Giro di Lombardia: Favorite Philippe Gilbert repeats victory in the race of the falling leaves
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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Giro di Lombardia: Favorite Philippe Gilbert repeats victory in the race of the falling leaves

by Bjorn Haake at 11:50 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results, Giro di Lombardia
Gilbert and Scarponi side by side on final climb before Gilbert takes off

philippe gilbertPhilippe Gilbert had no problem with the burden of the pre-race favorite, taking his second Giro di Lombardia in impressive style on a rainy day in northern Italy. Gilbert and Michele Scarponi were literally rubbing shoulders on the final climb, before Gilbert put in the decisive attack close to the top. Scarponi ended the day in second, 12 seconds behind. Italian favorite Vincenzo Nibali was unlucky to crash in the descent of the Sormano, eventually finishing fifth. Pablo Lastras was third, almost a minute behind.

As soon as Gilbert and Scarponi entered the final climb to San Fermo della Battaglia, they went side by side. Like Poulidor and Anquetil, they went up, oblivious to the pouring rain. Occasionally rubbing elbows or shoulders, they went towards the top together. Until Gilbert put in a strong attack, putting Scarponi on the defensive and in the wrong gear.

Gilbert looked strong and Scarponi's goal to win the race was going to be a long shot  under any circumstances. But Gilbert did not want to wait too long and risk a gamble along the finishing straight. "In  a sprint, you never know what is going to happen," he said after the race, according to Sporza. "So I went 500 meters from the final top [of the race]. It was really painful, but at the same time it was really good."

Gilbert's acceleration caught Scarponi by surprise, forcing him to hectically shift gears. This didn't quite work out and while he was fiddling with his shifter, he also had to handle a metal obstacle left by a construction. Gilbert immediately had a gap and Scarponi never could make up lost ground.

Gilbert made no mistake, followed the right wheels, attacked when it mattered and mastered the descent of the Colma di Sormano, which he had dreaded, perfectly. "I am proud of my race. It was very difficult, with a lot of rain and it was very cold." Low temperatures were around five degrees Celsius (around 41F). "It was a very tough competition."

Gilbert was right to have respect for the wet descent of the Sormano, as Nibali found out. In one of the 150 degrees left hand switchbacks, his front wheel slipped and Nibali fell off his bike. He was quickly back up, but the others could not wait, with other groups coming down the hill. This effectively ended Nibali's chances for his first major classics win.

Gilbert on the other hand set his decisive attack at the bottom of the descent, initially making a solo move with less than 30km to go.  "I had a lot of confidence, a nice form and a very strong team - three points to my advantage," Gilbert said. "But I saw a good Scarponi, who on the uphill is usually better."

With 16.5 km remaining, Scarponi had closed the gap again to Gilbert. "I let him get back intentionally, because after ten kilometers my radio stopped working," Gilbert insisted. This gave him a companion against the eight-man strong Nibali group and the info about the time gaps.

In the end, only one number mattered, though. With 1.5km remaining pointed to the race number on his frame. Number one, the placing he was about to achieve again.

Rainy fall day with aggressive racing

Tony Gallopin, Gianluca Mirenda, Diego Caccia, Mauro Da Dalto, Kjell Carlström and Michael Albasini were the quickest off the start in Milano and build a lead of over three minutes, after 25 kilometers raced. The first hour was ridden at an average speed of more than 47 km/h, but once the break was firmly established, things calmed down.

The maximum lead was 8'46, after 40 kilometers raced. This was also the point where UCI world ranking winner Joaquim Rodríguez put an end to his season. After the climb up to San Fedele d'Intelvi, the gap was down to 7'16. That gap stayed fairly stable until km 120, when it started dropping. After 144km it was down to under six minutes.

The average had also gone down under 40km/h, with the gap atop the Colle di Balisio climb at 4'35. The rain started coming down hard, with multiple riders crashing in the descent. Mirenda and Gallopin went down in the front group, losing contact. In the peloton, it was Pozzovivo, Martin, Valentin, Fofonov, Gusev, Van Summeren and Sorensen who hit the ground.

Da Dalto lost contact with the front group at the beginning of the Ghisallo, with 67km remaining. Carlström was the next to go, leaving only Albasini and Caccia at the front. Gusev attacked out of the peloton on the lower parts of the climb.

Albasini went over the top of the Ghisallo alone, after dropping Caccia one kilometer from the KOM. Caccia crested the top a minute later, being reeled in by Gusev, Madrazo and Visconti just before the KOM.

Albasini lasted over the descent, but with 50km to go he was brought back and dropped by Gusev, Visconti and Madrazo. The latter lost touch on the lower slopes of the Colma di Sormano, the newly added climb. Bauke Mollema attacked early on the climb and just as he joined the front group with 45km to go, Visconti had to let go. Gusev, who had been looking strong, also couldn't follow Mollema.

The Dutchman continued by himself, having enough time to put on a wind breaker at full speed. He crested the top around half a minute ahead of the chase group, including Nibali and Gilbert.

In the twisting descent with its very narrow roads, Mollema was caught by Gilbert, Nibali and Lastras, 33km from the line. Mollema was dropped quickly, with Scarponi replacing him on the front. 30km from the line Nibali went down, his front wheel slipping as he headed into a very tight left-hand switchback.

A couple of kilometers later, Gilbert had shed his last two companions, Lastras and Scarponi, going for a solo victory. Scarponi followed five seconds behind, but Lastras fell back into a larger group around Nibali. Rigoberto Uran, Carlos Barredo, Mollema, Samuel Sánchez, Mikel Nieve and Jakob Fuglsang were also in this eight-man group. With 19km to go, they were 52 seconds behind.

With 16.5km to go, Scarponi had caught up again with Gilbert. The duo had a minute on the chasers with 12km to go. The chase group had no chance of coming back, leaving Gilbert and Scarponi to fight it out on the San Fermo della Battaglia.


1 Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto)
2 Michele Scarponi (Androni Giocattoli)
3 Pablo Lastras (Caisse d'Epargne)
4 Jakob Fuglsang (Saxo Bank)
5 Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas)
6 Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)


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