Saturday’s Il Lombardia (formerly the Giro di Lombardia or Tour of Lombardy) is the last of the season’s monuments and the final event in the 2016 UCI WorldTour. For many, this is the most beautiful one-day race.

#PelotonShorts by John Wilcockson/Photo by Yuzuru Sunada

In contrast to the gritty spring classics whose courses often head through industrial areas of northern Europe, Il Lombardia graces stunning landscapes of mountains and lakes, with the snowcapped peaks of the Alps as a backdrop. Even the urban sectors are in historic cities like Como and Bergamo—the respective start and finish points of this Saturday’s race.

This image, taken during the 2002 edition, is representative of the views in the 241-kilometer classic. It can be even more beautiful when the autumn colors appear early, earning the race its famed moniker: The Race of the Falling Leaves.

Its late date on the calendar also distinguishes Il Lombardia, giving those who lost out in the summer’s grand tours a chance to end the year in glory. That was the case last year when Vincenzo Nibali failed at the Tour de France and was ignominiously disqualified at the Vuelta a España, but raced brilliantly in October to win his first monument.

None of this year’s grand tour winners—the Giro d’Italia’s Nibali, the Tour’s Chris Froome or the Vuelta’s Nairo Quintana—are competing, but several of their runners-up are on the start line Saturday. They include Astana’s Fabio Aru (helped by teammates Diego Rosa and Miguel Angel Lopez, Thursday’s Milan–Turin winner), AG2R La Mondiale’s Romain Bardet, Cannondale-Drapac’s Rigoberto Urán (supported by Wednesday’s runner-up Michael Woods), Orica-BikeExchange’s Esteban Chaves and Adam Yates, and Tinkoff’s Alberto Contador (who planned to race Saturday but has had to pull out because of a flu).

On this mountainous course, others who might shine include former race winners Dan Martin of Etixx-Quick Step (well supported by teammates Julian Alaphilippe and Gianluca Brambilla) and Philippe Gilbert of BMC Racing (aided by Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet).

Follow @pelotonmagazine for more #pelotonshorts from John Wilcockson.
#PelotonShorts on Facebook
#PelotonShorts on Twitter
#PelotonShorts on Instagram