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Il Lombardia’16: The PEZ Preview

Race Preview: The Giro di Lombardia, or as it is now known ‘Il Lombardia’ kicks off on Saturday morning from Como to finish in Bergamo after 240 punishing kilometers, with a saw-tooth profile for the final 100K. Ed Hood takes a look at the history, course and the possible winner of La classica delle foglie morte.


This will be edition 110 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. ‘Record-man’ 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 day, 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.

lombardia-coppi1950-920Coppi rides alone on the Ghisallo climb – passing the original Il Perlo Panorama hotel in the background.

The home nation has won the race on 68 occasions with the most recent being ‘The Shark of the Straights,’ Vincenzo Nibali just last 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.

Como - Italia - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Giro di Lombardia 2009 - Ronde van Lombardije - Philippe Gilbert (Belgie/ Team Silence - Lotto) - foto Cor Vos ©2009Lombardia ’09 winner Philippe Gilbert

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 ArchivesJalabert, the last French win

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.

Ireland has won four times; courtesy a hat trick from ‘King’ Sean Kelly and a certain Dan Martin who made it four just two years ago.

Il Lombardia 2014 2014The other Irish Lombardy winner: Dan Martin

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.

Hoogvliet - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - archief - Archive - Stockphoto - Sean Kelly - foto Cor Vos ©2008Hard-man Kelly, the oldest Lombardy winner

Remarkably for a nation of climbers, Spain has only won twice – with both of those victories belonging to Joaquim Rodriguez in 2012 an 2013 – but it’s unlikely to become three for the little Catalan, this year. Rodriguez has the second best track record in the race of current competitors with his two wins, a third and an eighth places – best is aforementioned Cunego with three wins and two 13th spots

Lithuania (Rumsas), Luxembourg (Faber), Russia (Bobrik) and GB with the late, great Tom Simpson have all won it once.

tom-simpson-9201965 World champion Tom Simpson

On the day, the oldest rider will be that remarkable man, David Rebellin (CCC-Polsat & Italia) at 45 years and 53 days; with the youngest being Androni’s big Colombian hope for the future – ‘til the World Tour teams contact his agent, that is – Egan Arley Bernal at just 19 years and 261 days.

lombardia15-rebellin-920‘Old Man’ Rebellin

In the words of the organization. . .

“The race starts in Como with a classic first section that culminates (after Cantù, Erba, Asso and Onno) with the Ghisallo climb from Bellagio. It’s a traditional passage, featuring gradients up to 14%. The route will then go through Asso (again), Pusiano and Oggiono before climbing Colle Brianza, going through the Alta Brianza and the Meratese and entering the Province of Bergamo at Calusco d’Adda. Torre de’ Busi marks the start of the Valcava climb (featuring 9.6km at 9% inclination, with a maximum gradient of 17% – 1,336m above sea level) on mountain roads with 14 hairpins. A challenging descent with steep inclinations follows, ending in Costa Valle Imagna, and proceeding toward Ponte Giurino, where the second feed station is situated.”


“Then comes the never-faced-before climb of Sant’Antonio Abbandonato, followed by the ascent of Miragolo San Salvatore, also featuring for the first time in Il Lombardia. Both climbs are tough with high inclination and narrow and challenging roads. After a short descent the next climb is toward Selvino, followed by a long descent with hairpins, 9km away from the classic passage in Bergamo’s Città Alta before the finish line in the city’s main Sentierone road.”


In short – if you can’t climb, stay at home.


In the eyes of the organizers, the favorites are: Alberto Contador, Fabio Aru, Joaquim Rodriguez, Philippe Gilbert, Esteban Chaves, Bauke Mollema, Daniel Martin, Rigoberto Uran, Tim Wellens, Daniel Moreno, Wout Poels, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Steven Cummings, Romain Bardet, Jarlinson Pantano, Julian Alaphilippe, Giovanni Visconti and Diego Ulissi.

We’ve narrowed that down a little and think that perhaps there are a couple of others well worth a mention:

Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx – Quick-Step & France): The Tour of California winner enjoyed another solid Ardennes Campaign this year and recent results of top 10 in Montreal and second to Sagan in the European Championships in Plumelec indicate he’s not run out of steam yet – all those climbs are right up his street.

56th Brabantse Pijl 2016The next French Lombardy winner?

Fabio Aru (Astana & Italy): It hasn’t been a great season for the Sardinian – a win in the biggest single day race in Italy would heal a lot of wounds though. Recent form is promising with fourth in Toscana and Emilia.

Bergamo - Italy - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Fabio Aru (Italy / Team Astana) pictured during Il Lombardia 2014 - Giro di Lombardia - photo LB/RB/ Cor Vos © 2014Fabio Aru could do with a win

Roman Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale & France): France’s Tour hero has good form – witness his recent second in Emilia behind Chaves. He can get up the hills well – and just as important on this percorso – has few peers at getting down them.

Giro dell'Emilia 2016Roman Bardet, second in the Giro dell’Emilia last wee

Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data & Norway): His Stage Seven win in the Eneco Tour in abominable conditions says it all about his form. The consistent Norwegian could make the podium.

Eneco Tour 2016 stage -7Edvald Boasson Hagen Eneco Tour stage 7 winner

Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange & Colombia): Podiums in the Giro and Vuelta speak for themselves – and that recent win in Emilia tells us a lot. The Australian team has other strings to its bow – but more of that later.

Giro dell'Emilia 2016Chaves showed the form in the Giro Dell’ Emilia

Dan Martin (Etixx – Quick-Step & Ireland): With Alaphilippe and Martin the cult Belgian team have two major chances to win. Martin has been quiet of late but has won this race before and will be working hard towards it. In addition, the team morale will be sky high after Terpstra’s Eneco win – but it’s rarely anything else with another half century of wins in the bag already, this season.

Cycling: Team Etixx Quick-Step 2016

Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo & The Netherlands): He won San Sebastian and the time test In Alberta, where finished second on GC then was top 10 in Quebec – maybe?

Edmonton - Canada - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Bauke Mollema (Netherlands / Trek Factory Racing) pictured during Stage 4 of the Tour of Alberta 2016 from Edmonton to Edmonton ITT - photo Brian Hodes/Cor Vos © 2016Bauka Mollema: an outside bet for Trek

Dani Moreno (Movistar & Spain): Third in the Europeans behind Sagan was a nice result and we know the man can climb. . .

Bologna - San Luca - Italy - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Daniel Moreno (Movistar) pictured during Giro dell’ Emilia Internazionale Elite - photo Anton Vos/Cor Vos © 2016Moreno was strong in the Giro Dell’ Emilia

Wout Poels (Sky & The Netherlands): The man who delivered team Sky’s first Monument in Liege-Bastogne-Bastogne is well at home in the hills – but it’s been a long season. That said; there was a stage win in the Tour of Britain – last year he was top 12 in Lombardy and third in the Abu Dhabi Tour, so he’s a man for the shorter days of autumn.

Liege - Bastogne - Liege 2016 WTAnother Classic win for Poels

Giovanni Visconti (Movistar & Italy): A stage and third on GC in Toscana and fourth in the Agostoni, the form isn’t bad at all – and he’s such an aggressive little devil. . .

Giro della Toscana 2016 - Memorial Alfredo Martini - 1a tappa Arezzo - Montecatini Terme 174 km - 20/09/2016 - Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) - Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani - CSF) - foto Luca Bettini/BettiniPhoto©2016Giovanni Visconti could be the Movistar man

Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal & Belgium): The Tour of Poland winner has been consistent rather than dazzling since all that horrible weather in Polska – he’ll be hoping for rain and cold winds. Maybe we should have gone for team mate Tony Gallopin who was second in San Sebastian, was strong in the Tour of Britain and won the Grand Prix de Wallonie – but it’s nearly 20 years since we had a Gallic winner?

tdf16st17eh-wellens-920Bad weather for Tim Wellens

And two young men who share the same surname and who the organizers didn’t mention – those Yates bruvs, Adam and Simon, both Orica and GB. Adam, you’ll recall was fourth in le Tour and Simon was sixth in the Vuelta where he won a stage. They’ve been quiet these last few weeks but we’ll be surprised if one of them isn’t ‘up there’ on this percorso.

Huy - Belgium - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Nibali Vincenzo (Team Astana) -Yates Simon (Team Orica Greenedge)- Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Team Movistar) - Valverde Alejandro (Team Movistar) pictured during le Tour de France 2015 - stage 3 - from Antwerpen to Huy -159.5 KM - on monday 06-07-2015 - photo Dion Kerckhoffs//Davy Rietbergen/Cor Vos © 2015One of the Yates brothers could do it

Finally, as Lieutenant Columbo used to say; ‘just one more t’ing, sir’ – ignore those Bardiani boys at your peril, they’re hot. The Italian ProConti team has recently won the Coppa Ugo Agostoni, Coppa Sabatini, Gran Premio Bruno Beghelli and on Tuesday the Tre Valli Varesine. The team’s biggest winner, Sonny Colbrelli, will not be contesting the win on Saturday, but team confidence must be sky high.

Sestola - Italy - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Giulio Ciccone (Bardiani - CSF) pictured during stage 10 of the 99th Giro d'Italia 2016 from Campi Bisenzio to Sestola 219 km - foto LB/RB/Cor Vos © 2016Is Il Lombardia too hard for a Bardiani boy?

# Keep it PEZZED on Saturday afternoon for our view of this beautiful race – and for the best in race photography from the Maestro, Cor Vos. You can watch live race action on Steephill tv HERE. #


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 1,200 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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