By David Hunter
Bergamo – Como 243.7km
Time for the final monument of 2019.
A route we all know well. The Giro organisers decided to include most of this in a stage of this year’s race, but without the Muro di Sormano, of course it returns for Lombardia. 2019 is the same as 2018, with San Fermo Della Battaglia continuing as the final climb of the race.
The Muro di Sormano is a legendary climb, one that I cannot wait to see every year. Each metre of the climb is painted on the road, a horribly reminder for the riders of just how long is to go. The full climb is 6.8km at 8.9%, but the Muro is 2.2km at 14.8%. This is where the race explodes.
After a dangerous descent, the riders then head to the Civiglio climb. The period of flat allows riders to return to the peloton, but the bunch certainly won’t be big when we hit the foot slopes of the climb. 4km at 10% is very demanding, particularly after a long day in the saddle. From the crest we have 17km remaining, but the race can actually be won on this climb.
Over to Jumbo-Visma, but first a history lesson. Jumbo first got involved with the team in 2015, when it was Team LottoNL-Jumbo. This team was around for four years, before it became Jumbo-Visma for this season. Since Jumbo have been involved the squad haven’t won a monument, in fact, the last Rabobank monument win was Milano-Sanremo, way back in 2010. Since Jumbo have been on the scene the squad have gone from strength to strength, and the arguably have the fastest sprinter and strongest GC rider in the world. Winning a monument would be the icing on the cake, a well-deserved reward for such an amazing team.
The pressure is on! Everyone knows that Roglič is the man to beat, which puts an immense strain on the team. It is up to them to ensure they have men in the front group after Sormano, they will be expected to dictate pace until the Civiglio climb. Looking at the team, they certainly have the men to do this. Kuss, Bennett, Gesink, Bouwman, Powless and Kruijswijk have everything it takes to stay with the front group and ensure Roglič has all the help he needs towards the end of the race.
Once on the Civiglio climb, just watch Roglič go. 4km at 10% is perfect for him, although, it didn’t work out for him back at the Giro. Judging by his dominant performance in Emilia, very few will be able to stay on his wheel when he puts down the power. That means teams will have to be inventive and try to drop the Jumbo domestiques. If you can get multiple representation, when the group is down to ten men, it will give a tactical advantage. This deep in the season, can anyone manage to do this?
A typical Autumn day over in Italy, with lots of lovely sunshine and comfortable temperatures.
Primož Roglič – he’s flying. The Slovenian has enjoyed a truly amazing season, winning the UAE Tour, Tirreno, Romandie, the Vuelta, Emilia and Tre Valli. His only disappointment was 3rd place at the Giro! I nearly forgot to mention his seven stage wins along the way, there is no doubt in my mind that he’s he rider of 2019. Given his current form, he is the overwhelming favourite to win the race, but can he handle the pressure? His team are strong, he is strong, the others must be scared.
Egan Bernal – was put in his place by Roglič on San Luca, but responded in the right way by taking an impressive win in Gran Piemonte. Still just 22, he has so many years ahead of him. I mention his age because it’s very late in the season for a 22-year-old to be performing at 100%, especially as he won the Tour de France. We saw in Emilia and Milano-Torino that Bernal is not quite at his best, which is very understandable, but his current level is still strong enough to compete for the podium, now, that is frightening!
Michael Woods – considering he was bashing out 250km training rides last November, I’m amazed that he’s still going strong eleven months later. Many will know that I regularly give some stick to the Canadian, but credit where it’s due, he was brilliant in Milano-Torino. Given how he’s performed this week, he has to be viewed as the big challenger to Roglič, but can he topple the King?
Alejandro Valverde – current level is good, but not good enough. To be ridden off the wheel by Michael Woods must have hurt. He’ll be one of many riders fighting for a podium spot.
Jakob Fuglsang – see above.
Vincenzo Nibali – the darling of the Italian fans, can Nibali land his fourth monument? Looking at his current form, the answer has to be no. He does love this route, but I just can’t see him beating riders who are currently in better form than him.
Adam Yates – came into this week off the back of a win in Croatia, but the level of his rivals in that race wasn’t very high. His third place in Milano-Torino did show that his current form is good, and he’ll be hoping to challenge for his first ever monument. Like many riders, he’ll be looking at Roglič and Woods and wondering just how he’ll beat them.
David Gaudu – solid top ten option.
Tiesj Benoot – solid top ten option.
Since the race moved to this route, back in 2015, the win has always gone to the man in the best current form. This means it’s a battle between Roglič and Woods, and I see Primož Roglič rounding off an amazing season with his first monument.
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