The Gran Piemonte, like Il Lombardia, has been moved to just a few days after the World Championship road race, making it a revenge match and form guide for the last major classic of the season. With previous winners ranging from Philippe Gilbert to Daniele Bennati, it is a fight between the classics riders and the sprinters. This year features two climbs in the last 25km, which could ruin the chances for a few of the sprinters.
The race route starts on a slight downhill slope, making an early break slightly more difficult. The first opportunity for that comes after around 20km where a few lumps and bumps begin to feature. The terrain does flatten out once more, before the climb towards the town of Albugnano. The jostling here, for the right position in the peloton before the climb, could cause an accident. The road up to Albugnano isn’t much larger than a country track, and as the riders reach the top, the drop at the side of the road becomes much steeper. With the peloton likely to still be together here, the riders will have to be careful, although a brave rider might use this point to go it alone.
If there is already a break up the road they’re likely to make time on the peloton; finding it easier to attack the tight roads in smaller numbers. It won’t last long, as there is a large stretch of reasonably flat road to the next climb. If the break is quite small, they’ll find it difficult to keep the peloton at bay. Unless one of the favourites has made it into the escape, the bunch will be looking to have it all together before the penultimate climb.
The final two climbs to Favaro are likely to be the key, with the second ascent featuring in the final 10km. While it isn’t too steep, averaging out at 5.7 per cent, it could be enough to cause problems for some of the sprinters. There is even one small section of 11% but it doesn’t last long. A rider such as Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing Team) might try to launch an attack on one of these steeper sections, and the riders will have to be alert to what is going on in the pack, as it is likely to be a selective group crossing the line. If you miss the jump here you might not be able to catch the leaders and your day will be over. Being a good descender will benefit you here as well, with more than half of the final two kilometres heading downhill.
The final challenge to face the riders is the cobbled section as they turn onto the Piazza Vittorio Veneto. They’ll have to cross this three times, with the final time coming around 500 metres before the finish. While the cobbles aren’t too big they’ll still make the final turn difficult and could cause real problems if there is rain.
With Gilbert absent, BMC could well pin their hopes on former world champion Ballan. He has been showing well in recent races and the course should suit him. Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) looks recovered from his Tour crash now and will be looking to end a fragmented year on a high note, while two-time winner Daniele Bennati should lead the challenge from the sprinters hoping to stay in the mix. Defending champion Daniel Moreno leads a strong Katusha team that features a potential domestique deluxe in Joaquim Rodríguez, fresh from his fourth place at Wednesday’s Milan-Torino.
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