Race Preview: The last big Classic of the 2019 season (if you ignore Sunday’s Paris-Tours), Il Giro di Lombardia, rolls out of Bergamo on Saturday morning for 243 beautiful kilometres of racing to finish in Como. Lombardy is an iconic monument, a race that all pro riders would want in their palmarès. Ed looks at the history, course and who is hot for the win on the shores of Lago di Como.
The climb to the Madonna del Ghisallo comes 64 kilometres from the finish, before the murderous Muro di Sormano
This will be edition 113 of the ‘Classic of the Falling Leaves’ with Giovanni Gerbi winning the first edition in 1905, he remains the race’s youngest winner. No editions were lost to the First World War but there was no race in 1943 or 1944 as World War Two raged across Europe.
Gimondi will be missed this year
‘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.
Five wins for Coppi
The home nation has won the race on 69 occasions with the most recent being ‘The Shark of the Straights,’ Vincenzo Nibali two years ago – and he was second last year. Before that it was Damiano Cunego who scored his third and final win in 2008 and whose 2004 win makes him on of the youngest winners at 23 years-of-age.
Nibali – Second last year behind Pinot
Belgium is a joint distant second on 12 wins – with Philippe Gilbert netting two of those in 2009/10. France shares second on 12 wins with a cavalier Thibaut Pinot at his very best last year. 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 Dan Martin who made it four in 2014.
Gilbert in 2009 – With Lotto again in 2020
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. Remarkably for a nation of climbers, Spain has only won twice – with both of those victories belonging to Joaquim Rodriguez in 2012 an 2013. 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 in 2016 to prove that Colombians CAN win Monuments.
Tom Simpson – Britain’s only Lombardy winner
I’ll let the organisers explain:
‘After departing Bergamo in a southerly direction, the route crosses the Bergamo plain in its first 40km to go up the Cavallina valley to Casazza where the Colle Gallo – the first ascent of the race – is tackled. Colle is followed by a fast descent returning from the Seriana valley to Bergamo, then the route re-enters lowland roads that lead to Brianza.
Map and profile
There’s a short passage to Colle Brianza and a descent to Pescate heading towards Valmadrera and then towards Oggiono and, finally, through Pusiano, Asso and down the descent to Onno and on to Bellagio. This is where the Ghisallo ascent – with gradients of up to 14% on wide roads with different hairpin bends – begins. The following very fast descent is on long straights and ends at Maglio where, immediately after a right turn, the climb of the Colma di Sormano begins.
Muro di Sormano in 2013
After a few km of medium slopes, and a few hundred meters after Sormano, the route heads up the Muro di Sormano on a narrow, very steep road, (2km long, with a gradient up to 15%). It’s partly inside a small wood, with very narrow bends and slopes that, for around 1km of distance, exceed 25% up to almost 30%.
Vincenzo Nibali descends Civiglio in 2015
Once past the Colma, the route follows the descent to Nesso, where the riders then take the coastal road to reach Como. Next they face the hard climb to Civiglio (614m) with slopes almost always around 10% – and with a marked narrowing of the roadway at the top of the climb – before going back down and through Como to hit the last climb of San Fermo della Battaglia (397m). The last 10km start inside the area of Como on wide avenues, up to the railway underpass where the final ascent of San Fermo della Battaglia begins. The slope is around 7% (max 10%). The route passes several hairpin bends up to the brow at around 5km from the finish. The descent, on a wide, well-paved road ends at the last kilometre.’
Il Lombardia presented by NamedSport 2019 – The Route
Here are the dozen men who we feel will shape the race – but that Pedersen fellow did catch us out at Harrogate. . .
Tour winner Bernal likes to race in Italy
Egan Bernal [Team Ineos and Colombia]: The precocious Tour de France winner received a bit of ‘stick’ back in the Old Country for ducking The Worlds but the man himself said he’d prefer to focus on a percorso which was more to his liking. And Chaves has already proved that a ‘Man of the Andes’ can win here.
The ‘maybe’ man – Fuglsang
Jakob Fuglsang [Astana and Denmark]: He won Liege-Bastogne-Liege and his late season has been good with a Vuelta stage win, 12th in the Worlds and 8th in Emilia – maybe?
A final win for Deceuninck from Gilbert?
Philippe Gilbert [Deceuninck – Quick-Step and Belgium]: A crash put paid to his Worlds ambitions on a parcours made for a hard, Ardennes man such as he. He’ll be another keen to end his season on a ‘high’ and remember he’s won here twice before – but 10 years is a long time. . .
Outside bet for Lombardia – EF’s Higuita
Sergio Higuita [EF Education First and Colombia]: Another of them pesky Colombians – and this one’s head is surely still ‘mad for it’ and not on the beach, as many will be. A Vuelta stage; very frisky, just off the podium in Harrogate and third in Emilia – watch for him.
Sergey Lutsenko – Viktor’s tip
Sergey Lutsenko [Astana and Kazakhstan]: PEZ soothsayer Viktor had the man from Petropavl down as his Worlds favourite and with second in Agostoni and wins in the Coppa Sabatini and Memorial Pantani I could see his point. But he was another hard man who feel victim to what passes for weather in Yorkshire – if he’s thawed out he’ll be ‘there.’
Moscon has not had a good season
Gianni Moscon [Team Ineos and Italy]: I only write good things about Gianni, I don’t want him coming round to the house. His season perhaps hasn’t been the best but he was very good in The Worlds and has been on the podium here as well as winning the ‘Piccolo’ Lombardia in 2014. Lombardia isn’t just ‘any’ race to an Italian and if he has anything left, he’ll get it out on Saturday.
The ‘Shark’ could do with a big win
Vincenzo Nibali [Bahrain and Italy]: He’s had two wins in this race and was second last year; don’t read too much into his lack of big results since his Tour de France stage win, this is the one that matters to him. If gets 10 metres on one of the late descents, it’s over for the rest.
A win in Emilia for Roglic last Saturday
Primoz Roglic [Jumbo-Visma and Slovenia]: After his ‘showing his face’ in the early, doomed break in Yorkshire we thought his season was finished; tired after that Vuelta. Then he popped up and won the Giro del’Emilia; and to prove it was no fluke added the Tre Valli Varesine; he’s ‘gori’ – that’s ‘on fire’ in Slovenian, folks.
Valverde second to Colbrelli last Sunday
Alejandro Valverde [Movistar and Spain]: Second in the Vuelta and then a Yorkshire victim; but he bounces right back with fifth in Emilia and second in Beghelli. He’s been second twice and four times in the top six – would you right his chances off? Me neither.
Visconti has come into form
Giovanni Visconti [Neri Sottoli-Sella Italia-KTM and Italy]: We’re slipping in another, ‘oldie but goodie’ here – 36 years-old he may be but he was fifth in Agostoni, won Toscana, just missed the top 10 in Sabatini, sixth in the Memorial Pantani and was second to Roglic in the Varesine. He’s a man with form, excellent race craft and the fire still burns.
Woods, a possible
Michael Woods [EF Education First and Canada]: The parcours are made for him but last year he was down in 13th spot despite a podium at the Worlds and strong performances in Varesine and Emilia. He was second in Emilia again this year and top 10 in San Sebastian and Quebec; we think he’ll do better that 13th this year.
A win would be good for Adam
Adam Yates [Mitchelton-Scott and GB]: Another man who should be at home here but has never torched the heather in Lombardy. However, the Queen Stage, the Mountains and GC in the recent CRO stage race in Croatia show that he has excellent form. He needs a big result.
Primoz Roglic must be favourite after winning Tuesday’s Tre Valli Varesine
As we go to press, Milano-Torino and Gran Piemonte are still to come – keep your eye on those results for more clues.
# And don’t forget to get the Moretti in; you can buy it by the keg now, eight litres, – 243 kilometres is a long way and we don’t want of our readers to succumb to dehydration. . . Live action on SteepHill TV. #
The story of the Tour of Lombardy (La Storia del di Lombardia) in Italian
2018 Lombardia went to Pinot
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 1,700 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.