Tour of Lombardy 2012: The Big Preview

The Tour of Lombardy – rebranded Il Lombardia by the race’s organiser this year – takes place on Saturday, September 29, drawing to a close the European WorldTour race season.

This year’s ‘Race of the Falling Leaves’ kicks off from Bergamo in celebration of local hero Felice Gimondi’s 70th birthday, and finishes in Lecco after 251 kilometres. Five major climbs are featured in this year’s route, doing nothing to veer the race away from its reputation as a race for punchy riders and climbers.

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As with last year’s edition, the final climb of Villa Vergano is situated within the final 15km of the race, providing the ideal launchpad for an attack. Before then, the riders tackle a succession of climbs including the tough, twisting Muro di Sormano just after the mid-way point which features gradients of over 25 per cent in places.

Renowned attacker Philippe Gilbert made the Tour of Lombardy his in 2009 and 2010 – the newly-crowned road race world champion has proven he is in top form, and counts as one of the big favourites this weekend.

Last year, Swiss rider Oliver Zaugg won from a solo attack on the final climb, winning by a slender eight-second margin over Irishman Dan Martin with Spaniard Joaquin Rodriguez in third. All three are scheduled to start this year and could well be in contention for the win.

Can Gilbert take his first win in the rainbow jersey? Can Zaugg repeat his unexpected feat of last year? Or will an Italian rider take the honours after a three-year gap?

Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) is perhaps the stand-out Italian favourite. Although he came away from the World Champs empty handed, Nibali was one of the few riders that launched convincing attacks in the finale of the road race.

Spanish hopes of a win come not only with Rodriguez (Katusha), but also with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who placed third behind Gilbert at the Worlds and second behind Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) at the Vuelta earlier in the month. Contador is another one to watch, particularly having won Milan-Turin on Wednesday.

Tour de France and Olympic time trial champion Bradley Wiggins had been named on Sky’s provisional roster, but he will not now take part. Sky’s eight-man roster includes in-form Colombian duo Rigoberto Uran and Sergio Henao, who placed first and fourth in Thursday’s Gran Piemonte. Recent Grand Prix de Montreal winner Lars Petter Nordhaug and Australian Richie Porte also start for the team.

If Rodriguez places within the top nine of the race, he will unseat Wiggins at the top of the UCI’s WorldTour ranking. One more WorldTour event takes place after the Tour of Lombardy – the Tour of Beijing takes place between October 10-14.

Tour of Lombardy 2012
Saturday, September 29
Start: Bergamo, 10.35am local time
Finish: Lecco, 5pm local time (approx)
Distance: 251km
Major climbs: Valico di Valcava (1336m at 90.5km), Colle Brianza (533m at 134.9km), Colma di Sormano (1124m at 168.8km), Madonna del Ghisallo (754m at 204.9km) and Villa Vergano (522m at 241.5km).

Tour of Lombardy 2012: TV coverage
Live coverage and highlights on digital and satellite channel British Eurosport
3-4.15pm, LIVE, Tour of Lombardy, British Eurosport
7.15-8.30pm, Highlights, Tour of Lombardy, British Eurosport

Tour of Lombardy 2012: Teams
Acqua & Sapone
Ag2r La Mondiale
Androni Giocattoli
BMC Racing Team
Colnago-CSF Inox
Farnese Vini
Omega Pharma-QuickStep
Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank
Utensilnord Named

Tour of Lombardy 2012: British riders
None named so far
Full start list TBC

Tour of Lombardy: Recent winners
2011: Oliver Zaugg (Swi)
2010: Philippe Gilbert (Bel)
2009: Philippe Gilbert (Bel)
2008: Damiano Cunego (Ita)
2007: Damiano Cunego (Ita)
2006: Paolo Bettini (Ita)
2005: Paolo Bettini (Ita)
2004: Damiano Cunego (Ita)
2003: Michele Bartoli (Ita)

Oliver Zaugg won the 2011 edition of the race

Tour of Lombardy: Last year’s top ten (2011)
1. Oliver Zaugg (Swi) Leopard-Trek
2. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Cervelo at 8 secs
3. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha
4. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
5. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-ISD
6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Colnago CSF-Inox at same time
7. Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli at 15 secs
8. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
9. Carlos Betancourt (Col) Acqua & Sapone
10. Riccardo Chiarini (Ita) Androni Giaocattoli at same time

Related links
UCI WorldTour calendar 2012
2011: Zuagg takes solo win at Tour of Lombardy