Starting in Cantů (please see travelogue below), the riders face a gruelling 251 km of racing before the finish in Bergamo. The parcours keeps to its now traditional route which includes the famous five climbs: the Madonna del Ghisallo climb (754m) Colle del Gallo (763m), Selvino (962m), Berbenno (665m), and the final leg sapper, the short and steep Colle Aperto climb with 4 km just to go. A race for the routier-grimpeur, true road men who are able to tackle hard climbs, men such as Di Luca who won the event last year.
The big news of the evening in Cantů is not the riders who will compete, but rather the riders who will not be riding. Mario Cipollini will be at the race start, but he will not be wearing the famous rainbow jersey. Instead the "lion King" will attend in civilian clothes the start of the race, to huge cheers from the tifosi and later at the Santuario Madonna del Ghisallo he will pay tribute to the new sculpture dedicated to Gino Bartali. Team mates Lombardi, Scirea and Bennati will also not compete.
The CDM challenger Johan Museeuw also seems unlikely to start the race. It would appear that both the Lions of the peloton will find just too many hills in Lombardy for their liking and will leave the glories of the day to others.
This would appear to give Paolo Bettini (who currently leads the World Cup Standings by just nine points from his Belgium rival) an excellent chance to seal victory of the World Cup competition.
This is provided that he can ensure he finishes ahead of the only other challenger Igor Astarloa (Saeco) who would have to win the race and Bettini not to gain any additional points - it is unlikely but cycling is not an easy sport to predict.
On paper the Saeco team look to be a team of all talents. Igor Astarloa may well fancy his chances of a battle royale - he has two former winners of the race alongside him, Danilo di Luca and Mirko Celestino, while the likes of Fabio Sacchi and Gilberto Simoni will be more than prepared for team work duties when the prize is so great.
Tuscan Michele Bartoli (Fassa Bortolo), recent triple winner (including Milan Turin) will certainly be amongst the bookmakers favourites - as will Davide Rebellin and Dario Frigo.
Franco Pellizotti and Alexandre Shefer will lead the Alessio boys and should not be discounted, while Julio A. ”Lucky” Perez Cuapio will lead the Panaria - Fiordo team - his fans will be hoping for a brave long distance solo effort launched from the Madonna del Ghisallo climb. Yaroslav Popovych will be hoping to end his excellent season on a high note, while the CSC Tiscali boys bring another motivated looking squad and will be backing Michael Rasmussen to add yet more success to the high riding Danes.
Phonak rarely have a bad race and Oscar Camenzind has been looking in good form and should not be discounted - nor should the Rabobank lads, with Boogerd third last year looking to go a couple of steps higher.