The curtain comes down on the European season tomorrow as the Tour of Lombardy pitches the ProTour riders against each other one final time around the shores of lake Como in Northern Italy.
The end of season race favours the climbers and those who have clung on to late season form following the world championships. It also favours the Italians, only three non-Italians (Laurent Jalabert in 1997, Oskar Camenzind in 1998 and Raimondas Rumsas in 2000) have won the race since 1995.
The 242km route leaves Varese and then loosely follows the shores of the Y-shaped Lake Como. Only two major climbs feature, the Intelvi and the Ghisallo, although the rest of the route is far from flat.
After winning his last three races, Philip Gilbert will start the race as favourite, while Italian Diamano Cunego can’t be ruled out after winning the race for the last two years.
The race will be shown on British Eurosport from 16:30 – 18:00hrs
Who’s going to win?
Philippe Gilbert is the stand out favourite after winning Coppa Sabatini, Paris-Tours and the Giro del Piemonte in the last ten days. He may also have newly-crowned world champion Cadel Evans working for him. Gilbert unofficially helped Evans at the world championships when he didn’t assist Fabian Cancellara with the chase.
Cadel Evans’ end of season form is only bettered by Gilbert’s and the pair will make a formidable two-man team. If Gilbert is too heavily marked then Evans may get his chance and get to allay any fears of the curse of the rainbow jersey.
Damiano Cunego has won this race for the last two years and will be the one the Italian Tifosi will get behind. Cunego was just off the pace at the worlds but will be motivated for his final hurrah on home soil this year.
Alexandr Kolobnev always has a strong end of season and often performs well on the rolling terrain that is a feature in Lombardy. His tactics are never too sound, but will have the might of Team Saxo Bank behind him.
Samuel Sanchez isn’t a prolific winner but with the finish coming soon after a twisty descent the Olympic road race champion could be in the running if he puts his descending skills to good use.
Kim Kirchen could be out to take one more win in the colours of Columbia HTC ahead of his move to Katusha next year. The Luxemburger was strong at the world championships and needs a result to save a season blighted by injury.
Simon Gerrans leads the Cervelo Test Team in Italy after a strong ride at the world championships where he was one of the last of the Australian riders to be at the front with Evans. The Aussie has won a stage in each of the last three Grand Tours that he’s ridden and took a surprise win in the GP Plouay this year.
Janez Brajkovic was second last year and as leader of the Astana team could feature again. A long shot but this race is typically dominated by riders who have done well here before.
Charly Wegelius (178) Silence Lotto
Daniel Fleeman (62) Cervelo Test Team
2008 top ten
1. Damiano Cunego
2. Janez Brajkovic
3. Rigoberto Uran
4. Giovanni Visconti
5. Kanstantsin Siutsou
6. Mauro Finetto
7. Chris Horner
8. Stefano Garzelli
9. Morris Possoni
10. Francesco Failli
2000 – Raimondas Rumšas (Lit)
2001 – Danilo Di Luca (Ita)
2002 – Michele Bartoli (Ita)
2003 – Michele Bartoli (Ita)
2004 – Damiano Cunego (Ita)
2005 – Paolo Bettini (Ita)
2006 – Paolo Bettini (Ita)
2007 – Damiano Cunego (Ita)
2008 – Damiano Cunego (Ita)