Here we go, the final Monument of the 2012 season gets under way in a few hours. A possible duel between Alberto Contador and newly-crowned World Champion Philippe Gilbert awaits.
The Muro di Sormano makes its long-awaited return, almost 2km of terribly steep roads with an average gradient of 15%, topping out at 27%. The climb is decorated with various quotes about the climb and patterns, giving it a character all of its own. Note the smooth tarmac, good for riders, but may be offset by the rain expected tomorrow. The climb won’t be decisive, coming as it does almost 50km out, but it will definitely kill off some hopes and sap the energy of the big contenders.
In addition to the brutal climb, the descent off the Sormano is a toughie too – here’s Kenny Elissonde of FDJ after attempting it. The Valico di Valcava, Colle Brianza and Madonna del Ghisallo all return (obviously), along with last years decisive debutant climb Villa Vergano. The finale is also the same, the final 3km coming after the descent of the Villa Vergano. Maybe we’ll see a similar outcome this time around? The map of the route can be found here.
World Champion Philippe Gilbert will be hoping to win his first race in his new rainbow stripes, and having been a two-time winner in the past he is certain to be in with a shout. Alberto Contador is being talked up as his main rival, having won the Vuelta a España and the rejuvenated Milano-Torino on the Superga climb since his return. He will certainly have to attack the climbs though, given that his sprint isn’t the best.
Joaquim Rodriguez also looked good in Milano-Torino and should be a threat. However, with the race not ending with a steep ascent, it doesn’t look too likely that he will be the first Spanish winner of the race. Vincenzo Nibali could also be one to watch, having already podiumed two Monuments this season. The descent to the finale looks a good place for him to launch an attack. Others to watch could include Lampre’s Ulissi (impressive at Milano-Torino), Sky’s Colombians, and victor here eleven years ago, Danilo ‘The Killer’ Di Luca. Also noteworthy is this fact – since 2005, every winner has done the double (Bettini in 05-06, Cunego in 07-08, Gilbert in 09-10, Zaugg in 11-??)..
Let’s hope the race is as magical as the 2006 edition, in which Paolo Bettini won days after his brother Sauro’s death.