Il Lombardia, the last monument of the season, would seem to be a two man shoot-out between World Champion Alejandro Valverde and the red-hot Thibault Pinot.
The race profile is made for a rider of Valverde’s talents, a jagged saw-blade that goes up and down, with gradients that often jump to 14% and as high as a leg-ripping 27% on the Muro di Sormano. He has the rainbow jersey and would love to take his first win in his stylish new apparel.
We’re almost wondering why Pinot waits until August, September and October to actually perform at a high level and win races. He took two stages of the Vuelta a Espana, won Milano-Torino and just missed victory at Tre Valli Varesine. He’s actually having fun as opposed to abandoning the Tour de France with a serious case of bronchitis. Pinot was fifth in Lombardy last season and there’s zero reason to think he can’t improve on that by four places.
As the cyclingnews preview notes, Dan Martin is certainly a favorite and he won Il Lombardia in 2014. You never actually know what he’s going to do in a race and what form he can count on. He’s a wild card for us, and all the wilder at the end of the season when everyone’s form is evaporating. Martin will try something but we suspect it will be quickly snuffed out.
It depresses us to say this but it appears that Gianni Moscon is also a contender. The less said, the better, in his case. We just hope he’s on good behavior — no racial slurs, elbows, hip checks or backhands to the face. We pretty much put a hex on this guy and we’re looking forward to the next transgression just as more proof that team manager David Brailsford’s disciplinary warnings are just pretend.
How we would love to see Vincenzo Nibali triumph in Lombardia. His season was wrecked by a drunk fan taking him down in Le Tour. One of the saddest sights of the year was watching him struggle through the Vuelta at the back of the peloton still trying to get his body back into shape. It would be sweet redemption and his second Lombardia win in a row. Just not feeling it, though.
Michael Woods? Hell yeah, what not? Third in the Worlds, always attacking in the Vuelta. It’s an Italian version of Liege-Bastogne-Liege where Woods was second. He’s got the confidence and a good tag team partner in Rigoberto Uran. The Colombian has had an off-season but then again, he’s had three third places at Lombardia which says he’s got the race pretty well figured out.
Monsieur Bardet, comment ca va? Our favorite little French climber was oh-so-close in the Worlds, beating everyone but Valverde. He missed out on his GC dreams once again in Le Grand Shindig but he loves the races with the most history and seems to rise to those occasions. Allez, little Frenchman, allez.
The Brothers Yates would seem like an unlikely bet. We get the feeling that Simon is cooked mentally and physically from a long, disappointing Giro and a long, inspired Vuelta. It’s Adam that has all the questions attached and we don’t have any strong answers. So we’re ruling them both out.
Winner of the 2018 Il Lombardia? Hate to say it but Valverde is the pick