Race Report: Il Lombardia was wide open this year as there were so many top riders on the start line in Como. The course change was also an unknown entity, but in the end the route was perfect and the win was perfectly taken by Dan Martin.
The early break of the day stuck it out for as long as it could, but in the end the inevitable chase erupted from behind. Pieter Weening and Ben Hermans exploded the race and held off the top men until the last 4 kilometers through the old town of Bergamo. Philippe Gilbert and Samuel Sanchez laid down a hard pace to take a group of big hitters clear, but during a slight lull in the action; Dan Martin launched himself towards the finish. The last 600 meters were his, as the others in the group had no chance.
Due to road works in the first sector of the race route after Madonna del Ghisallo, the total race distance was 260kms. But there was no change over the last 180 km of the route.
Taking in over 3,000m of climbing, the race started in Como. The autumn classic will took in the villages of Cantù, Erba, Asso and Onno before hitting Bellagio at 58km and the start of the Madonna del Ghisallo (754m), a beautiful and challenging 10.6km climb with gradients over 14%. The race then continued through Asso, Pusiano, Oggiono, Galbiate to the first feeding zone at Pescate before the Alta Brianza and Meratese areas and into the Bergamo province in Calusco d’Adda. After a first passage through the city of Bergamo, the race began a loop with a series of testing climbs. The Colle dei Pasta (413m), Colle Gallo (763m) and, after the second feeding zone in Cene, the Passo di Ganda (1060m), which featured in the 18th stage of the 2011Giro d’Italia. After a fast descent through Selvino and Rigosa towards the bottom of the valley, the road climbs back towards Bracca (600m) taking in the technical descent towards Zogno and Brembilla. Then the classic climb of Berbenno (695m), just 26km from the finish. A fast descent towards Almenno San Salvatore takes the riders through Almè and back to Bergamo to face the final kilometres through the old Città Alta to the finish on the Sentierone.
The Final Kilometers:
The route to the finish line climbs towards Bergamo Alta, entering at Porta Garibaldi, up the Boccola ascent and its 200m of cobblestones towards Largo Colle Aperto, a climb that doesn’t drop below 10%, and includes ramps of 12%. The final descent is wide with a flat surface. The final 2 kilometers takes in three technical turns, a 90º bend at 1800m with the road narrowing under Porta Sant’Agostino, a left turn at 1000m and another 250m from the line.
The Early Action
After the usual attacks from the gun the first proper break was established after around 10 K’s, it included: Tiziano Dall’Antonia (Androni Giocattoli), Francesco Gavazzi (Astana), Jeremy Roy (FDJ.fr), Romain Guillemous (Europcar), Jan Polanc (Lampre-Merida), Andrea Fedi (Neri Sottoli), Matthais Brändle (IAM Cycling), Paul Voss (NetApp-Endura) and Sergio Paulinho (Tinkoff-Saxo). And after 20 kilometers of racing they had a lead of 2:30 on the peloton. A chase group of two riders tried to bridge, Miguel Rubiano Chaves (Colombia) and Angelo Pagani (Bardiani-CSF), but were making hard work of it.
The lead grew to over 10 minutes after 50 kilometers as the leaders hit the first climb of the day, the Madonna del Ghisallo with its cycling church and museum, just in time for the two chasers to catch the leaders. Francesco Gavazzi (Astana) was first over the summit. After 70 kilometres the eleven riders’ advantage had been cut to 8:30, in the first 2 hours the race covered 89.6 kilometres. The peloton was being controlled by Movistar and Katusha for their Spanish leaders; Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez. Valverde wants the UCI points to move ahead of Alberto Contador in the World rankings and Rodriguez is looking for his 3rd Il Lombardia win in a row.
On the flat section before the next climb (Colle dei Pasta), the lead came down slightly to 7 minutes. At this point there were reports that Trek’s Yaroslav Popovych had been involved in an accident and had been taken to Lecco hospital by ambulance with possible broken ribs. The team said that he hit a traffic sign on a roundabout.
The Half Way Point
With half the race gone the lead for the eleven escapees was still around 7 minutes and Katusha were being helped by Omega Pharma – Quick-Step in a halfhearted chase. With 110 kilometers to go; Contador’s Tinkoff-Saxo team came to the front and the lead started to slowly come down under 6 minutes.
Over the Colle dei Pasta and the lead was still at 6 minutes with Katusha, Movistar and Tinkoff-Saxo on the front of the peloton as they headed towards the second feed point. Next climb was the Colle Gallo.
100 K’s to Go!
The speed in the bunch lifted and entering the last 80 kilometers the lead was down to 4 minutes, then by the time they hit the climb of the Gallo they only had 3:45. NetApp-Endura’s Paul Voss was in trouble on the climb and couldn’t hang on to the break, at the same time Ivan Basso was dropped by the peloton.
Next to suffer in the lead group was Matthias Brändle as Sky’s Philip Deignan attacked the bunch to be joined by Gianluca Brambilla (OPQS). Young Frenchman Warren Barguil (Giant-Shimano) jumped up to them, but it was all a waste of energy as they were all pulled in. This gave Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) the opportunity to put in a big jump to try to make the front group on the climb.
The lead group was down to five riders, leaving only Polanc, Chaves, Roy, Fedi and Pauliho up front and the others were starting to fall apart. Polanc attacked with Paulinho and Fedi getting rid of the others, but it only got rid of Roy as Chaves pulled himself back. On the descent Roy got back to the leaders as behind Txurruka was at 2:10 and the peloton were only 30 seconds behind.
50km to Go
Txurruka had got together with Brändle and Guillemois and were at 1:30, but the peloton were at 1:57. Paulinho attacked from the leaders on the short climb of Bracca and Txurruka attacked the chase group. the plan for Paulinho could have been that he was going out front for Contador, but Txurruka was just wasting strength.
BMC’s Ben Hermans took off from the bunch and Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Bauke Mollema (Belkin) got with him. Fedi rode like a crazy man to get with Paulinho on the descent and by the valley the pair has 1:20 on the chase group of Txurruka, Weening, Hermans, Mollema, Chaves, Roy and Mickaél Chérel (AG2R-La Mondiale) who had bridged over.
The Katusha led peloton was at 2:25, but OPQS took over the work and the lead started to drop again. Into the town of Brembilla, with 32 kilometres to go, the leaders had 1:50 on the peloton and 56 seconds on the chasers. This was the start of the last big climb of the day, the Barbenno with ramps of 10% in places. Amazingly Polanc managed to catch Paulinho and Fedi to give us three riders at the head of the action. Not for long though as Weening, Chérel and Hermans caught them to then have six leaders out front.
Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) attacked the bunch with Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani-CSF) on his tail. Weening and Hermans left the leaders as the race split apart on all fronts.
On the descent towards the flat section after the Barbenno; Weening and Hermans had 25 seconds on the peloton into the final 25 kilometres, with Kolobnev and Zardini between, but they were caught.
NetApp-Endura’s Leonard König chased across to Weening and Hermans as the bunch eased off through some tunnels. On the flat section before the final sharp climb to the finish in Bergamo, Jean-Christophe Peraud (AG2R-La Mondiale) made an effort to cross the 30-second gap to the leaders; König, Weening and Hermans as Katusha and Garmin-Sharp led the bunch. Peraud didn’t make it and was caught.
The Last 10K
König was dropped leaving Hermans and Weening up front, while at the back World champion Michal Kwiatkowski (OPQS) was suffering with cramp and had to slow to walking pace. Hermans and Weening were riding strongly but they only had a gap of 9 seconds going into Bergamo with 5 kilometers to go.
The leaders hit the pavé and Weening attacked, but the leaders time was over and as they were caught Tim Wellins (Lotto Belisol) jumped hard and attacked the steeper section of the final ramp. Next to go was Philippe Gilbert (BMC), making the effort to catch his countryman, Wellens, but he also pulled Rodriguez, Samu Sanchez, Costa, Aru, Albasini, Dan Martin and Valverde with him. Sanchez went to the front and dragged the group into the final kilometer, were Dan Martin made a well-timed attack to solo the last 600 meters to the line.
Valverde (as usual) looked at the others to chase, but it was all over and Irishman Dan Martin had his second Classic win to add to his palmarés. Valverde was second and ex-World champion Rui Costa third.
The next group, including Alberto Contador and Frank Schleck, crashed on the final corner, it wouldn’t have affected the result much, but will make a difference to the WorldTour ranking.
Race winner Dan Martin said on TV at the finish: “I just love this race. It’s one of my favorites. After all of the bad luck this year, I crashed again, the team believed in me and believed that I would get the big victory and to win this is incredible. I planned to attack on the last climb, but I couldn’t get through there were too many people. It was such a hard climb and then I saw Gilbert and Valverde and they’re really fast so I thought I would try something. It’s pretty similar to when I won a stage in the Vuelta, there was about this much gap and I got through as Gilbert was closing it. It was so close to the line so I had to go as hard as I could and not crash on the last corner like Liege. Lombardia is always a beautiful race, for me it has always been about the lake, but Bergamo; what a fantastic place to finish a race.”
Keep it PEZ for much more from Il Lombardia over the next few days, with lot’s of reports and photos from the roadside, plus comments and video in EuroTrash Monday.
Giro di Lombardia Result:
1. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp in 6:25:33
2. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar at 0:01
3. Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida
4. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Belisol
5. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC
6. Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-GreenEDGE
7. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC
8. Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha
9. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana
10. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R-La Mondiale at 0:14
11. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
12. Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Belisol at 0:18
13. Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Katusha at 0:20
14. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr at 0:25
15. Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) Cannondale
16. Davide Villella (Ita) Cannondale
17. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin
18. Tiago Machado (Por) NetApp-Endura
19. Mauro Finetto (Ita) Yellow Fluo
20. Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Orica-GreenEDGE.