Valverde eyes first win in Lom­bardy tour

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - Sport -

Newly-crowned world cham­pion Ale­jan­dro Valverde head­lines the sea­son-fi­nale Tour of Lom­bardy on Satur­day look­ing for his first win in a race where he has twice fin­ished run­nerup.

The fifth and fi­nal Mon­u­ment of the sea­son -- the ‘Race of the Fall­ing Leaves’ – will be fought over 241km through the Alps re­gion be­tween Berg­amo and Como in northern Italy.

Mo­vis­tar rider Valverde will be chal­lenged by the same ri­vals who were beaten for the world cham­pi­onships road race crown in Inns­bruck last month, in­clud­ing France’s Ro­main Bardet who fin­ished sec­ond and third-placed Cana­dian Michael Woods.

“Be­ing world cham­pion is im­por­tant for who­ever it might be,” said Valverde.

“It’s also a race that I like a lot and which I’ve al­ways nearly won.”

Valverde fin­ished sec­ond in the Tour of Lom­bardy in 2013 and 2014.

The 38-year-old warmed up by fin­ish­ing third in the Mi­lanTurin semi-clas­sic on Wed­nes­day, which was won by French rider Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), who will be among the favourites this week­end.

Valverde, who was banned for two years fol­low­ing Span­ish dop­ing probe Opera­cion Puer-

to, this week de­fended his record since re­turn­ing in 2012.

“That’s wa­ter un­der the bridge, and I don’t even want to talk about it.

“I be­lieve I’ve suf­fi­ciently demon­strated who I am since then.”

Ital­ian Vin­cenzo Nibali will be de­fend­ing his ti­tle over a route that is vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal to last year’s apart from a fi­nal three-kilome­tre drop to the fin­ish line at Como.

Nibali, of the Bahrain-Merida team, also won the race in 2015, and is one of two former win­ners com­pet­ing along with 2014 cham­pion Daniel Martin of Ire­land.

Race favourites in­clude French duo Pinto, and Ro­main Bar­den, Ital­ian Gianni Moscon and Colom­bians Rigob­erto Uran and Miguel An­gleo Lopez.

Bri­tish Sky rid­ers Chris Froome, win­ner of the Giro d’Italia, and Tour de France win­ner Geraint Thomas, will not be com­pet­ing.

The route fea­tures iconic climbs up Madonna del Ghisallo and Muro di Sor­mano, with the fi­nal hill, a 1.7km as­cent to Monte Olimpino with a five per­cent gra­di­ent. – AFP

Pho­to­graph: WAR­REN ELSON/GALLO IMAGES

ALE­JAN­DRO VALVERDE

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