Aru joins queue for absent Nibali’s Lombardy crown

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MILAN: A host of challengers including fellow Italian Fabio Aru and Spain’s former two-time champion Joaquin Rodriguez saddle up looking to snatch Vincenzo Nibali’s crown in the Tour of Lombardy on Saturday (Sunday in Manila). But to do so, they would do well to remember if, and how they raced the 2014 edition. Astana rider Nibali, who is nursing a broken collarbone from a crash at the Olympics, won his maiden Lombardy crown in Como just outside Milan last year. But the organizers’ decision to alternate the start and finish towns between Bergamo and Como for 2014-2017 means the “Race of the Falling Leaves,” like 2014 when Ireland’s Dan Martin triumphed, finishes in Bergamo. The race’s marquee Madonna del Ghisallo climb — a 10.6 km ascent at an average gradient of 5.2 percent — now comes just 65km into the 241km race instead of in the final third. Five or six climbs that follow suit, two of which have been included for the first time as organisers look for drama in what is the European cycling season’s finale. Aru is a former Tour of Spain winner whose sole win this season was a stage at the Criterium du Dauphine.

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