The route often changes, and this year is no different with some course tweaks added to make the finale more challenging. Starting in Bergamo, the riders will take in 245 kilometres of roads before the finish in Como.
The initial kilometres are undemanding, with modest climbs, but it's from 73 kilometres to go that the peloton start the hard tests of the day.
The Ghisallo is an iconic climb of Lombardia, and contains two really hard sections split by a long flat section. It is then straight into the Colma di Sormano, which pitches skyward for 7.2 kilometres at 8.7 per cent, but contains the devilishly steep Muro di Sormano towards the top, where the riders will have to tackle 15.7 per cent slopes for 2 kilometres, and pinches within that of up to 27 per cent.
This is undoubtedly the hardest section of the race, with a very tricky descent from the summit also likely to cause splits. The final 20 kilometres contains two climbs; the Civiglio, which averages 8 per cent for 5.1 kilometres, and the San Fermo della Battaglia, which is 1.2 kilometres long at 6.9 per cent. The descent from the summit takes the riders to the last kilometre where the remainder is flat for a sprint in Como.
Whilst most classics are races for the puncheurs, rouleurs or strong sprinters, Lombardia is the climber’s classic. Riders like Damiano Cunego, Joaquim Rodriguez and Daniel Martin have dominated the results sheets in recent seasons. The last edition was a bit easier, which brought the Ardennes specialists into the race a bit more. There has been some really tough climbing added, and the Muro di Sormano will be a decisive point in the race. The team that has the numbers advantage after climbing it will be in a very strong tactical position.
Joaquim Rodriguez has a great history in this race, winning twice and taking a number of other top finishes. He had a great Vuelta a Espana, taking second overall and a stage win, and was riding aggressively at the Worlds, attacking with two laps remaining to make the race hard. He’ll be much better suited to this course, the really steep slopes are where he thrives.
Vincenzo Nibali has been in top form at recent Italian one day races, and will be looking to convert that form into a good performance here, a race in which he hasn’t done very well. There is a lot of rain predicted, which will suit Nibali, as he handles the wet with no difficulty and has taken some of his most memorable wins in poor weather. His Worlds performance was a bit disappointing, as he had hoped to be making a similar move to Sagan’s winning attack, but he didn’t have the legs. Here, the climbs are much longer and harder, much more to Nibali’s liking. If the rain comes, he’ll be the one to beat.
Alejandro Valverde is a top contender for most races he enters, and it should be no different here. His climbing ability coupled with his formidable sprint gives him a lot of different ways of winning races. He will hold the tactical advantage in the finale, as other riders will know that the Spaniard will be faster than them in the finale, and they will have to attack. Valverde won’t just sit and sprint, he will take the attack up to his rivals, and if he reproduce his Worlds form, where he was 5th, he’ll be a big threat.
Phillipe Gilbert has won this race twice in the past, but that was at the height of his form in 2009 and 2010, and this course is probably a bit too mountainous for him. He was 10th at the Worlds, but wouldn’t have been too happy with his performance. His moves on the climbs didn’t look dangerous and it was really Van Avermaet who was the main Belgian threat. A better performance in a race which suits him less would surprise.
Orica-GreenEDGE have brought a squad with lots of different options for this race. The young climbers, Chaves and the Yates twins have been in sparkling form recently and will fancy their chances. Backing them up are experienced hands; Albasini, 6th here last season, and Gerrans, 6th at the Worlds. They will likely have the most riders in contention after the Muro di Sormano and that will give them a big tactical advantage in the finale. Adam Yates is probably their strongest card, he won the Clasica San Sebastian and took second in the recent GP Montreal.
Depth in the field
There are a number of talented riders in good form at the moment who also have a strong claim for victory like the Etixx-QuickStep pairing of Michal Kwiatkowski and Zdenek Stybar.
Diego Rosa, Rafal Majka, Rui Costa, Tony Gallopin, Bauke Mollema, Rein Taaramae and Tom Jelte Slagter are other strong riders who may also have a claim on a victory.