The 2011 Giro di Lombardia (Il Lombardia)

The final monument of Italian cycling is upon us this weekend. The Giro di Lombardia. (Il Lombardia)

It has been rebranded to Il Lombardia this year, and will take place against the backdrop off fallen leaves once more before moving to a September spot on the World Tour calendar next year. The 241 kilometer event spans the northern roads of Lombardy region around the shores of Lake Como. An area of Italy I'm quite fond of. The race begins near Milan and then heads north. New this year, the first climb at the (62km) mark is a ferocious one, the Valico di Valcava. The Valcava marks the highest point of the race, at 1.336 metres, and may start to play a role in who reaches the line first in Lecco. It is 18km in length and has stretches of 4kms at 15% steepness. Wow!

A long windy descent brings the riders towards beautiful Lake Como. They go up the little Colle Brianza a little 6 km climb which is a segway to a much harder climb at the 138km mark, called the Colma di Sormano. While the ascent averages about 10% in gradient, there are truly leg breaking sections at 20% providing an almost "Zoncolan" feel to it. I think at this point it may split the pack and the contenders may begin to arise.

The Colma di Sorma gives way to a technical descent leading down to Lake Como once again. Riders will hug the shoreline as they ride towards the beautiful town of Bellagio, before turning away from the lake brings them to the most sacred church of cycling at the (185km) mark, the legendary climb of the Madonna del Ghisallo - the patron saint of cycling. The mythical ascent takes riders past the famous shrine filled with cycling memorabilia from around the world. Its just over 10kms in length and the steepness varies in stretches of 10% to 16% steepness.

The descent that follows is truly technical then onto another new climb for this year, the Villa Vergana climb, which has been selected as the final climb of the 105th edition. The ascent comes nine kilometers from the finish at the (228km) mark. Its a smaller climb around 3.5km in length but does get quite steep near the end of it, almost 15% steepness.

This leaves the riders who have anything left in their legs, to make a mad dash for the short descent and then three flat kilometers between themselves and the race finish in beautiful town of Lecco situated in the Como district.

One of my absolute favourite races on the calendar.

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