Four African riders will take part in their first ever WorldTour race at Il Lombardia with MTN-Qhubeka on Sunday. The silver medallist in the U23 men's road at the World Championships, Louis Meintjes, will line up along with Tsgabu Grmay, Jacques Janse van Rensburg and Meron Russom as they make their respective WorldTour debuts.
Russom has raced a number of prestigious races with MTN-Qhubeka this season including Bayern-Rundfahrt and Giro del Trentino, but he remains excited for his WorldTour debut.
"I'm happy to be able to race against all the big riders in the world and also to be working for our team in the WorldTour," Russom said. "It seems like the weather might be the same as the World Championships last week.
"I've taken a look at the profile and it's going to be a hard race. I think we are ready as a team and someone like Sergio [Pardilla] could make a good result so we will all give our best for the team."
Pardilla comes into the last monument of the year on reasonable form after finishing sixth overall at the Tour of Britain and will be looking forward to racing what he believes to be one of the most memorable races of the season.
"Lombardia is a beautiful race that's always hard. It's a day for climbers. The race has great history and is known as 'The Race of the Falling Leaves,'" said Pardilla. "It is the last big race that gives closure towards the end of the season.
"It is the last of the five Monuments and undoubtedly, it is one of the most memorable race."
With MTN-Qhubeka hoping for an invite to their first ever Grand Tour next year, Sunday’s race may prove crucial given Il Lombardia organisers, RCS Sport, also run the Giro d’Italia and Milan-San Remo. MTN undoubtedly left a good impression upon the Italian company after Gerald Ciolek won Milan-San Remo earlier in the year with the team receiving their invite to Lombardy after Vini Fantini withdrew.
MTN-Qhubeka for Il Lombardia: Jacques Janse van Rensburg, Louis Meintjes, Tsgabu Grmay, Songezo Jim, Ignatas Konovalovas, Jay Thomson, Meron Russom, Sergio Pardilla.