Can Cunego emulate Binda in Lombardia?
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Friday, October 16, 2009

Can Cunego emulate Binda in Lombardia?

by Ben Atkins at 2:36 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Fall Classics, Giro di Lombardia
 

Tomorrow’s Giro di Lombardia, “the race of the falling leaves”, could see 2007 and 2008 winner Damiano Cunego (Lampre-NGC) match the record in the race of an Italian legend. Alfredo Binda – who was once paid to NOT ride the Giro d’Italia to give other riders a chance – won the race four times, including three times in a row between 1925 and 1927. Cunego, if he wins, will match this record and go just one short of the outright record of five wins, held by Binda’s prodigy: the great Fausto Coppi.

Italian fans will be rooting for Cunego even more than usual this weekend as their compatriots have yet to win one of cycling’s “monuments” this season; a foreign winner tomorrow would mean a drought not seen for 20 years.

One Italian who will likely not feature on the top step of the podium in Como tomorrow is national champion Filippo Pozzato of Katusha. Despite professing his desire to take the classic race in the tricolore jersey, Pozzato has been suffering from a flu-like fever in mid-week and will probably not take the start; although his team is leaving the decision to the last minute.

Local hopes will be carried by Liquigas’ Ivan Basso, who hails from Gallarate, a stone’s throw from the start in Varese. Basso has ridden strongly since his 9th place in September’s Vuelta a España, including 16th both in the World Championships and in last weekend’s Giro d’Emilia. Otherwise, the Italian most likely could be ISD-Neri’s Giovanni Visconti; the young Piemontese finished 4th last year and will look to move up at least one place.

The leading contenders to spoil the Italian party are led by Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto). The Belgian has been unstoppable in October, winning the Coppa Sabatini, Paris-Tours and the Giro del Piemonte in the space of a week. If Gilbert falters though his teammate, recently crowned World Champion Cadel Evans, is rarely outside the top ten in Lombardia and the rainbow jersey should inspire him to an even stronger performance.

US hopes are carried for the most part by Chris Horner in what should be his last race for Astana before he departs for new team RadioShack. Lombardia is a race that the American loves, and the combination of long and short climbs suit his style well. Horner’s team also features Kazakh captain Alexandre Vinokourov, who doesn’t have a great history with the race but is still searching for that great victory he feels his comeback needs.

The race will be run over 242km from Varese – site of the 2008 World Championships – to Como. The route features a complete lap of the lakes of Como and Lecco before climbing to the famous Madonna del Ghisallo less than 50km from the finish. The late climbs of Civiglio and San Fermo della Battaglia should provide the usual opportunities for riders to attack before a madcap descent to the lakeside finish.

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