Alberto Contador (Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) hopes to become the first Spanish rider to win the Tour of Lombardy on Saturday. The 2012 Vuelta a España winner has studied the new route and the steep Muro di Sormano climb on Thursday to ensure he is ready for the final major classic of the year and the last race of his shortened season.
Contador won Milan-Turin on Wednesday with a solo attack one kilometre from the finish on top of the Superga climb near Turin. He skipped Thursday's Gran Piemonte race and instead headed to the Lombardy hills between Milan and Lake Como to study the new race route along with Saxo Bank team manager Bjarne Riis.
In the last few days, other key contenders have also studied the steep climb that has been re-introduced after a 50-year absence, including Vincenzo Nibali, Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha Team).
Contador danced up the climb out of the saddle and then continued on the race route to the shore of Lake Como to tackle the climb to the Madonna del Ghisallo and the fast section to the final Villa Vergano climb, close to the finish in Lecco.
"The Muro is very hard and descent is testing too. On Saturday a small group of 10-15 riders could go away and the race will be over for everyone else," Contador predicted to Gazzetta dello Sport.
"We might use a 36 chain ring at the front and a 28 or even a 30 behind."
Riis did not ride the Sormano but joined Contador on the bike for the final 70km of the race route. The moody Dane told Gazzetta that he thought the Sormano was too hard to be used in a major race.
"It's going to be a shock for anyone who doesn't know the climb. I think it's too hard, it's excessive," Riis said.