Leaves are starting to turn, temperatures are dropping and coats are being dusted off from their summer slumber. It's Fall. Autumn means many things to many different people. To kids (mine at least) it means over the top Halloween decorations and incessant reruns of the movie Nightmare Before Christmas. It's a time of harvest and in some ways it represents new beginnings. The beginning of cycle-cross and of the holidays. But for the pro peloton it marks the end of another long, hard fought season. One filled with unimaginable triumphs and sorrowful defeats. Thrilling pursuits and harrowing crashes. And no single race in cycling's season symbolizes the end of a season like Il Lombardia, or the more poetically named Race of the Falling Leaves.
This last weekends Il Lombardia marked the 111th running and even to this day it's everything one would want in a race.
1) Incredible Parcours- Made up of an undulating ribbon of punchy climbs that quickly add up to a whopping 4,000 meters of altitude. It guarantees to put a dent in even the freshest of legs. Furthermore it loops around the ever classy Lake Como, chalk full with beautifully varnished mahogany Riva boats, the Bentley's of the water, used to scuttle well-monied types to their private 16th century villas. And if that weren't enough the race buzzes through the incredibly picturesque village of Bellagio. Yes that's the one, the same Bellagio that gave billionaire Steve Wynn inspiration for his Las Vegas casino.
2) History- At well over a century old, Il Lombardia even predates the Giro d'Italia. It's seen world wars come and go, played host to and helped cement legendary status to the likes of Alfredo Binda, Gino Bartali, Fausto Coppi, Felice Gimondi, Roger De Vlaeminck and Eddy Merckx.
3) Icons- Perhaps whats most infamous about Il Lombardia though is its crown jewel, the Church of Madonna del Ghisallo.