MILAN (AFP) — World champion Philippe Gilbert will showcase his new rainbow-striped jersey at the Giro di Lombardia on Saturday, but the Belgian is not racing to make a glory lap around northern Italy.
Gilbert ended years of frustration at the world championships by finally landing the elite men’s road race title at Valkenburg in the Netherlands a week ago. Instead of racing the Gran Piemonte, which he has done, and won, prior to Lombardia, the BMC Racing rider has rested and trained this week.
It’s a clear sign that a third victory in the “Race of the Falling Leaves” — so-called because it signals the start of early autumn in Lombardy — is on his mind.
Another was his apparent reluctance to get too carried away with celebrations after becoming the first Belgian since Tom Boonen in 2005 to win the world title.
“Phil is super motivated to take his first win wearing the rainbow jersey on Saturday in Lombardia,” BMC sports director Rik Verbrugghe told Sporza. “He didn’t party for very long; the course suits him and he’s in good condition.”
The route for the Giro di Lombardia, like many of cycling’s monuments, has changed or been altered over the years and this year’s edition will be no different. To commemorate the 70th birthday of Italian great Felice Gimondi, the race will start from his native city of Bergamo and finish 251km later in Lecco.
Gimondi, a two-time winner, believes the winner of this edition will have earned his spurs.
“I’m honored and excited about everything that’s been organized to celebrate my birthday,” said Gimondi, who won the race in 1966 and 1973. “Lombardia is a great race, one of the five classic monuments, and whoever wins on Saturday can be called a true champion.”
Much of that accolade will come down to alterations to the route including a new climb, the Muro di Sormano, which will add spice to a race whose twisting roads, climbs and descents already make it highly entertaining.
Although Gilbert seems to have the
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