This Saturday brings the 2010 pro road cycling season to a close with the last Classic of the Season, the Giro di Lombardia. Known as the “Race of the Falling Leaves”, the Lombardia winds it way north from Milan, through beautiful Italian countryside, and then up and down the wooded hills that surround the picturesque shores of the famous Lake Como.
The race has been run over a variety of courses throughout its 105 year history, but this year it checks in at a hefty 260km–quite the test for tired legs at the end of a long season. The Lombardia is known for its short but steep climbs such as the famous Madonna del Ghisallo ascent, which passes the church of the patroness of cycling. The Madonna del Ghisallo chapel is a must-see for any cyclist who gets the chance, as the interior is adorned with countless bikes, jerseys and other gear from champion cyclists from Fausto Coppi to Francesco Moser to Eddy Merckx (plus many, many more).
So who does this long and difficult race favor? A good place to start is with last year’s champion, Phillipe Gilbert. Fresh off of a strong showing at the World Championships, Gilbert has maintained his strong form, as demonstrated with his decisive win at the Giro del Piemonte just this week (which he also won last year in the lead-up to the Lombardia). Thor Hushovd, the newly crowned World Champion, will also get a chance to show off his new stripes while racing in the final race for the Cervelo Test Team (which is shutting down after the season ends). Andy Schleck will be there racing for Saxo Bank for the last time, while Vincenzo Nibali and Michele Scarponi will be trying to win one for the Italians. With a strong field and a prestigious title on the line, the Giro di Lombardia should provide an entertaining conclusion to the end of the racing season (plus the scenery will be pretty nice, if nothing else, as seen in this shot from legendary photographer Graham Watson).
To check out the Giro di Lombardia here in the US, tune in to Universal Sports Saturday morning or log in for their online coverage if you don’t get Universal Sports on your television. Then get outside and enjoy some beautiful fall riding of your own!