What's Cool In Road Cycling

Lombardia’17: The Shark Attacks Again In Como

Race Report: Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain & Italia) once again demonstrated that the ability to go down hills rapidly is every bit as important as the ability to climb them well when it comes to Lombardia – taking his second Monument in the manner of a Campionissimo.

Ripping clear with Thibaut Pinot (FDJ & France) on the decent of the Civiglio, he distanced the Frenchman on the drop, rode hard on the flat, built on his lead on the last climb to win in solitary splendour in lovely Como.

French flyer, Julian Alapaphilippe (QuickStep & France) likes Italy – taking a ‘Falling Leaves’ podium to go with his ‘Springtime’ one in Sanremo.

Third spot went to Gianni Moscon (Sky & Italia) – you’ll get no mention of his recent controversies from me, I don’t want him arriving at my door.

The break of the day formed early under blue skies, with the first two named attacking from the flag drop – Davide Ballerini (Androni Sidermec), Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (Dimension Data) plus Lorenzo Rota (Bardiani-CSF), Matthias Le Turnier (Cofidis), Pier Paolo De Negri (Nippo Vini Fantini) and Lennard Hofstede (Sunweb).

Their lead soared to 11:30 over the first Colle of the day, the Gallo at 55 K to the summit; the Brianza was next, another 60 K in to the 247 to Como.

Cannondale and Bahrain were the first to think; ‘well, I suppose… and took the chase up.

Astana and Movistar thought about it, but…

Eventually Movistar did ‘came through’ and with around 100 K to ride the gap was down to six minutes; the savagery that is the ‘wall of Sormano’ will come in around one hour of riding – it’ll become a different race then.

There was a flurry of action on the Ghisallo climb – which precedes the Sormano – and descent, the upshot of which is that as the race grinds over the ‘wall’ with its horrible 30% grades it’s AG2R man Mickael Cherel leading solo with QuickStep’s Laurens De Plus in pursuit, Cherel having dropped him on the climb.

Behind Cherel and De Plus – Worlds TT medallist, Roglic for LottoNL chase with the surviving ‘Bigs’ trying to get organised behind, led by Visconti for Bahrain.

As Peugeot ex-pro Billy Bilsland always says; ‘the race is the last hour’ and that’s where we are now – with 42 K to ride.

And De Plus loses it big on the descent, man and bike right over the crash barrier, airborne and into a ravine – that was a massive ‘off.’ Let’s hope he has a soft landing.

Cherel too has his moments but keeps the rubber where it belongs as he plunges towards the lakeside – he has a minute. Behind, let’s look for names – Visconti, Nibali, Uran, Gilbert, De Marchi, Moscon… Gilbert (QuickStep) and De Marchi (BMC) head off in pursuit of Cherel with 34 K to go as the sun glitters on the beautiful Lago Como.

Inside 20 miles, Cherel has 25 seconds on Gilbert and De Marchi; the Civiglio climb is next on the agenda as Bilbao (Astana) bridges over to the two pursuers. FDJ lead the peloton, 35 seconds back, Pinot must be feeling frisky.

Cherel, Gilbert, De Marchi and Bilbao all together now, versus the peloton with a lead of 25 seconds – enough? Unlikely.

FDJ still grind it out with maybe 30/35 left in the bunch they’re towing along through those narrow lakeside village streets. And De Plus is OK, albeit headed to hospital for a check – thank goodness for that.

With 20 K to go the Civiglio and the four desperados have half-a-minute on FDJ as surprisingly, Dan Martin pops – no second Lombardy for the Irishman then.

Cherel has gone, he was punching above his weight today – and it looks over too for his three erstwhile companions. C’est finis as FDJ show no mercy. Yates (Orica) isn’t enjoying the climb but Quintana is, right there but Nibali is on his case.

Moscon attacks for Sky, the leaders look at each other; Oomen, marks Moscon but Pinot, Nibali and Uran all react to shut it down. Mollema, Haig, Rosa all struggle.

Pinot now, en seule. He’s not really getting a gap as Nibali chases with Quintana, Nibali; but Pinot kicks again – impressive. Pozzovivo (AG2R) chases but Nibali comes past him on rails – and he’s with Pinot now.

Nibali kicks hard and Pinot has to dig deep – the Civiglio descent is a horror, narrow, sinuous, made for The Shark.

Pinot struggles to hold the Sicilian, who’s a demon on a road like this – the chasers are strung out behind as Nibali begins to stretch the elastic on the Frenchman, who won’t be enjoying this drop. Nibali’s descending skills are mightily impressive. Uran is solo behind the two.

Flat road now and Nibali has seven seconds on Pinot for Nibali with 10 K to go.

Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe showed his star quality with second step on the podium.

Into the last ascent over the San Fermo, Nibali leads, Pinot chases, Moscon gets over to Uran; they immediately collaborate as the gap goes to 10 seconds for Nibali over Pinot. Nibali is inching away from Pinot and the survivors of the peloton – Rosa has come back and is now chasing hard at the front of the group with LL Sanchez (Astana) in tow.

Rosa finds reverse again, Uran pops, the group is in tatters as Nibali piles on the coal. Pinot isn’t enjoying it as the surprising Quintana leads the group – and now Aru takes it up as the survivors fight for his wheel.

The tifosi are in ecstasy as Nibali rides through a tunnel of noise before the summit. Alaphilippe is up and past Pinot now but Aru hasn’t run up the white flag yet and hauls it back together.

Nibali looks every inch the winner, blasting past ‘danger’ red flags with contempt. Alaphilippe has managed to rip himself clear of the group and could well be on his way to the podium.

Red kite.

Nibali !

Give me some noise !’ he signals to the adoring fans.

The tifosi love it. Alapahilippe takes second, to with his Primavera podium. A sprint for third, Moscon.

Two Grand Tour podiums and a Monument – not a bad old season for Vincenzo.
But 2018 Alapahilippe is an exciting thought to carry through the winter with us…

• Keep it dialed to PEZ for a full Photo report tomorrow and Ale’s Roadside Chase coming Monday.

Results 2017 Giro di Lombardia
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida in 6:15:29
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors at 0:28
3. Gianni Moscon (Ita) Sky at 0:38
4. Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
5. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ
6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R-La Mondiale
7. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana
8. Mikel Nieve (Spa) Sky at 0:40
9. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 0:42
10. Sergei Chernetski (Rus) Astana at 0:47.

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