Guillaume Martin

Nibali Vincenzo (Bahrain-Merida & Italy): With podiums in the Giro and Vuelta there’s life in the old shark yet. He was second in Emilia the other day and has won here before; his ability to climb with the best but descend better than them does him no harm on this percorso.

Vincenzo Nibali has won it before

Sanchez Luis Leon (Astana & Spain): Has to be mentioned on the strength of his recent win in the Beghelli. It hasn’t been a great season for him but he still has the legs – and his head will be good.

Sanchez won the GP Bruno Berghelli last Sunday

Uran Rigoberto (Cannondale-Drapac & Colombia): The former track man who rode such a great Tour has a good record in this race with three podiums – with a nice crisp contract signed for the next three years he’s under no pressure and was a handy third in Emilia. He could win it.

2017 has been Rigoberto Uran’s best season

Visconti Giovanni (Bahrain-Merida & Italy): With his recent win in Emilia on the back of second on a stage and on GC in Toscana it would be unwise to discount him. He’s not been Italian champion three times for nothing.

Giro Dell’Emilia winner Giovanni Visconti

Zakarin Ilnur (Katusha-Alpecin & Russia): He finished in the lead group in the Worlds after his Vuelta podium; it’s all down to how his head his – and he won’t like those descents.

Ilnur Zakarin 3rd in the Vuelta a España – A one day performance?

One name? Nibali.
Outsider? Guillaume Martin.

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Lombardia 2017 ProMo

It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,500 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site where more of his musings on our sport can be found.

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