World champion Gilbert aiming to join exclusive club at Il Lombardia
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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

World champion Gilbert aiming to join exclusive club at Il Lombardia

by Shane Stokes at 3:21 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro di Lombardia
 
Can Belgian complete ultra-rare double?

Philippe GilbertClearly back to his best form on the evidence of his dominance in Sunday’s world road race championships, Philippe Gilbert will this weekend try to be the first rider to win Il Lombardia in the rainbow jersey since Paolo Bettini in 2006.

Clocking up the double in the same year is a seldom-achieved feat, with only seven riders succeeding in the history of the two events. Alfredo Binda (Italy) was the first, way back in 1927, then almost 40 years later Britain’s Tom Simpson became the next.

The occurrence accelerated in the past 41 years with Belgium’s Eddy Merckx (1971), Felice Gimondi (Italy, 1973), Giuseppe Saronni (Italy, 1982), Oscar Camenzind (Switzerland, 1998) and Italy’s Bettini succeeding where most had failed.

Gilbert will debut his rainbow jersey at the iconic Italian event on Saturday, and even if the change of the race title from the Giro di Lombardia to the less recognisable Il Lombardia has created a little confusion, the event is very much the same Classic

Gilbert’s had a relatively quiet season, with his Vuelta stage wins at Barcelona and La Lastrilla his only other success. He will however be aware that history hands him an opportunity to immortalise his end of season form with that rare double; it will require a huge effort, the right tactics and a considerable degree of good fortune, or rather the absence of any misfortune.

It will also require a solid team effort, and to that end the BMC Racing Team has announced a strong line-up to back the Belgian.

He will be assisted in his goal by former world champ Alessandro Ballan, Vuelta stage victor Steve Cummings, recent GP de Wallonie and GP de Québec runner-up Greg Van Avermaet plus Tour of Austria second-place finisher Steve Morabito. Also on board to help Gilbert are the U.S. national time trial bronze medalist Brent Bookwalter, Italian climber Ivan Santaromita and Mauro Santambrogio, who was eighth behind Gilbert when he took his second consecutive Il Lombardia win in 2010.

The 251 kilometers from Bergamo to Lecco is hilly enough to provide Gilbert with a platform to unleash the same high power to weight burst that won him the worlds. However there’s an uncertain element; the reintroduced Muro di Sormano is back in the race for the first time in half a century, and the wall-like two kilometre ascent could shake things up at the hallway point, creating a sparking point far earlier than usual, and complicating tactics.

With others such as today’s Milano-Torino victor Alberto Contador in the required form to also fight for victory, Gilbert won’t have things all his own way. It’ll be a tough task to complete the double, but the statistics already attest to that anyway. And that certainly won’t deter him from trying.

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