The leaves are starting to fall in the north of Italy, and the 2019 men's European racing season will again traditionally end with a week of races there. The Italian classics will culminate on October 12 with Il Lombardia – the fifth and last Monument of the season.
The riders for the cobbled Classics will focus on races in Belgium and the Netherlands before Paris-Tours on October 13. But this year's Grand Tour winners, along with many of the best stage racers and climbers, are in Italy as they choose between six races in eight days.
The Giro dell'Emilia kicks off the racing on Saturday with a finish on the San Luca overlooking Bologna, which hosted the first stage finish of this year's Giro d'Italia. The event also hosts a women's one-day race that was expected to draw participation from new world champion Annemiek van Vleuten. Her Mitchelton-Scott team announced that she is, in fact, ill and will not be in attendance to reveal her new rainbow jersey.
GP Bruno Beghelli is on Sunday, followed by Tre Valli Varesine on Tuesday over the roads used for the 2008 World Championships. Milano-Torino is Wednesday and then Gran Piemonte is Thursday.
Gran Piemonte has a new finish in Oropa after the 11.8km climb to the Sanctuary, where Tom Dumoulin won the stage of the 2017 Giro d'Italia.
Many riders like to end their season in Italy, mixing the hard, hilly racing with coffee rides between races and al dente pasta for dinner. Good weather is forecast for northern Italy next week, at least until Saturday and Il Lombardia.
Saturday's Giro dell' Emilia will see all three of this year's Grand Tour winner go head to head. Egan Bernal will be leading Team Ineos, Richard Carapaz riding one of his final races with Movistar, and Primoz Roglic in a strong Jumbo-Visma team that also includes George Bennett, Robert Gesink and the US's Sepp Kuss.
Vincenzo Nibali leads the Bahrain-Merida team as he prepares to say farewell to the team and move to Trek-Segafredo for 2020. Other names that stand out on the Giro dell'Emilia start list are Michael Woods (EF Education First), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates), Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott), Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic), Tao Geoghegan Hart and Gianni Moscon (Team Ineos).
Roglic won the opening time trial to the summit of San Luca at the Giro d'Italia, but on Saturday, the riders climb the steep two-kilometre road to the sanctuary five times in a final rollercoaster 40km.
The GP Bruno Beghelli has often been won by a sprinter, especially when the race finished in Vignola. The Zappolini climb now shakes up the race and is covered ten times, making for a much more selective race. Bernal is due to lead Team Ineos with Mikel Landa coming in for Movistar, Fernando Gaviria riding for UAE Team Emirates, and Colbrelli for Nibali.
New world champion Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) will race for the first time in the rainbow jersey at the Tour de l'Eurométropole in southern Belgium on Saturday. He then heads to Italy to ride Tre Valli Varesine and Milano-Torino.
The Grand Tour winners are back for Tre Valli Varesine and the rolling roads around the lakes and hills northwest of Milan. Toms Skujiņš (Trek-Segafredo) was a surprise winner but showed at the World Championships that he has the form to do well again. However, he will face some serious competition from Nibali, and other Il Lombardia, contenders looking for the last hit out before they do reconnaissance and recovery for Saturday's Il Lombardia.
Julian Alaphilippe and Philippe Gilbert are pencilled in to ride Milano-Torino on Wednesday before they focus on Il Lombardia. Other riders coming in for Gran Piemonte as teams opt for a turn over between the races.
All the big names will be expected to line-up in Bergamo for the start of the 'Race of the falling leaves' on Sunday.
This year's race again finishes in Como and follows the traditional route over the climbs of the Madonna del Ghisallo, the steep Muro di Sormano and the decisive Civiglio and then late San Fermo di Battaglia, which returns this year.
The 243km Monument will remember Felice Gimondi, who was born near Bergamo won Il Lombardia in 1966 and 1973. The winner of this year's race will be awarded a distinctive jersey that remembers Gimondi.
Cyclingnews will have live coverage of many of the Italian races, full race reports, and exclusive news and interviews from each race.
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