It shall seem a lifetime ago since the riders battled it out amongst themselves for glory in the Spring classics, but they shall soon need to get back up to speed with the rigours of those races as the peloton tackle the final monument of 2016. Il Lombardia is the last major one day race of the year ahead of the World Championships and offers canny puncheurs a final chance of glory before the peloton goes into hibernation until next season. This extremely lumpy course will be a gruelling affair once the pressure ratchets up and the favourites become twitchy to the movements of their rivals on the final climbs en route to the finish. The day totals 241km as it snakes its way from Como to Bergamo, looking to chip away at the riders until the last 50km of racing instigates skirmishes to breakout, likely to form an elite group which fractures in the final 20km to the line. With more climbing than recent years, it should allow purer climbers to deal greater damage to the puncheurs, the latter favouring a small group reaching the line from which they can sprint to victory ahead of the true mountain men.
Romain Bardet looked in great condition at both Giro dell’Emilia and Milan-Turin, riding aggressively in the latter stages of both and certain to feel encouraged by those performances as he enters this final major race of his season. His team AG2R La Mondiale worked really well during the earlier Italian races last week, placing Bardet perfectly throughout the day and setting him up neatly for attacks late in the race.
Esteban Chaves has been in great form as of late and has improved consistently throughout the season to confirm his status as one of the most exciting prospects within the peloton for next year. He won Giro dell’Emilia with a typically clever move, though something which he might struggle to succeed with today as a result of Il Lombardia‘s much more hotly contested nature.
Rigoberto Uran has established a talent for performing well in these one day races which come after La Vuelta a España, often emerging as one of the strongest riders as the favourites approach the finale. He felt somewhat aggrieved to miss out on the win during Milan-Turin and is riding extremely strongly right now ahead of this last big battle. He should be confident of staying with the strongest and is one of the fastest finishers in a reduced sprint after a day like this.
Diego Ulissi is somewhat of an outsider, but his showings in the previous week and a finish which plays to his strengths perfectly mark him out as a true contender for victory today. Assuming he can stay with the frontrunners late in the day, Ulissi will prove extremely difficult to beat in a sprint to the line.
There is a great breadth of riders who could all ride themselves into contention for this last monument of the year, including big name contenders such as Alejandro Valverde, Julian Alaphilippe, Bauke Mollema, Dan Martin and Greg Van Avermaet.
1st Romain Bardet 2nd Rigoberto Uran 3rd Esteban Chaves