Saturday’s long race from Como to Bergamo is the last chance for the climbers to nab a big result this season. Always a scenic event and typically quite entertaining, Il Lombardia should be especially interesting this year as the race looks wide open for the taking.
The 2016 edition of Il Lombardia looks harder than ever, with climbs aplenty dotting the 241-kilometer route. After 100 rolling kilometers comes the Valcava climb, hard enough to force a selection in a grand tour, and then four short but steep ascents in rapid succession. Then comes a long descent to the final kick, the Bergamo Alta, just over a kilometer at nearly 8%. From the top, it’s less then 4km to the finish, most of that downhill.
Serious climbing ability and descending skills alike will be critical for anyone hoping to win this race. Bad-weather bike handling ability could come in handy as well, with a potential for rain in the forecast, and a fast finish may be necessary should things end in a reduced sprint on the short stretch of flat road that closes out the day. In other words, this is a race for a true all-rounder.
2015 champ Vicenzo Nibali isn’t racing this year, opening things up a bit. Alejandro Valverde, normally a good place to start the favorites conversation, is apparently coming into the race after having been sick. His form is questionable. Daniel Moreno, second last year, may be a better option for Movistar—though his form is a bit of an unknown as well.
Two-time former champion Joaquím Rodríguez is another name with plenty of career success in this race—but he too comes into Il Lombardia with question marks. Returning to racing from months of “retirement,” Purito can hardly be expected to be in top shape. He’s worth watching, but others seem to be stronger contenders.
For me, 2014 winner Dan Martin is as worthy a top favorite as any. He has looked to be in great shape this year, but at the same time, he has yet to take any really big victories all season, so the motivation should be high. The course may be a bit too climber-friendly, but he has plenty of punch for the finale. Julian Alaphilippe is a terrific option for EQS as well. His performance at the European Championships would suggest the form is there, while Gianluca Brambilla is yet another card to play.
Astana may be without Nibali, but Fabio Aru gives them a top favorite in his stead. Aru isn’t the most explosive rider and his one-day résumé is not particularly inspiring, but it’s hard to count him out for a mountainous race in Italy, especially with talented teammates Diego Rosa and Miguel Ángel López at his side.
Rigoberto Urán has gotten away from his early career successes in the one-days, but he’s had a nice year and appears to be enthusiastic about seeking results in the Classics now. This is a great race for him.
Esteban Chaves is another top pick for a number of prognosticators, though I’m not sure I am as sold on his chances. He’s obviously a great climber but he has never focused on one-day racing and this is not just any one-day event, either. Simon Yates is another option for Orica.
Rui Costa and Diego Ulissi give Lampre a nice one-two punch. Ditto for Tim Wellens and Tony Gallopin at Lotto-Soudal. Sky is loaded with options in Wout Poels, Mikel Landa, and Michal Kwiatkowski. Robert Gesink, Wilco Kelderman, Tom Dumoulin, Romain Bardet, Bauke Mollema, Fabio Felline, Rafal Majka, Philippe Gilbert, and Greg Van Avermaet are others to watch.
VeloHuman Top 10 Race Favorites
Winner: Dan Martin
Podium: Alejandro Valverde, Fabio Aru
Other Top Contenders: Rigoberto Urán, Julian Alaphilippe, Joaquím Rodríguez, Rui Costa, Diego Ulissi, Esteban Chaves, Wout Poels