The season's final World Tour race comes with a new course this year, which many consider to be the toughest in history.
Just as Milano-San Remo signals the arrival of the Spring, Il Lombardia symbolically puts an end to the European calendar, as many riders wave goodbye to the season by racing in one of Italy' most enchanting regions. For the ninth time since the inception of the "Classic of the Falling Leaves" in 1905, Como gets to host the start for what is going to be one long and brutal day in the saddle, with no less than eight ascents and around 4400 meters of elevation.
Madonna del Ghisallo, Colle Brianza, Valcava, Berbenno, Sant'Antonio Abbandonato, Miragolo San Salvatore, Selvino and Bergamo Alta, the climbs whose names look to be taken straight out of an Umberto Eco novel, will make for a shark's tooth profile, turning the 110th Il Lombardia (Como – Bergamo, 240 kilometers) into one of the most difficult classics in the history of cycling, one in which the riders will have to overcome double-digit gradients, tricky descents and even sections of cobbles on their way to glory.
Etixx – Quick-Step, who won Il Lombardia twice since the turn of the century, will be spearheaded at the Italian Monument by 2014 champion Dan Martin and Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe, one of the best young riders of the season, who already proved his credentials in one-day races, most recently at the European Championships in Plumelec, where he conquered the silver medal.
A stage winner at both the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España in 2016, Gianluca Brambilla will ride Il Lombardia for the seventh year in a row and will be motivated to leave a mark on his home race. Rounding out the team for the season's final Monument are neo-pro Laurens De Plus, Vuelta a España stage victor David De La Cruz, Pieter Serry, Zdenek Stybar and Petr Vakoč, who impressed with his recent string of results in the one-day races.
"The parcours is really hard, one of the toughest of the season in one-day races. We have a strong and balanced team, with Dan Martin, Julian Alaphilippe and Gianluca Brambilla all capable of featuring in the finale", said sport director Davide Bramati. "The race will start on the Valcava climb, while Sant'Antonio Abbandonato and Miragolo San Salvatore are very likely to make a big selection later in the race before the finale, that promises to be an exciting one. All these hills will turn Lombardia into an elimination race, one in which only the riders in top condition will have a chance."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele