Gilbert unstoppable in Lombardy
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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Gilbert unstoppable in Lombardy

by Bjorn Haake at 11:52 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Fall Classics, Race Reports and Results, Giro di Lombardia

Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto) beat Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) in a two-up sprint to win the final big race of the 2009 cycling season, the 242km Giro di Lombardia. Gilbert sprinted from the front and made the decision a little more exciting; he stopped pedaling, not realizing that Sánchez was not cleanly beaten yet. However, Gilbert was able to re-start his sprint and held off the Olympic champion with a quarter wheel.

Gilbert had a quite a big smile on his face. "It's incredible! This was a very hard finale. I was hoping for a sprint like that, as I knew I was stronger." Gilbert had an amazing run in the season ending races, taking four wins in a row. "I am really happy with how the last few days went," he commented on his winning streak that also includes the Coppa Sabatini, Paris-Tours, and the Giro del Piemonte.
There were lots of congratulations after the finish. Sánchez shook hands with Gilbert while rolling out. Gilbert's teammate Cadel Evans came home with the chase group and stopped to celebrate with the winner. Evans worked hard for Gilbert in the final race of the season.
Gilbert launched the decisive move in the ascent of the San Fermo, less than seven kilometers from the finish. Only Sánchez was able to come close to matching the pace of Gilbert, with the Belgian sitting up a bit near the top. This allowed Sánchez to claw his way back into the race, but Gilbert was more thinking to have a companion for the downhill part of the race. It paid off with the duo keeping the chasers at 12 seconds.
Gilbert was confident to win the small sprint and didn't mind leading the two into the last kilometer. He kept checking the gap to the chasers and to see how Sánchez was doing. Making his move with about 100m to go Gilbert held the Euskaltel rider off. The Basque rider never gave up, though, and almost surprised the ready-to-celebrate Belgian. 

Attacks after attacks in the finale

 The race started with a non-starter, Filippo Pozzato, who decided to skip the race due to the flu. This was unfortunate for the Italian, who was in great form.
The break of the day contained four men - Nicolas Roche (AG2R La Mondiale), Sergey Klimov (Katusha), Reinier Honig (Vacansoleil) and Marco Velo (Quick Step). They escaped after 26km and built a maximum lead of about eight minutes.
At the start of the Ghisallo, Velo dropped back back while Roche accelerated off the front, but the peloton was close by. It was Vacansoleil that launched Johnny Hoogerland, the revelation of the second half of the season. With 51km to go he passed Roche, who shook his head in disbelief.
Over the top of the Ghisallo, with 44km remaining, the bells of the chapel rang as is the tradition. They rang for Hoogerland, but also for the peloton, which came across 35 seconds later.
Lampre made the pace on the front of the compact peloton, but during the descent, Daniel Martin, Dries Devenyns (Quick Step), Matteo Carrara (Vacansoleil) and Mauro Santambrogio (Lampre-NGC) peeled off the front. The group swelled up to six, with Hoogerland getting caught on the front and Gustav Erik Larsson (Saxo Bank) moving up from behind.
With 30km to go the gap was 44 seconds between the six and the peloton. A few kilometers later both groups avoided a catastrophe by narrowly missing a public transit bus. Apparently the schedule was not updated correctly for the biggest race this late in the season. The incident helped the smaller group increase their margin to 48 seconds.
Going up the next to last climb of the race, the Civiglio, Langeveld took a turn so quick that he touched his pedal on the ground and crashed. The attacks started in the front group as well, which began shedding riders.
The decisive move from the group of favorites came with 20km to go. Evans was the first to jump hard on the right hand side of the road, with Cunego following and Gilbert able to sit on. As soon as the move was neutralized, Sánchez went, but he too failed to make a large gap.
On the descent the remnants of the break were caught, except for Larsson and Santambrogio. The two were joined by Alexander Vinokourov, which made Cunego quite nervous. Larsson had to drop back but was replaced by teammate Jakob Fuglsang.
With seven kilometers to go the gap was around half a minute. Evans led the chase behind, clearly working for Gilbert. The repeated attacks took their toll on Santambrogio, who was dropped. But he had done his work for Cunego and the group quickly absorbed the leaders before the top.
With six kilometers to go the San Fermo was the final difficulty of the day, which Gilbert took to put in a trademark attack. Only Sánchez was able to follow and he had a very hard time catching the Belgian. Only close to the top did the two merge together. They tackled the final descent a dozen seconds ahead of the chasers, with Cunego, Ivan Basso, Alexandr Kolobnev, Chris Horner, Alexander Vinokourov, Cadel Evans and Robert Gesink.
But Sánchez and Gilbert did a perfect dive down the other side of San Fermo, keeping their dozen seconds cushion all the way to the flamme rouge, and only then started to play out the final tactical move of the 2009 season.
Get Philip Deignan's perspective on the race in his blog entry on VeloNation.
1 Philippe GILBERT BEL Silence-Lotto in 5:43:46
2 Samuel SANCHEZ GONZALEZ ESP Euskaltel-Euskadi +0
3 Alexandr KOLOBNEV RUS Saxo Bank +4
4 Luca PAOLINI ITA Astana +4
5 Johnny HOOGERLAND NED Vacansoleil +4
6 Robert GESINK NED Rabobank +4
7 Alexandre VINOKOUROV KAZ Astana +4
8 Daniel MARTIN IRL Garmin-Slipstream +4
9 Juan Jose COBO ACEBO ESP Fuji-Servetto +4
10 Cadel EVANS AUS Silence-Lotto +4

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