Thibaut Pinot won Il Lombardia after dropping his nearest rival Vincenzo Nibali and riding solo to the line.
The Frenchman was the strongest man in northern Italy and stuck with Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Primož Roglič (LottoNL-Jumbo) in their decisive move with almost 50km to ride.
Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) dropped Nibali in the final and rode away, leaving the rest of the field to battle for the podium.
Nibali came in second with a gap over a chasing group and Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing) won the small group sprint for third.
How it happened
The 2018 Il Lombardia route was 241km around the gorgeous Lake Como from Bergamo to Como in northern Italy.
Always characterised by it’s climbing, this year’s edition kicked off with the first serious climb – Colle Gallo – inside the opening 50km.
But the real crux of the race wasn’t until the final 70km, with the Madonna del Ghisallo followed immediately by the Colma di Sormano and the Muro di Sormano.
The first climb in this trio, Madonna del Ghisallo is an 8km ramp, average 6.2% gradient with a maximum of 14% but with a welcome flatter section before a short downhill two-thirds of the way through.
Then it’s straight into the Colma de Sormano.
At 5.2km long average 6.6%, its far from the most testing ascent of the day, but it’s then followed by the savage Muro.
The Muro is 1.92km long, with an average gradient of 17% and maxing out at 27% - it is brutal.
A long and beautiful descent follows, then a long flat drag to the final climbs of the day, starting with the Civiglio at 4.2km, 9.8% average and 14% at its steepest.
The final test was the Monte Olimpino – 1.7km averaging 5% - before the final three kilometre plummet to the line.
At the top of the day’s racing, the first semblance of a breakaway formed 20km into the race, as two riders went clear and were pursued by a unit of eight.
Approaching the Colle Gallo, the escapees had pulled out almost four minutes.
The early break consisted of Florian Sénéchal (Quick-Step Floors), Jhonathan Restrepo (Katusha-Alpecin), Michel Storer (Sunweb), Marco Marcato (UAE Team Emirates), Davide Ballerini (Androni-Sidermec), Umberto Orsini, Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani CSF) and Franck Bonnmour (Fortuneo-Samsic) and the peloton was happy to give them an advantage.
The race leaders crested with first climb with around six minutes advantage and with the gap remaining steady over the 50km to the next climb, the Colle Brianza.
The break was finally caught with 50km to go as the race hit the terrifying Muro of Sormano and the race exploded.
Primož Roglič (LottoNL-Jumbo) kicked off first and was followed by Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), with Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) not far behind.
Pinot and Nibali crested the climb first and dropped Roglič.
Roman Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) then crashed after getting caught in the camera strap of a spectator in the road.
The duo of Nibali and Pinot pulled out a 40 second lead on the descent, with reigning world champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) left in the peloton to lead the chase.
Roglič rejoined to make a trio of quality at the head of the race with 16km of flat terrain to tackle before the next climb.
Team Sky’s young Colombian superstar Egan Bernal emerged not far behind the breakaway trio and rode phenomenally hard to join Nibali, Pinot and Roglič.
Valverde continued to ride with a large group of around 20 riders, but the group out front drew out a strong 48-second lead heading into the final 25km of the race.
Roglič was the first to lose contact with the leading group as Valverde struggled to hold the wheel of the group he had been leading.
Eventually the Spanish world champion was gone, dropped out the back of the chasing group and out of contention.
Bernal was finally dropped leaving Nibali and Pinot to battle it out, when the Frenchman attacked his Italian breakaway companion and pulled out a 20-second gap in no time at all.
Attacks from the group behind came from Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates), who joined forces behind second place Nibali with 10km left to ride.
Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) was strong enough to join Majka and Martin, as Nibali battled and battled to keep Pinot within 30 seconds.
But the chasing group of less than 10 riders gained on the Italian and swept him up before the line.
Refusing to accept his fate Nibali jumped again and got away from that chasing group, showing outstanding heart at the death of the race.
Pinot crossed the line alone and had time to relish victory at the final Monument of the year.
Nibali finished second after breaking free of the chasers while Dylan Teuns of BMC Racing took the final spot on the podium.
Il Lombardia 2018: Bergamo to Como (241km)
1. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, in 5-53-22
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at 32 secs
3. Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing, at 43 secs
4. Rigoberto Urán (Col) EF Education First-Drapac
5. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
6. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Bahrain-Merida
7. Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
8. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
9. Dan Martin (Irl) UAE Team Emirates, at 48 secs
10. George Bennett (NZl) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 1-22
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Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers. Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.
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