Bauke Mollema profits from hesitant rivals
Bauke Mollema no doubt rode a fantastic race to secure his first ever Monument, countering at the right time following a series of attacks that had drained the group of favourites, before getting his head down and powering the final 18km all the way to the finish line.
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However, the tactics of his rivals left a lot to be desired. There seemed to be no cohesion between the likes of Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), Egan Bernal (Ineos) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) in their pursuit of the Dutchman, each rider too wary of given another a tow to the finish line and looking the fool.
Instead, in between bouts of turning around to admire each other’s trade jerseys for one final time this year, each race favourite took it in turns to hit out on their own, staying out front for a while before being reeled back in.
Ultimately, this allowed Mollema, who had done well to take out a 20 second advantage soon after his attack, to time trial his way to victory, not having to worry about someone coming from behind to join him and contest a sprint. At the end of the season, there are not only tired legs but tired minds in the peloton, so it is not surprising that riders who we’d usually expect more from got it slightly wrong today after a heavy season.
Alejandro Valverde’s immortal form
A year after taking his world road race title in Innsbruck, Alejandro Valverde decided to change tact and secure a string of second place finishes.
Valverde finished second in *deep breath* the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, Vuelta Ciclista Murcia, UAE Tour, Vuelta a España, Gran Premio Bruno Beghelli, Milano-Torino, and of course, Il Lombardia.
The Spaniard will have hoped for a few more wins given that many runner-up places, you don’t have as successful a career as Valverde has had by settling for second, but that the 39-year-old has maintained such a high and consistent level of form from February through to October is astonishing.
With Mikel Landa and Nairo Quintana leaving Movistar at the end of the year, the Spanish team’s fortunes will rest squarely on their veteran rider, as well as new signing Enric Mas, and who would bet against Valverde once again being at the sharp end of the major races next season once again?
A day to forget for Italians
While Italian fans won’t have harboured major ambitions of a home win in their Monument, they would have been hoping for a little bit more from their riders and two-time winner Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida).
The Italian was vocal about doubting his form ahead of the race, but was still in the front group with 20km remaining. However, he then nearly came a cropper as he swerved to avoid a stray bottle and somehow managed to stay upright, avoiding a collision with the kerb. Forced to chase back up, the shark of Messina was dropped not long after, eventually finishing in 55th place, six minutes down.
In further bad news for the Italians, not one of their riders managed to make the top 10, a feat last achieved in 1990. Although Fausto Masnado (Androni Giocattoli – Sidermec) rode a strong breakaway ride on home roads, Giovanni Visconti (Neri Sottoli – Selle Italia – KTM) was the nation’s highest finisher in 17th place.
Egan Bernal finishes off dream season
In spite of Egan Bernal’s youthful appearance, his performances on the bike in 2019 have often made you forget the Colombian is only 22 years old.
Therefore, when he was asked in his post-race interview whether he had any regrets with his third place, the Ineos rider’s reply held the sentiment of how could he possibly after the year he has had.
A maiden Tour de France victory, wins at the Tour de Suisse and Paris-Nice, as well as taking Gran Piemonte two days earlier in Italy, adding a first Monument podium to that tally is hardly going to keep him up at night through the off-season. Bernal will surely only improve in 2020, and what a spectacle that promises to be.
A last goodbye for many
Laurens ten Dam (CCC) rode his final ever race at Il Lombardia following a 20-year professional racing career. There are probably few places more picturesque than Lake Como for your last race, and the Dutchman will have soaked in every moment as he rolled over the line in 94th place, more than 17 minutes down on his compatriot Mollema.
While the majority of riders racing in the final one-day WorldTour event of the season won’t be hanging up their jerseys for good this winter, a number will be exchanging them for new ones.
Mikel Landa abandoned with 60km remaining in his final race in a Movistar jersey, while Vincenzo Nibali faltered in his last outing in Bahrain-Merida colours before he swaps to a similar red with Trek-Segafredo.
Dan Martin moves from UAE Team Emirates to Israel Cycling Academy, and will retain WorldTour rider status after his new employers agreed to take over Katusha’s licence. Philippe Gilbert also put in his last effort wearing Deceuninck – Quick-Step colours, the 37-year-old having signed a three-year deal with Lotto-Soudal.