It’s been a while since we’ve seen so much firepower at the “race of the falling leaves.” Not only will there be a bevy of big names at the start in Como, but all of them seem to be firing on full cylinders.
Il Lombardia is the final “monument” of the year, and Saturday, October 9, marks the end of the road season on the European professional calendar. You can bet that all of the favourites are definitely hoping to finish 2021 with a bang.
At 239km, the course has been redesigned, again, with almost all of the climbing in the last 140km. The finale itself is virtually identical to the 2016 version, and will have a whole lot of fireworks. After the final climb with less than 5km to go, it’s a straight shot to Bergamo. If someone gets over the top of the Colle Aperto in a group or solo, you can bet they will try to fly the finish.
The recently (re)-crowned world champion, Julian Allaphillipe will be looking to honour his rainbow jersey, especially after a relatively lacklustre 25th at Milano Torino last week. Could he have been taking it easy to save his legs for Lombardia?
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) handily won Milano Torino when he outkicked Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) up the final climb. The question is, will he go for it over the Colle Aperto? The short climb is 1.6km and just under an 8 per cent gradient, with some rough roads at the top. Roglič has had a very good week–not only did he take Milano-Torino, he also scored the win at the Giro dell’Emilia. Many are calling him the odds-on favourite, especially given that he has riders like the Dane Jonas Vingegaard acting as super domestique.
Of course, you can’t discount Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), the young Slovenian who dominated the Tour de France. There have been questions about his form–it’s been a long, strange season. He did take third at the Tre Valli Varesine on Tuesday, but that’s not quite in the same league as Il Lombardia.
Ineos Grenadiers will be banking on Yates to avenge his Milano-Torino form and perhaps jump in a late move and see if he can launch from there and land a huge win. The course definitely suits the all-rounder, but with the race absolutely stacked, it will be curious to see if it’s a break full of favourites or a cheeky solo that takes the day.
Finally, one of the big favourites is our own Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) who has former Tour de France champ Chris Froome at his side. Although Froome has struggled to find his form this year, you can bet he will give his all to help Woods go for the win. Woods may want to make a move on some of the later climbs and get into a small breakaway. If he’s having a good day, he could even solo to the finish from The Passo di Gandapas, which has Woods’s name written all over it. It’s 9.2km with an average grade of 7.3 per cent, and even steeper toward the top. If Woods makes a move in the last hour, he’ll have to forget his Tour de France crashes. Lombardy is not just a race of ascents, but some very fast, hairy descents. Whoever makes a late move will have to have nerves of steel as they approach the finale.