Richard Carapaz returns to Italy for Saturday’s Il Lombardia where he headlines the startlist with defending champion Bauke Mollema, two-time race winner Vincenzo Nibali and new sensation of cycling Remco Evenepoel.
The one-day race through the north of Italy is known as the ‘Race of the Falling Leaves’ because it traditionally takes place at the end of October. But the ‘Monument’ race was one of the biggest losers in the calendar changes made to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
It will not be able to boast many of the top climbers, who opted to focus on the Criterium de Dauphine before the Tour de France later this month. But it nevertheless features a quality field including Carapaz.
The 27-year-old warmed up in last week’s Tour of Poland from which he withdrew before the final stage while leading, after a crash the previous day.
“Richard was feeling some pain after the crash so at this stage it’s better we give him some time to recover,” said Ineos Sport Director Matteo Tosatto at the time. “It’s the best solution for him, as from here he goes on a Giro recon and then on to Lombardia, so looking at the bigger picture it is best for him to rest.”
Il Lombardia is the second ‘Monument’ this season after the Milan-San Remo, won by Wout van Aert, who will not be competing this weekend.
It covers 231km race from Bergamo to the shores of Lake Como, with Bauke Mollema competing alongside Trek-Segafredo teammate Nibali, a winner in 2015 and 2017, and runner-up in 2018.
George Bennett of Jumbo-Visma is also on-form after triumphing in the Gran Piemonte in Italy midweek.
“I only have two races in which I can ride for myself this year, today (Wednesday) and Il Lombardia on Saturday,” warned Bennett.
Jakob Fuglsang is an expert climber with Mathieu van der Poel, and Michael Woods, also contenders.
Before the race start, victims of the coronavirus pandemic will be remembered in one of the regions hardest-hit by the pandemic.
Against a picturesque backdrop, the race includes challenging climbs, hairpain bends and sharp gradients. Riders hit the ‘Muro di Sormano’ after 167km in the saddle, with a 2km climb and gradients hitting 15 percent.
A steep 13km drop follows towards Nesso, with the gruelling ‘Civiglio’ climb and fierce descent awaiting the peloton.
The last 10km runs through Como, with a final climb towards San Fermo della Battaglia, along narrows roads towards the summit, five kilometres from the finish.
One last, wide left-hand bend awaits 600m from the line before the home straight.