The “Race of the Falling Leaves”, the 5th of the 5 monuments of cycling, happens this Saturday, Oct. 15th. This year’s Giro di Lombardia has undergone some major transformations, differing both in finishing city and climbs from the 2010 edition won by Philippe Gilbert.
Lombardia is an annual one-day classic first run in 1905, utilizing the Milan and Lake Como areas of Northern Italy. This year will mark the 105th edition. It’s the big-time Italian climbers classic, hell… it’s a monument, not much more needs to be said. And while none of the monuments in cycling are without minor tinkering with the route, the start, the finish, etc. Lombardia has remained a relatively consistent annual since the first edition with the highlight feature of the race being the Madonna del Ghisallo climb near the village of Magreglio. Il Lombardia’s consistency is quite a feat with 105 editions running in 107 years through two World Wars and only being postponed for two years during WWII (’43 and ’44). Lombardia has lost the fewest years to war/conflict of any of the 5 monuments of cycling: Liege-Bastogne-Liege (-24yrs, 97 Editions), Paris-Roubaix (-7yrs, 107 Editions), Ronde van Vlaanderen (-4yrs, 95 Editions) and Milan-San Remo (-3yrs, 102 Editions).
However, more changes are coming for Lombardia. This year, two major route changes will affect the race and next year the race is moving from October to September. “2012 – The race of the soon to be falling leaves?” Well, let’s focus on this year. The Madonna del Ghisallo was once not only the highlight of the race, it was also the selective climb nearer the finish. Then for years, the Colma di Sormano was the climb that sorted the field before the plunge down to Como. Well, Como is North-West of Milan, and Lecco is North-East. So, this year, the loop around Aurregio is West to East again and the Madonna has been returned to her previous field-smashing glory.
The 241km race has four major climbing features: First, The monstrous Valcava (11.7km @ 8.0%, 17%max) at km 62, followed by the aforementioned Colma di Sormano (9.4km @ 6.6%, 14% max) at km 138, then the highlight, the Madonna del Ghisallo (8.5km @ 6.2%, 14%max) at km 185 and a new final climb for a final selection the Salita di Ello (3.3km @ 7.4%, max 15%) at km 228, cresting just 9km from the finish, and then steeply descending before a last “flat” 2.8km in Lecco.
Philippe Gilbert has won the last two editions of the race, and has won nearly everything this year, so…. he may get to 3 Lombardia wins. Damiano Cunego already has won three and is looking for a fourth. Fausto Coppi has the most wins of the classic with 5 (’46,’47,’48,’49 and ’54). Main Competition this year is going to be coming from Samuel Sanchez (Euskatlel 2nd-’09,’06, 3rd- ’07, 6th-’10), Michele Scarponi (Lampre 2nd – ’10), Janez Brajkovic (Radioshack 2nd-’08), Alessandro Ballan (BMC), Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Giovanni Visconti (Farnese-Vini), Juan-Jose Cobo (Geox), Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha), Vincanzo Nibali and Ivan Basso (Liquigas), Rigoberto Uran (Sky) and Dan Martin (Garmin) amongst many others who I’m likely forgetting.
The race is scheduled to begin at 11:00am and finish around 5pm (~6hrs at 41kmph) (CEST). For us in the PST that’s to begin at 2:00am and finish around 8am. This year’s Lombardia looks like a little slower course, but the winning time in 2008 was Cunego @ 5hr37’04 (7:37am PST) and in 2009 Gilbert @ 5hr43’46 (7:43am PST) and in 2010 Gilbert, again, @ 6hr46’32 in the rain (8:46am PST)
The weather forecast is for partly cloudy and cool (10C) with light winds and a 20% chance of rain: Wunderground Forecast.