Procycling - - PROLOGUE -

Il Lom­bar­dia, as the Giro di Lom­bar­dia is now called, is one of my favourite races of the sea­son, and an­other event that ap­peals to my love of the his­tory of cy­cling. But I do wish they would stop chang­ing the course. This year’s route fea­tured the 1.7km long Monte Olimpino as the race’s fi­nal climb af­ter the Civiglino, top­ping out just 3.3km from the fin­ish line. I be­lieve this lack of a con­sis­tent iden­tity tar­nishes its sta­tus as a mon­u­ment. But one look at the win­ners of this great race (a pal­marés that I feel very priv­i­leged to be a part of) leaves no doubt about the es­teem in which the race is still held.

I’m not sure if I like Il Lom­bar­dia be­cause it suits me, or it suits me be­cause I like it. I have al­ways tried to fo­cus my pro­gramme around the races that I en­joy, hence my spo­radic ap­pear­ances at Am­s­tel Gold Race or never hav­ing rid­den Strade Bianche de­spite them suit­ing my char­ac­ter­is­tics on pa­per.

I just don’t en­joy them (I rode the strade bianche dur­ing the 2010 Giro d’Italia – yes, the wet, muddy one). But hav­ing said that, the year that I won Lom­bar­dia, in 2014, on pa­per the race didn’t re­ally suit me. Cy­cling is funny like that and awe­some at the same time. The favourite rarely wins. Any­thing can hap­pen. So why do I love it? Some of the long­est days I’ve had on the bike have been at Lom­bar­dia, but of­ten it is wet and cold, and not guar­an­teed good weather. I also had the fastest crash of my ca­reer here in 2010, slid­ing off in the wet at 70kph-plus, on a straight road - slid­ing be­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate word as I for­tu­nately did just that, and came away very lightly, de­spite trav­el­ing 100 me­tres on my arse. In­deed, I do have a love­hate re­la­tion­ship with the race, and ei­ther fin­ish in the front or don’t fin­ish at all. Lom­bar­dia does tra­di­tion­ally mark the end of the sea­son, although when the Tour of Bei­jing was on I trav­elled to China di­rectly from Italy, so it doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily have the end-of-term feel­ing for ev­ery­one.

Lom­bar­dia is just purely a beau­ti­ful race. Great rac­ing roads in a stun­ning set­ting, re­sult­ing in a com­plete win­ner who needs to be able to climb, de­scend, en­dure the long dis­tance and be tac­ti­cally as­tute. I do not en­joy the cur­rent course though, as I think it makes the race too dif­fi­cult and less about tac­tics than it should be. Lom­bar­dia, like Liège-Bas­togne-Liège, used to have a dozen or more pos­si­ble win­ners on the start line, but with the cur­rent course there is usu­ally a clear favourite who then has gone on to win. Where is the fun in that?

I di­gress. The roads here are a mas­ter­piece of en­gi­neer­ing, cling­ing to the moun­tain­sides, twist­ing and turn­ing, plus there is al­ways a very spe­cial at­mos­phere around the race. There is a cer­tain cy­cling cul­ture in north­ern Italy, here around Mi­lan. The peo­ple un­der­stand what Il Lom­bar­dia means. From the oc­to­ge­nar­i­ans who wish you good luck in Ital­ian spo­ken at 100 miles per hour on the start­line, to the Madonna del Ghisallo church atop the climb be­ing a place of cy­cling pil­grim­age. The in­dus­trial ar­eas around Mi­lan are home to Bianchi, De Rosa and, of course, my spon­sor Col­nago. The re­gion loves cy­cling and truly de­serves its mon­u­ment.

Dan couldn’t re­peat his 2014 win as he rounded out his sea­son with ninth in Lom­bar­dia

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