The race with the pretty name, the “Classica delle foglie morte”, is the final Monument of the year. Traditionally a race for the climbers and very strong Ardennes riders, the 2015 edition was won by a commanding Vincenzo Nibali, who attacked on the penultimate descent and managed to hold on to take the win.
This year the organisers have taken the amount of climbing to a whole new level…
Just look at that profile, particularly the second half, it wouldn’t look out-of-place as a Grand Tour Queen stage. Saying that, they wouldn’t have a stage at 240km long!
The first real challenge the riders come to is the Valico di Valcava. I’m disregarding the iconic Madonna del Ghisalo purely because it comes too close to the start.
The Valcava as you can see is a real brute of a climb. If this was a GT, it would probably be defined as a Cat1/HC depending on what classification you use. The 3km section at 11.6% could rip the peloton to shreds if a team decides to take it up early.
Once the riders have reached the summit, I’m sure they’ll be glad to know that there is just under 100km and 5 climbs left!
Next is the Berbenno; 6.5km in length and at only 5.1% it doesn’t warrant a profile from the organisers. The riders will tackle a fast descent before they go climbing again up the Sant’Antonia Abbandonato.
Another very steep climb, the average gradient of 8.9% is deceiving because the opening and closing kilometres are significantly easier than the rest of the climb which averages over 10%. Another plunge into the valley follows before the Miragolo San Salvatore.
A much steadier and not as harsh climb at only 7% for it’s 8.7km. With it topping out at 40km to go, I can’t see this climb being taken at a leisurely pace. The strong climbers will hope to distance any stragglers here!
A short 5km descent follows before they tackle the penultimate climb of the day.
With the climb being relatively shallow, it will be tough for the riders to make any real inroads here. A strong group however, would be able to take back/ gain a good bit of time here if there was enough cohesion.
Once crested, the riders face a long 11km descent before roughly 10km of flat-ish road.
The last place the climbers can hope to make a difference is the short 1.2km long drag that comes just over 4km to the finish line. With some steep ramps, if they distance those behind and have around 5 seconds at the top then they should hold on for the win.
It’s the exact same run in that was used in 2014, although the rest of that race was a lot easier!
Initially, it looked as if the riders were going to miss the bad weather. However, inclement weather seems to be arriving in the area a day early!
As you know by now, meteorologists steal a living so you can’t trust everything completely. Therefore, I’ve tried to use a few sites to get a better idea.
Good chance of rain in the afternoon at Lake Como (MetOffice).
Weather.com has a similar outlook for Como.
Possible thunderstorms a few hours after the race has finished in Bergamo (AccuWeather)
The MetOffice also think there’s a good chance of rain in Bergamo, more likely in the evening.
Obviously these forecasts could change again by this evening but it’s definitely something to consider.
How will the race pan out?
With the final two climbs not being too difficult, the climbers without a sprint and those who are on an exceptional day will want the pace to be on early.
Looking at the teams, I would expect Astana to set a hard pace up the Valcava, shelling any deadwood and some opposition teammates. Movistar, Orica & AG2R may even lend a hand, and I would not be surprised if we only had around 60 riders left in the peloton after that climb.
A similar pattern will unfold on the Abbandonato. By this time, the bad weather and rain may have close in, which will make this race even more amazing!
A peloton of around 25-30 riders will then reach the Salvatore. With an average gradient of 7%, it is possible to make a difference here and the pace will be incredibly high. Cresting at 40km to go, there is a chance for those dropped to make it back in. The composition of the main group will then shape the rest of the race.
It is possible we get an escape of “lesser” riders forming at this point, while the main favourites mark each other behind. The group will have to include a rider from Astana/Movistar/AG2R/Orica/Sky if it hopes to survive to the end. Look to the likes of Kangert and Izagirre!
My number one favourite for this race has to be Chaves. He was up here last year until cramps and a hunger knock took him out of contention. One of the best climbers in the race and not to mention he’s on good form, I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t make the top 3!
Uran arrives off the back of a very good series of races in September and has been unlucky not to take a win. That could well change here! He’s a danger-man.
Aru is Astana’s main man for this. They’ll be hoping for a performance similar to Nibali from him. However, he’s not been anywhere near to that high standard this Autumn. I’m just not convinced by his ability to compete in a race like this.
Movistar’s main men will be Moreno and Valverde. Both performed very well here last year and Moreno looks in good form just now. Having Valverde in the final group changes the dynamic as no one will want to come to a sprint with him. His form/fatigue is also unknown as he’s done a lot of racing this year. I’d have Moreno as team leader!
Alaphilippe is 3rd favourite with the bookies, but there is too much climbing for him in my opinion! He won’t be there at the end.
Bardet should be in the mix for AG2R and is a podium contender. On form, Ulissi and Costa will be in or around the top 10. The Italian was climbing exceptionally well in the Giro and will hope to do the same tomorrow.
There are some riders others will mention as potential favourites but their form hasn’t been good enough for me to fancy their chances; Martin, Mollema, Poels, Brambilla and Landa namely.
There is always the opportunity for those further down the pecking order. I like the look of Majka for this. Completely contradictory to what I said above re-Martin and co, I just think this course suits the Pole very well. He normally goes well at the end of the year and can handle the distance.
Others I like the look of are Reichenbach and Kelderman. The Swiss rider is going very well at the moment and has been attacking in his recent races. He’s a very good climber on his day, but probably isn’t the quality of the big favourites. This could work to his advantage as the others just watch each other. The same can be said for Kelderman, who seemed to be going nicely in the Eneco Tour and in Canada. Another danger man if given too much leeway! I do like the back-up Astana rider option and Kangert would be my man for that situation.
Chaves should win, he’s arguably the best climber here, a good descender and in very good form!
But we do get a surprise every so often, especially if the weather is bad. Keep an eye out for my 4 outsiders!
1pt WIN Chaves @ 6/1 with PaddyPower or Betfair
0.2pt EW Majka @ 80/1 with Bet365
0.15pt EW Reichenbach @100/1 with Bet365/PP/Betfair (or take 80/1 with Ladbrokes but 4 places)
0.1pt EW Kelderman @ 150/1 with Bet365/PP/Betfair
0.1pt EW Kangert @250/1 with Ladbrokes (4 places)
Hope you all enjoyed the preview and thanks for reading! How do you think the race will pan out? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.