This Wednesday sees the return of the Milano-Torino to the autumn calendar. Last run in 2007, before it got lost in a calendar re-shuffle to accommodate the new Strade Bianche race in Tuscany, it is now being re-introduced in a slightly modified form.
While it has been off the calendar for a few years it is one of the oldest classics of all, dating all the way back to 1876 and this will be the 93rd edition. For the majority of it's history the race was run early in the season as a preparation-race for Milano-Sanremo but it was moved to October in 1987 to form a triple-header with the Giro di Lombardia and Piemonte. The race struggled for relevance though and was put on backburner by RCS Sport as they focused their efforts on other events. Now however they have come to agreement with another organizer, Associazione Ciclistica Arona, to allow them to put on the race for the next three years. The project is also supported by the city of Turin in their bid to attract major sporting events to the city.
So what makes the race an interesting addition? In it's old form perhaps it wouldn't have been more than just another midweek race for the smaller Italian ProContis to contest, The parcourse was a flat affair ending with a climb of the Colle di Superga before descending into Torino for a sprint. Not boring by any means but not unique either. The new course makes better use of the iconic Superga climb with its basilica at the top, overlooking Torino. After 170 fairly flat kms the riders will climb the mountain twice, starting from different sides with a quick dip down to Torino in-between. The final climb will go the classic route up to the basilica from Sassi. This will probably present the most challenging finish of any of the big one-day races with its 5 km at an average of over 9%. Compare this to it's italian cousin, the San Luca climb in the Giro dell'Emilia which is a bit steeper on average but is a mere 2 km. The Superga has the same ramps as the San Luca but also some longer stretches at slightly easier grades taking the average below 10%. With the first ascent going up anther slightly longer (about 7 km) and slightly easier route the finale should prove selective and hopefully in a way that doesn't just favor the super-uphill-sprinters (read: hopefully not another guaranteed win for J-Rod).
Predicting a winner on a brand new course is never easy (even with my rock-solid prediction credentials) and many teams are bringing some pretty stacked rosters. Of course one factor will be Il Lombardia on Sunday which many will be having at the back of their mind but with a course that isn't too demanding apart from the finale it might be less of a concern to go hard on the Superga. Liquigas is certainly bringing the big guns in the form of Nibali, Basso and the italian revalation of the season, Moreno Moser. On Lampre there's a Cunego looking to salvage his season, backed up by impressive youngsters Ulissi and Winner Anacona (just added because iI wanted to say Winner Anacona).
Of the foreign teams Garmin-Sharp looks best equipped with Giro-winner Ryder Hesjedahl backed up by Thomas Dekker, Peter Stetina and Christophe Le Mevel, all very capable on a course like this. Colombia Coldeportes is another team looking pretty capable with a pack of climbers and Carlos Betancur on A&S has be be a candidate on a course like this. Contador was originally scheduled to ride for Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank but has decided to focus solely on Il Lombardia, perhaps opening up for Vuelta strongman Rafal Majka and Bobblehead CA Sørensen? And then of course there is the small matter of Joaquin Rodriguez, winner of all things uphill. Unless his focus is totally on securing the number one spot on the world rankings on Sunday he has to be a hot favorite. Did I mention the Superga has some 18% ramps?
Sadly we won't see live video this year but RAI are showing an hour highlights in the evening so we should get to see some of it in the end.
Photo credit : The Nino , Creative Commons licenced