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Lombardia ’08: The Kid Takes Three!

Race Report: Damiano “Kid” Cunego rode like a manly man to his third win of the year’s closing Classic on the shores of Lago di Como. After two previous wins from sprints, Cunego dropped his breakaway companions on the descent of the Civiglio and soloed the final 10km to a stylish victory over Astana’s Brajkovic and Uran of Caisse.

Number one said the number on Damiano Cunego’s (Italy & Lampre) back and number one was his position at the finish line, despite the fact that he held three fingers up to the crowd in Como to remind them that this was his hat trick in the Tour of Lombardy.

Janez Brajkovic (Slovenia & Astana) demonstrated some of that much mentioned, but seldom demonstrated potential to take second – and celebrated it with a victory salute (after almost taking Uran into the barriers).

Rigoberto Uran (Caisse D’Epargne) meanwhile, provided a very rare – perhaps unique – Colombian excursion to a “Monument” podium.

The break plows its lonely furrow early on – they had 8ish minutes as they descended into Menaggio.

As ex Peugeot professional Billy Bilsland of Scotland always says; “pro bike racing is about the last hour – but you have to get to that hour.” Lombardy reinforced that maxim with the ‘real’ race not starting until well inside the fateful 60 minutes.

The Silence boys were on the front EARLY on in today’s race.

A break of around 10 riders had defined the early part of the race, best known being former world time trial champion, Michael Rogers (Australia & Columbia), but also including such luminaries as Enrico Gasparotto, Luca Paolini, and Danilo Hondo. It was a strong, tough break.

There’s a lot of upward movement around Lago di Como.

The Business End
The legendary Ghisallo climb contributed little to the final outcome except to help in chipping the break down to four – Rogers, Pablo Lastras (Spain & Caisse D’Epargne), Mauro Santambrogio (Italy & Lampre) and Francesco Failli (Italy & Acqua Sapone) with the last two, mere pawns in a bigger chess game for their respective ‘kings’ Cunego and fellow Italian Stefano Garzelli.

‘Talk of the devil,’ and there was Garzelli, along with a strong looking Michele Scarponi (Italy & Diquigiovanni) and Chris Anker Sorensen (Denmark & CSC).

The break heads up the early slopes of the Madonna Del Ghisallo…the steepest part that is.

Seven at the front, with around 30 K to go, it could have worked – but not with Lampre riding the team time trial from Hell at the head of a compact, if much diminished peloton; and a rainbow jersey was no reason to avoid your spell, as Alessandro Ballan was forced to demonstrate.

Gilberto Simoni getting ready to attack on the Ghisallo and shake things up a bit…

The Lampre boys clipped roundabouts, punched out of the saddle and made it clear that there was only one little man that you had to watch in order to win this race.

Ballan rode very well today, and did some great work for the Kid.

With around 23 K to go, the look of disgust on Garzelli’s face meant that no stop watch was necessary – the break was over. The Lampre tipped arrow head of the bunch slashed past the seven without a sideways glance.

The field stayed pretty nicely together this year – none of that whole bomb dropping thing and everybody gets shelled. Still, there were many, many casualties today.

Inside 20 K and the peloton looked more like the one that fights for the foot of the Poggio, gutter to gutter, compact and fast – if smaller, given that this is October and not March. Lampre weren’t playing it close to the chest; “it’s our race!” they were hollering, as Cunego, small, stocky and looking like a winner, followed Ballan, loose limbed and tall.

The Civiglio climb saw Karsten Kroon (Netherlands & CSC) launch himself off the front, but his legs couldn’t agree with his head, as behind, Cunego had the look of a sheep dog who just never looses one of his charges.

It was Chris Horner (USA & Astana) who made the move on the Civiglio which ultimately won the 102nd Tour of Lombardy; he wasn’t using a stiletto, more of a caveman’s club as he rocked and rolled up the hill on a huge gear.

But he was inflicting the pain – it even hurt to watch – as he inched away from the rest, it’s a good job that those Treks have mega bottom bracket shells.

Cunego sniffed the breeze and was gone, up to join the American, and those who could follow, did so – Failli, and then Daniel Moreno (Spain & Caisse D’Epargne).

The descent was more suited to the few than the many – tight and narrow, through a canyon of ancient stone houses.

Wow. Watching Sammy Sanchez descend…it’s a privilege.

A flash of orange at the front of the strained peloton could only mean one thing – Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez (Spain & Euskaltel). The man from Oviedo is one of the best at confirming Sir Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity and he made bridging look easy as he weaved through the break; but there was one man short.

Cunego had gone, he was intent on winning in the grand style; he’s a small man but his calves are big, brown and cut – punching at those Campag cranks on the San Firmio climb. Behind, Horner tried to bridge again – the break having been caught – as he thumped away at a ‘biggie,’ it looked crude compared to Cunego’s spinning and dancing.

It was the Colombian Uran, who finally got the daylight (and boy did he – he looked like he was going double the speed of everyone else for about 30 seconds), with Brajkovic looking smooth and elegant as he got across to the South American.

Cunego looked as if he was trying to collect samples of the local flora as he swished through overhanging bushes on the descent. The road flattened and he moved forward on the saddle, hammering a big gear and looking like a lead out man in the finale of a sprinter’s stage.

The last kilometre, and Cunego glanced back, onto the tops, out of the saddle, punched at the gear and it was time to raise those three fingers.

Janez Brajkovic was a happy emaciated little bike racer after nearly taking Uran into the barriers…and getting a hard-earned 2nd.

Brajkovic celebrated second, Uran took third, with the survivors of the peloton just behind and Giovanni Visconti (Italy & QuickStep) improving from last year’s ninth to fourth this year.

Fourth went to last year’s Italian Champ, Giovanni Visconti.

A good Lombardy, but not a great one, unless your name is Cunego – and a final word for Samuel Sanchez on the gold arm warmers; “no Sammy, no!”

1 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre 5.37.04 (43.078 km/h)
2 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana 0.24
3 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Caisse d’Epargne
4 Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Quick Step 0.33
5 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team CSC – Saxo Bank
6 Mauro Finetto (Ita) CSF Group Navigare
7 Chris Horner (USA) Astana
8 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone – Caffe Mokambo
9 Morris Possoni (Ita) Team Columbia
10 Francesco Failli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone – Caffe Mokambo
11 Craig Lewis (USA) Team Columbia
12 Christian Pfannberger (Aut) Barloworld
13 Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Team CSC – Saxo Bank
14 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre
15 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Quick Step
16 Federico Canuti (Ita) CSF Group Navigare
17 Andrea Noи (Ita) Liquigas
18 Matthew Lloyd (Aus) Silence – Lotto
19 Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Tinkoff Credit Systems
20 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
21 Pieter Weening (Ned) Rabobank

For a preview of some of the fun to come next week, check out: JeredGruber.com

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