This is one of my favorite late season races. The five ascends of San Luca in Bologna is just a terrific finale to a one day race.
As mentioned, it is the laps that decide the outcome. However, we have two difficult climbs before to tire out domestiques. Last year, we saw attacks on the first the first time up San Luca. Here, Roglic, Evenepoel, A. Yates and Kuss got up the road.
As you can see, San Luca is the main climb of the circuit with a short climb at the start of each circuit. There is almost no flat part on the course making it very difficult to set up a real chase.
The San Luca climb is tough but it is a short effort. The best can do it in 5:30. The first part is the toughest, 1.4 km at 11.6% before it flattens out with 650 meters at 5.5%.
Good weather conditions. The wind will blow from the W which means a tailwind from Medelena to the circuit. It means the race could upon up earlier than we normally see.
How will the stage unfold?
Normally, everything is still undecided when they get to the circuit. I think it is likely to be so again, simply because it is such a demanding finale. The past few years have shown it is unlikely that someone will go solo a long way out and still win. It is often the last time up San Luca, the winner is found.
The main responsibility will be on UAE. They have Pogacar. All eyes will be on him and he will be the most important rider to watch tomorrow. He is in good shape – he always is. We should also keep our eyes on Astana, as Vlasov has proved he is fantastic on these slopes and he is a previous winner. There are plenty more riders with strong teams, but in the end I do not think we will see a big surprise, despite Visconti (2017) and De Marchi (2018) surprising everyone.
Pogacar – the favorite. Despite not getting the best results at Worlds, I am certain he will perform here. I forgot to mention the travelling problems for riders at Worlds. Now, it has almost been a week and should not be a problem. The team is the strongest of all of them, and both Ulissi and Formolo looked good in Coppa Agostini. He is the man to beat.
Vlasov – not participating at Worlds. Political reasons. Despite that, he will be one of the favorites tomorrow. He has already won the race once and tomorrow is a good chance to repeat it. Bora-Hansgrohe bring a good team. He should have the help he needs until his own leg must do the heavy work. He has excelled as a puncheur this year, this is a course that suits him.
Gaudu – not selected for Worlds, a bit odd if you ask me. Gaudu surprised a lot when he won the punchy finish in Dauphine, he has a really nice kick for a rider of his size. His win in Volta ao Algarve on Foia proves it too. Recently, he was 5th in GP Montreal. His form is looking good ahead of Lombardia, expect him to be on of the best.
Pozzovivo – he looked fantastic the other day, putting everyone on their limit. He couldn’t even get Formolo to pull with him for a good five km, simply because he put him on his limit. Tomorrow should be a good course. It is unlikely he wins, he is not quick in a sprint, but I think it will take a lot to drop him.
Valverde – the legend does not have a lot of chances left if he is to secure his last professional win. He is not as punchy as before, which makes it rather difficult for him. But he is smart, and he was 2nd at Flèche Wallone this year, so we should not write him off completely. Mas looked good the other day, but this course suits Valverde more.
G. Martin – he is finding good results here late in the season. I will assume he will finish somewhere inside the top-10 but I would be very surprised to see him amongst the very best.
INEOS – a strong team, who do they go for? Adam Yates got 4th here last season and the two races in Quebec suggest he is in good shape. The same can be said for Martinez who has been going well in Italy in his last two races. Having two riders can be an advantage and a disadvantage. I think Yates will do best but Martinez will be in the mix too.
EF – another race where they have a good lineup. Chaves, Piccolo and Uran are going very well just now. I think the startlist quality is too difficult for Piccolo, despite him really well. He could fly under the radar but I think teams are aware of his qualities. Uran is in fine form too but this is not a race where you would think he would be a potential winner. Therefore, I think Chaves will be their best rider tomorrow. He is looking very well just now and is a but more punchy than the other two.
Israel – PT – they were a big disappointment in Coppa Agostoni. With Fuglsang, Woods and Teuns it was a small surprise to see Corbin Strong being their best rider almost two minutes down. Woods didn’t start and Teuns had said beforehand he was feeling well. It suits Woods and Teuns well. I will go for Woods, despite him not having the best results of late.
⭐⭐⭐ Gaudu, Vlasov
⭐⭐ Pozzovivo, Yates, Martinez
⭐ G. Martin, Chaves, Woods, Valverde
Who will win?
I think we will see Pogacar take the win in Bologna.