Oct 06, 2017

RACE OF THE FALLING LEAVES

  • Race of the Falling Leaves
  • The beauty of Lombardy
  • The Shark of Messina

Races that have nicknames always seem cooler which is why it’s likely you’ve heard people saying how much they’re looking forward to ‘The Race of the Falling Leaves’ tomorrow. In Italian it’s ever better — ‘La Classica delle Foglie Morte’. Although, directly translated it’s disappointingly as the classic of the dead leaves, which sounds pretty rubbish. The one day race is the last of the five monuments and takes place in Lombardy, hence another moniker ‘Il Lombardia’.

During the 6 and half hours of racing you’ll hear commentators ticking off the monument bingo phrases; climbers classic, Madonna del Ghisallo, challenging parcours, one for the strong men. Fortunately the scenery in Lombardy is stunning and enough to take your mind off it. From the ancient walled city of Bergamo to the shores of Lake Como and into Civiglio we’ll be treated to the autumnal beauty of north west Italy. An economic and industrial powerhouse with diverse cultural heritage, expect the TV helicopters to linger over churches, museums ad UNESCO heritage sites a plenty.

the Madonna del Ghisallo, where you can now be robbed in the warm surroundings of historic memorabilia

The Tour of Lombardy boasts quite the portfolio of famous climbs, the most notorious being the Madonna del Ghisallo which peaks at a 14.5% gradient. The hill inherited the name from the patroness of cyclists who, as legend has it, saved a local count from a bandit attack. These days that sacred site is a cycling museum with a small shop. This modern incarnation of the shrine ensures you can now be robbed in the warm surroundings of historic memorabilia.

The most stylish rider of all time, Fausto Coppi, enjoyed a lot of success Il Lombardia. For cycling fans of today Coppi is the ideal hero, photogenic, successful and long since departed. The modern rider is so much more in our consciousness, especially the ones on social media, and this makes them kind of boring. Coppi was probably really boring too, despite his controversial affair and divorce. Even Merckx is boring now, plodding around race podiums looking a bit grumpy and three times the size of his race days. Coppi won the race 5 times, each time solo after attacking on the Madonna del Ghisallo. Imagine watching that — boring. In ’56 Coppi’s aforementioned mistress may have actually played a part in his defeat, reportedly sneering at Fiorenzo Magni as her car passed him. Incensed, Magni chased the leaders down to argue with Coppi which in turn allowed André Darrigade to escape to victory. A tenuous link, but not a boring one.

Italians have dominated this classic with Coppi, Binda and Bartali unsurprisingly taking 12 victories between them from the 20s to the 50s. Ireland’s Sean Kelly bagged three for himself in the modern era, a foreign tally rivalled only by France and Wikipedia’s Henri Pélissier. No, I didn’t know either. The last 8 years have seen only Vincezo Nibali honouring Italy’s fine history in the race, his win in 2015 echoing Coppi’s tactic of a solo attack on the penultimate hill. Current champion, the Columbian Estaban Chaves, won’t be defending his title following a nasty crash in the Giro dell’Emilia, so Nibali is in with a strong shout of doubling his tally. Don’t put all your money on The Shark though, with Rigoberto Uran in good late season form and Dan Martin looking to sign off his Quickstep career on a high this will be a keenly fought contest. An outside bet of Philippe Gilbert would be a popular win, particularly since it would see him match Kelly and Bartali’s total of three wins.

Whoever wins they’re likely to do so in decent temperatures of about 22°C in the sunshine of Italy’s fading light. UK weather for Saturday is likely to be a good deal less sunny and nearly 10°C cooler, proper Autumn. Whilst not freezing it does make us remember that we need to start thinking about wrapping up a bit, so we’re happy to announce our new Autumn / Winter range for 2017. Designed for those days when you’re reticent to open the curtains for fear of what the weather may bring, the all new collection is available in Club, Tempo and Echelon for men and Madeleine and Soulor for women.

Bite the frost back, blow the wind away, rain on the clouds’ parade, we’re well and truly in the midst of Autumn / Winter so you need some layers to make riding comfortable again.

See the blue bibs in detail