Tadej Pogacar heads the Campagnolo rider line-up looking to shine at the end-of-season Monument
Il Lombardia, formerly known as the Tour of Lombardy or Giro di Lombardia, takes place on Saturday 9th October and is the final Monument of the season.
Last year, the race that was first run in 1905 took place in mid-August because of the Covid pandemic.
This year, it’s back in its traditional slot and is set to draw the curtain to a close on 2021 for many of the WorldTour riders.
So, what awaits at the end-of-season classic? Well, the major change is that the finish has switched from Como to Bergamo for the first time since 2016.
Before then, the riders face 239km starting from the edge of Lake Garda before ascending the Ghisallo just over 30km in, albeit from the easier inland Asso side.
From there, the route weaves its way easy in search of the major climbs of the race. Around 100km in comes the 9.4km-long Roncola ascent whose early part comprises gradients up to 17.2% before a long central section at 8.2%.
Further climbs follow, including the Berbenno, Dossena, Zambla Alta and the 9.2km Passo di Ganda, which is the rear side of the infamous Stelvio climb.
What goes up must come down and a technical 20km descent, which features 19 hairpins, sends the riders toward Bergamo, the final steep ascent to Bergamo Alta providing riders with one final opportunity to write themselves into the history books.
Can a Campagnolo rider be that history-maker?
A rider who uses Super Record groupset and Bora wheels to conquer the 4,500m of climbing?
It’s certainly a distinct possibility, starting with the main protagonists at UAE Team Emirates.
UAE TEAM EMIRATES
Two-time and current Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar is down to race Il Lombardia for the first time and will be one of the favourites to win his second Monument of the season, after his impressive victory at Liege-Bastogne-Liege this spring.
The 23-year-old never really featured in the brutal World Championships, finishing down in 37th. But the Lombardia parcours plays more to Pogacar’s strengths.
He’ll also benefit from racking up the Worlds race miles as he’s competed sparingly since claiming bronze at the Olympic road race back on the 24th July.
Another UAE Team Emirates rider suited to Il Lombardia is 23-year-old Marc Hirschi. The Swiss rider’s all-round strength has already won him a classic – La Fleche Wallonne in 2020 – and there are signs that he’s growing in confidence after moving to UAE during the off-season with second overall at the recent Tour de Luxembourg.
Italian Davide Formolo’s also confirmed for Il Lombardia and will look to once again shine on home soil, after finishing 15th overall at this year’s Giro d’Italia.
The Belgian team are still to confirm the bulk of their Il Lombardia team with Harm Vanhoucke and Filippo Conca the only names down so far. Vanhoucke heads to Il Lombardia in search of Italian retribution after coming so close to victory on stage 11 of this year’s Giro d’Italia.
The 24-year-old had been part of the winning breakaway and had experienced teammate Roger Kluge by his side. The 11-man group had shrunk to a handful including Vanhoucke but, with potential victory on the horizon, he crashed. He chased back with impressive determination but was forced to settle for third.
As for Conca, the neo-pro will benefit from local knowledge as the 22-year-old trains in this area. Conca, who lives in Bellano – a small village by Lake Como – said earlier this season:
“I know some of the legendary climbs like the Madonna del Ghisallo like the back of my hand. It’s always a special feeling to be training on these climbs.
The twice fifth-place finisher at the U23 Giro d’Italia (Baby Giro) is looking to leave an impression at his final race of 2021.
Australian Ben O’Connor has enjoyed a strong year, his fourth at the Tour de France a career-defining result. The 25-year-old admirably coped with the pressure of competing for a top French team on French roads, capped off by winning the 144.9km ninth stage from Cluses to Tignes.
Arguably, one-day races aren’t his strength but he should flourish on the stiff climbs. Teammate Aurélien Paret-Peintre (25) also enjoyed a strong Tour, finishing 15th overall. That’s on top of 16th at the 2020 Giro d’Italia.
That’s not a bad return for his first two GrandTours. Paret-Peintre also finished fourth at the Picccolo Giro di Lombardia in 2017. This is the under-23 equivalent of Il Lombardia.
If he can reproduce that form on 9th October, he’ll enjoy a celebratory off-season.
Good luck to all of the Campagnolo-supported riders and teams at Il Lombardia.