By Jeff Jones
The Giro di Lombardia, the traditional final classic of the season and the last race of the inaugural ProTour series, will take place for the 99th time on Saturday, October 15. As with last year, the Race of the Falling Leaves will start in the Swiss town of Mendrisio and wind its way around Lake Como before the finish in Como itself. With some modestly sized climbs including the Madonna del Ghisallo (8.5 km) and the nearly 2 km at 10 percent San Fermo della Battaglia near the finish, the race suits the climbers, and it was no surprise that Damiano Cunego won it last year ahead of Michael Boogerd and Ivan Basso.
This year, the tables have turned in Cunego's Lampre-Caffita team, as the 2004 Giro winner has spent most of the season fighting poor form caused by mononucleosis in spring. Instead, Lampre will be riding all-out for Gilberto Simoni, who is finishing the season on a strong note after winning the Giro dell'Emilia last Saturday.
Another rider who has struggled this season, but is certainly hitting peak form now, is the Olympic champion Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step), who is coming off a storming win in the Championship of Zurich nearly two weeks ago. Bettini has never finished on the podium in Lombardy, as it's a race that normally comes too late in the season for the classy Italian. But this year might be different, as Bettini is very motivated, and for once doesn't have to worry about defending the World Cup lead.
Cyclingnews will be covering the Giro di Lombardia live, with coverage starting at 15:00 CEST (Europe)/9:00 EDT (USA East)/6:00 PDT (USA West)/23:00 AEST (Australia East).