Giro di Lombardia 2017 preview: who will win the season's final Monument?
The course and contenders as Vincenzo Nibali rolls out as favourite for the 'Race of the Fallen Leaves'
The final Monument race of the season, the Giro di Lombardia, rolls out on Saturday (October 7), with the course almost exactly that on which Vincenzo Nibali claimed victory in 2015.
So could the Bahrain-Merida man win again, to end a largely successful first season with his new team on a high?
While Il Lombardia is no longer the final WorldTour race of the season – the expanded calendar means the Tour of Turkey and Tour of Guangxi are still to come – this is the last chance of a major victory for many.
And with the likes of Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) also in form so far this month, there will be plenty of competition for Nibali, even in the absence of injured defending champion Johan Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott).
Michal Kwiatkowski [Milan-San Remo], Philippe Gilbert [Tour of Flanders], Greg van Avermaet [Paris-Roubaix] and Alejandro Valverde [Liege-Bastogne-Liege] have already won Monuments this year, so who could join that list on Saturday? Let’s take a closer look at the contenders and, first, the route…
Giro di Lombardia 2017: the route
This year’s course is largely a return to the route used in 2015, with 4,000m of climbing packed into the 247km route from Bergamo to Como.
The highlights include the iconic Madonna del Ghisallo climb (8.6km at 6.2 per cent) and the Muro di Sormano, or the “Wall of Sormano" if you prefer – the brutally steep 1.9km ascent with an average gradient of 15.8 per cent.
Both feature more than 50km from the finish line, however, and so while they will doubtless be used as platforms to attack, it is the Civiglio (4.2km at 9.7 per cent) and, less than 6km from the finish, San Fermo della Battaglia (2.7km at 7.2 per cent) that will be more decisive.
The final five kilometres are downhill off the final climb into Como, rewarding those as adept at going down as going up – hence Vincenzo Nibali claiming victory two years ago.
Giro di Lombardia 2017: the contenders
Defending champion Johan Esteban Chaves will miss out on this year’s race after crashing out of the Giro dell’Emilia with a fractured scapula last weekend.
The Colombian has suffered a frustrating season with injuries, and consequently Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) finds himself installed as favourite for Saturday’s race – and with good reason.
The Shark of Messinah has finished on the podium of two Grand Tours this season – third at the Giro d’Italia and second at the Vuelta a Espana, having won stages at each – and has carried his form into the autumn.
Second place at the Giro dell’Emilia was followed by third at the Tre Valli Varesine, and he will be marked closely as he looks to win his second Monument.
Even then, however, in a race which traditionally is won by solo attacks (or very small groups, like last year’s trio), Nibali’s attacking intent and descending ability may be hard to stop.
Another rider in good form this autumn – continuing from a strong season – is Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac).
Uran was third at this race for the third time last season, and warmed up for his bid to finally reach the top step of the podium with Milano-Torino victory on Thursday.
The big difference between the two iconic races, of course, is Milano-Torino finishes with a big climb while Lombardia comes down to a descent.
But the Colombian’s legs are clearly there, and the Tour de France runner-up will definitely be at the sharp end.
Alexandre Geniez (Ag2r-La Mondiale) also warmed up for Il Lombardia with an Italian Classic victory – triumphing at the Tre Valli Varesine – but it is the runner-up from that race who may be worth a closer look too.
After his maiden attempt to ride both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in the seam season ended with him abandoning the latter, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) has bounced back well.
He won the Tour de l’Ain and, alongside second at Tre Valli Varesine, was in the top ten at the Giro dell’Emilia and Milano-Torino.
Elsewhere, last year’s runner-up Diego Rosa (Team Sky) is one of a number of options for Team Sky in this year’s race.
Michal Kwiatkowski has a Monument to his name already this season, winning at Milan-San Remo, and was in supreme form at the Tour de France earlier this year too.
Gianni Moscon has showcased his all-round ability to great effect, not least in supporting Chris Froome to Vuelta a Espana victory, while another key Vuelta domestique, Wout Poels, was sixth at Milano-Torino and is looking for a second Monument victory after winning last year’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
They also have Mikel Landa and Mikel Nieve riding what is likely to be their final races for Team Sky. Strength in depth does not even begin to cover it, and yet big one-day wins – despite Poels and Kwiatkowski’s recent triumphs, still remain rare for Team Sky.
The British WorldTour team have no Brits in their eight-strong line-up, but Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) will lead his team in Chaves’ absence, on the back of second place at Milano-Torino.
His victory at Clasica San Sebastian in 2015 showed why he should be considered a contender for one-day races, alongside his increasingly growing Grand Tour reputation.
Only two other Brit features on the provisional startlist, but Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) is also a top contender given his attacking riding style.
The British champion trained to get fit for the world road race, only to be omitted from the British squad, so his form could be put to good use – though his major victories have come on individual stages of longer races, he is not a man you can afford the opportunity to attack at a race like this.
Cannondale-Drapac’s Hugh Carthy is the third rider flying the British flag.
Wrapping up the list of contenders is a number team with phenomenal strength in depth – including two former winners.
Dan Martin (QuickStep Floors) won the race in 2014, while team-mate Philippe Gilbert triumphed in 2009 and 2010.
The latter already has a monument win to his name this season, from the Tour of Flanders, and victory on Saturday would be the fifth time in his career the 35-year-old has claimed one of pro cycling’s biggest one-day prizes.
Martin and Gilbert will be joined on the Bergamo startline by Julian Alaphilippe, meanwhile – the Frenchman fresh from a stage win at the Vuelta a Espana.
The nature of the course, and it’s position in the calendar as a sort of ‘last chance saloon’ for many riders looking to end the season with a victory, means all manner of different riders could win, in truth.
From pure climbers like Nairo Quintana (Movistar) to attack-minded rouleurs in the mould of Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), the race may well come down to a solo, well-timed attack but you can be certain there will be scores of riders trying their luck before then.