Belgian Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) hammered clear along Lake Como’s steep cliffs and narrow roads to take his second consecutive Tour of Lombardy win on Saturday in Como, Italy. He escaped crashes, the rain and cold, and his last rival Michele Scarponi to reap the rewards – solo – in the final kilometres.
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“The rain and cold, the descents,” said Gilbert, “certainly did not make it easy.”
Only after the crash of race favourite Italian Vincenzo Nibali (team Liquigas-Doimo) and the troubles of Italian Michele Scarponi (Androni) was Gilbert able to relax. After 260 kilometres, from the start in Milano and around Lake Como, Gilbert celebrated.
The quiet and almost shy rider from Belgium’s southern Wallonia region pointed at his bike number, the number 1, before entering the last kilometre to indicate that again he was the best.
“This race is different than them all,” he added. “The hills and it comes so late in the season, which was felt today with the terrible weather.”
After Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Lombardy is the fifth and final Monument of the season. It has been around for 100 years, but today it changed. For the first time since 1984 when French legend Bernard Hinault won, the Tour of Lombardy started from the region’s capital, Milan. There was little time for cappuccinos, six riders with Sky’s Kjell Carlström worked to escape immediately.
Their advantage reached a reasonable eight minutes and 15 seconds by Como, but they would need more for the race around the lake and the climbs ahead. Namely, they worried about the closing climbs: Ghisallo, Sormano and San Fermo della Battaglia.
“My wife Chiara, my family and some friends will be on the Ghisallo and have a picnic,” Evans said ahead of the race.
The Australian lives near by, knows the climbs well and knew how the new course would change the outcome. Instead of descending Ghisallo for the Civiglio climb, the riders took a right-hand turn, climbed Sormano and descended down to the lakeside run in to Como.
“The Ghisallo may end up being less important than Sormano. I’ve tried it in training; it makes for a more beautiful race.”
By Sormano the last of the escapees were already gobbled up and, on the climb, attacks by American Chris Horner (RadioShack) and Italian Champion Giovanni Visconti (ISD-Neri) thinned the group. The race was made on the descent.
Gilbert, Nibali, Scarponi and Spaniard Pablo Lastras (Caisse d’Epargne) led with a small advantage. A normally eagle-like descender, Nibali landed face first through left-hand turn and signalled the race’s end was near. Gilbert attacked at the bottom of the descent and tried to ride free.
“I had no idea about Nibali,” he said, “I just saw that Lastras and Scarponi were still there.”
He broke free and held his advantage for nearly 10 kilometres, but decided it was better to wait for Scarponi who was chasing solo. The two rode into the final 17 kilometres and towards the San Fermo climb together.
Scarponi’s chance to win the race was on San Fermo, but Gilbert used the climb make his last step towards victory. He maintained his advantage for the following 5.3 kilometres and won with 12 seconds on Scarponi.
Lastras kept third and Dane Jakob Fuglsang (Saxo Bank) rode to fourth place with a small group that contained Nibali and Olympic Champion Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi). They were all shivering and cold, but pleased they had completed the monumental day and their season.
Tour of Lombardy 2010: Milan to Como, 260km
1. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
2. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli at 12 secs
3. Pablo Lastras (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 55 secs
4. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Saxo Bank at 1-08
5. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo at same time
6. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 1-12
7. Mikel Nieve (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 2-07
8. Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) BMC Racing Team at 3-01
9. Carlos Barredo (Spa) Quick Step at 3-25
10. Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Katusha at 3-50
Start line fun in Milan – before the heavens opened
Thor Hushovd’s rainbow-tinged Cervelo team bike
Thor Hushovd in rainbow jersey on the start line
Tour of Britain winner Michael Albasini leads the early escape group
The usual stunning scenery around Lake Como was obscured by the mist
Philippe Gilbert leads on a treacherous descent
Bradley Wiggins on his first outing at the race
Michele Scarponi leads Philippe Gilbert in the final 10km
Michele Scarponi (second), Philippe Gilbert (winner) and Pablo Lastras (third)