Damiano Cunego (Lampre) won his second Tour of Lombardy in four years on Saturday, outsprinting felllow-Italian Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) after the two broke away on the final climb of the ‘Race of the Falling Leaves.”
In an action-packed finale to the last Classic of the season, favourite Frank Schleck crashed just before the final San Fermo della Battaglia climb and then Cunego and Ricco dropped a CSC-dominated mini-peloton of favourites.
Despite frantic efforts by Spain’s Samuel Sanchez (Euskatel-Euskadi) to re-form the lead group on the descent to Como, the two Italians stayed away, with Cunego taking his second Lombardy with ease. Sanchez finished third at ten seconds.
?I?m surprised but thrilled to have won,? Cunego said.
?I have to thank my team mates and sponsors because they always believed in me. This win is for the people who said I couldn?t win anymore but I?ve always believed in myself and knew I could win big races again if things went my way.?
Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) did justice to his ProTour leader’s jersey – inherited after Danilo Di Luca was suspended from racing earlier this week – with a strong ride, finally placing sixth despite a fly in his eye causing him huge problems on the descents. With Alejandro Valverde not even starting due to a sudden attack of flu, Evans was never in danger of losing the ProTour, which repaid him for his consistent riding during the 2007 season. He has only won the team time trial at the Coppi & Bartali race but finished second in the Tour de France and the Dauphine Libere race and was fourth in the Vuelta Espana and the Tour of Romandie.
?I think the ProTour shows who is the best rider of the season and I?m very proud to have won it,? he said.
?I don?t understand a thing about all the political problems going on around the ProTour but I think it?s a good idea because it makes the racing more understandable for the general public. My goal for the season was to do a good Tour de France and I was happy with second place but I?d also hoped to do well in the ProTour. I didn?t expect to win it but it?s a very nice end of season bonus.?
Steve Cummings was the only British rider in the race in what was his last ever ride for Discovery Channel. He finished 97th at 12-37, just ahead of world champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) and Nicolas Roche (Credit Agricole). Cummings will ride for Barloworld in 2008 but his season begins next Friday when he travels to Australia with the Great Britain endurance track riders.