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Lombardia’15: The PEZ Preview!

Race Preview: It can’t be the end of the season already! The Giro di Lombardia seems to come round faster every year. ‘The Classic of the Falling Leaves’ is this Sunday and our Lombardy expert, Ed Hood, has a good look at the history, course and who he thinks is not too tired to win the last Monument of the season.

Lombardy? It can’t be – it just seems like last week we were at Het Nieuwsblad? But it’s true, all the Grand Tours have all come and gone, the Worlds is won and lost and the leaves have begun to turn – and even fall. . .

Best get to work, then. . .

This will be edition 109 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.

‘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.

No not ‘Purito’ but Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali

The home nation has won the race on 67 occasions with the most recent being 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. 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.

Cor Vos Archives
The last French winner: Laurent Jalabert

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, the better. Ireland has won four times; courtesy of a hat trick from ‘King’ Sean Kelly and a certain Dan Martin who made it four just last year. 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.

Cor Vos Archives
King Kelly has 3 wins in Lombardia

Remarkably for a nation of climbers, Spain has only won twice – with both of those victories belonging to Joaquim Rodriguez in 2012 an 2013 – and it could well become three. Lithuania (Rumsas), Luxembourg (Faber), Russia (Bobrik) and GB with the late, great Tom Simpson have all won it once.

Tom Simpson won Lombardy as World champion in 1965

2014 Giro di Lombardia

In the words of the Organisation; “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, for the first climb of this race: 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 (754m) climb 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 (1124m) begins abruptly.


After a few kilometres with a moderate gradient, a few hundred metres past Sormano, the route turns left to tackle the Muro di Sormano (literally ‘the wall’, the hardest section of the Sormano climb; 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 one K. After clearing the Colma, the road climbs down into Nesso (initially on apparently flat ground, followed by a very technical descent with several hairpins on a narrowed roadway). Here, the route takes the coastal road that leads to Como.

Gara ciclistica 'Il Lombardia' - Gara

A harsh climb up to Civiglio follows (614m), with steady 10% gradients (the roadway narrows markedly at the top of the climb); the route then descends, runs through Como again, and heads for the final climb in San Fermo della Battaglia (397m). Two fixed feed zones are provided: the first is located in San Sosimo (km 112-115) and the second in Onno (km 182-185).


Last kilometres
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%, on a narrowed roadway with a rough road surface and several hairpins that lead 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 1km before the finish. One last, wide left-hand bend can be found 600m before the finish. The home straight is on a seven metre wide asphalt road after 245 kilometres.”

It sounds savage to us – but that’s why it’s a Monument. . .

Gara ciclistica 'Il Lombardia' - Gara

As we went to press there were still big gaps in the start list – it’s late in the year and many riders are tired after a season which begins ever earlier. Don’t be surprised if some teams don’t field a full complement or if there’s a huge amount of DNS/F. You have to highly motivated to win a race as tough as this so late in the year – and motivation for many is behaving just like those autumn leaves do. . .

We’ll give you a dozen names to conjure with but again, don’t be surprised if come the day some of them are watching the race on TV.

Fabio Aru (Astana & Italy): makes his post-Vuelta return to racing in Thursday’s Milano-Torino; with a runner up spot and a win in the two Grand Tours he contested – Giro and Vuelta – he’s had a brilliant season. He was top ten in this race last season and it would be a great way to cap his best ever season – and we don’t need to tell you that he has a strong team. . .

La Vuelta 2015 stage-15
Vuelta/Lombardy double?

Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida & Portugal): there’s been a stage win and GC podium in the Dauphine and his national road champs – nice results but not ‘special.’ However, a podium in Quebec and a top ten in Richmond confirm late season form and especially riding on an Italian squadra this would be a fine way to make his season memorable.

stage 6 - Criterium du Dauphine Libere 2015
Costa could do with a win

Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin & The Netherlands): He was top 20 here two years ago and that was before he became the rider that he has. Mugged by Astana in the Vuelta and denied in the Richmond Chrono by a pulled muscle he still managed 11th in the chaos behind Sagan on Sunday – he’ll be desperate to get a WIN.

La Vuelta 2015 stage-9
A win would help put the memory of la Vuelta behind him

Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal & France): is another man who needs a result; it’s a long way back to that Paris-Nice stage win and a criterium in Calais in June isn’t going to set social media aflame – all of that said, he’s going well, witnessed by seventh in Richmond where it really was the ‘best of the best’ at the end.

TDFR 2014 - stage -11
It has been some time since we saw Gallopin win and he has the form

Philippe Gilbert (BMC & Belgium): the fact is that we’ve seen the very best of this man; not that two Giro stages and the GP Cerami mean it’s been a poor season for him. And his late season form is good with top ten’s in Montreal, Quebec and Richmond – and he has won this race twice in the past, 2009 and 10 albeit the hat trick is doubtful.

Grand Prix Pino Ceram 2015
A Phil-Gil hat trick?

Mikel Landa (Astana & Spain): with two stage wins and a podium in the Giro; a stage win and huge support for Aru in the Vuelta it’s been an excellent season’s work for him. But he’s yet to make a mark in one day races; perhaps Lombardy could be the start or will his mind be on all that money Sky will be paying him in 2016?

A last good-bye to Astana for Mikel Landa

Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo & Poland): this was the year the skinny Pole arrived on a Grand Tour podium for the first time with third in the Vuelta – so whatever happens in Lombardy, it’s been a great season. He worked hard for Kwiatkowski in Richmond but he must be tired – Oman was in February, don’t forget – but he was third here two seasons ago and the parcours suits his power to weight ratio.

Tour de France 2015 - stage 11
Has the season been too long for Majka?

Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin & Ireland): the 2014 winner, how well has he recovered from that Vuelta spill? We’ll get an inkling in Milano-Torino on Thursday. There were two runner-up spots in Tour stages and one in the Vuelta before he crashed out – but a win is a win and there have been none this year. But he loves this race and is always in the thick of the action come the finale – maybe?

Il Lombardia 2014 2014
Two in a row for Dan Martin?

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana & Italy): the PEZmeister reckons that Nibali is gambling on all on this race to rescue a terrible season – sure, there was the Italian Championship and a Tour stage win but when you’re a super star Grand Tour winner, all that counts is winning BiG. Fourth in le Tour and kicked off the Vuelta will hardly have Astana management enthusing. But his late season form is excellent, second in the Coppa Agostoni, a win in the Coppa Bernocchi, third in the memorial Pantani and fifth in Prato – all would be forgiven if he won here, almost.

Nibali really needs a 2015 big win

Davide Rebellin (CCC Sprandi & Italy): a junior world champion in the TTT in 1989, a runner-up in the amateur Worlds in 1991 he was top ten in this race in 1992 – that’s 23 years-ago. A remarkable man who’s made mistakes, sure – but pills and potions don’t take you through four decades of racing and winning at the highest levels in the sport. He won the Coppa Agostoni recently and a podium in Como wouldn’t surprise us.

Rebellin may be old and unpopular, but he is on form at the moment

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha & Spain): two stages and the GC in Pais Vasco; two stages in Le Tour; a stage win and a podium in the Vuelta – it’s not been a bad season for the wee fellow. He was DNF in the Worlds but those Virginian ramps were a bit too short and not steep enough for him – he’s won here twice in the past though and ‘walls’ are right up his street.

La Vuelta 2015 stage-16
As ever Joaquim Rodriguez deserves a win

Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal & Belgium): with a stage win and the GC in the Eneco Tour and a win in Montreal there’s little doubt about his autumn form – and he was fourth here, last year. He could just win it.

Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal 2015
He won in Montreal, worth an outside bet

# PEZ will be there with you on the day to take you safely from Bergamo to Como – we’d advocate taking a Peroni or two with you on the ride. Don’t forget you can watch the race at Steephill.tv. #

The Pez climbs Civiglio

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 1,100 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 www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.

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