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Il Lombardia: Nibali solos to victory in Como

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) captured his second Il Lombardia title in three years on Saturday after attacking on the penultimate climb of the race with Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and then dropping the Frenchman on the descent and soloing the rest of the way to victory. The victory was the 50th of the Italian’s career.

“I was in a better condition today than I was two years ago; I knew the downhill better,” Nibali said. “I had more confidence too. A win in a Monument has a higher value than a stage in a Grand Tour, as I got this year at the Giro with the Stelvio and at Andorra in the Vuelta. The most difficult thing for me was to maintain my condition after the Vuelta – Il Lombardia kept me focused.

“The first one was harder to win because there was the fear that I hadn’t won a Monument yet. Today everyone was controlling me, [Nairo] Quintana and [Rigoberto] Uran in particular, so I had to redistribute the cards. When Pinot attacked, I let him go and I went after him 1km before the summit. Then I thought of nothing. I just went straight on and flat out. When I turned pro, [sport director Stefano] Zanatta told me I had downhill skills that I could use either for attacking or defending. It’s still the case now. I’m 32, not 33 yet, but I feel young and strong.”

Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) was able to catch Pinot on the final climb of the day and drop him to claim second. Gianni Moscon (Team Sky) won the sprint out of a small chasing group to capture the final step on the podium.

The fireworks from the favorites came on the penultimate climb of the race, the Civiglio, with Pinot repeatedly attacking. Nibali bridged to one of Pinot’s attacks and then used his superior descending skills to ride away.

The Italian began the final climb with a mere 10-second lead, but it was soon apparent that Pinot did not have the legs to bring Nibali back.

Nibali had stretched his lead out far enough on the final climb and descent to the finish that he was able to enjoy the final kilometer and soak in the applause from his home crowd. Alaphilippe came home alone in second, though nearly 30 seconds behind, while Moscon sprinted to the final spot on the podium.

“A Monument is so special, so to make the podium today is amazing,” Moscon, who finished fifth at Paris-Roubaix, said. “Even if I didn’t win a race this year, a podium here in Como is fantastic and worth a victory – it’s the best way to close my season.

“Nibali was the strongest on the last climb. I tried to attack Civiglio but everybody was tired after 200km or more of racing pretty hard. After the Sormano wall, your legs feel stiff. Even if I went with Nibali I’d have been dropped in the next climb like Pinot was. I’m happy with third place. After this, I can take more responsibilities in the team. My condition is on the up after the Vuelta. This increases my ambitions for next season – I want to be at the top of my condition for the Spring Classics.”

Top 10

  • 1. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), in 06:15:29.
  • 2. Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors), at 00:28.
  • 3. Gianni Moscon (Team Sky), at 00:38.
  • 4. Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r-La Mondiale), at 00:38.
  • 5. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) at 00:38.
  • 6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale), at 00:38.
  • 7. Fabio Aru (Astana Pro Team), at 00:38.
  • 8. Mikel Nieve (Team Sky), at 00:40.
  • 9. Nairo Quintana (Movistar), at 00:42.
  • 10. Sergei Chernetski (Astana Pro Team), at 00:47.

The final monument of the season and the only one that takes place in the fall, Il Lombardia, started under mild conditions in Bergamo. The 247km route from Bergamo to Como was identical to the 2015 route, which saw Nibali emerge victorious. The true finale of the race would kick off with 65km remaining as the riders tackled the famous Madonna del Ghisallo.

There was a huge fight to get in the breakaway at the start of the race and when the dust settled, six riders were in the lead. Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (Dimension Data), Lorenzo Rota (Bardiani-CSF), Matthias Le Turnier (Cofidis), Pier Paolo de Negri (Nippo Vini Fantini), Davide Ballerini (Androni-Sidermec-Bottechia) and Lennard Hofstede (Sunweb) built a maximum advantage of over 12 minutes.

As the final started in earnest, the fatigue of being in the break all day began to show on the riders. On the Madonna del Ghisallo many riders attacked and over the top of the climb, Laurens De Plus (Quick Step Floors), Mikael Cherel (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Le Turnier held a slim advantage over a chase group containing eight riders. Bahrain-Merida led the peloton.

With 50km remaining, the riders hit the brutally steep Muro di Sormano and Cherel powered on alone. The extremely narrow road allowed the favorites to minimize the attacks from the peloton. Nibali, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Pinot were all attentive at the front. Fabio Aru (Astana) was also there.

As the riders descended toward the next climb of the day, Cherel continued to push on alone. De Plus was chasing alone, but then he got one of the tight hairpin corners wrong. The Belgian flipped over the guardrail and fell down a significant drop. Medical personnel was on the scene quickly and an update from Quick Step Floors said De Plus had no serious injuries, but still went to the hospital.

The peloton came off the descent and began the 17km rolling section to the next climb and Philippe Gilbert (Quick Step Floors) and Alessandro di Marchi (BMC Racing) attacked. Pello Bilbao (Astana) soon bridged to create a trio of chasers. The chasers caught Cherel with 26km remaining with the peloton, led by FDJ, just under 30 seconds behind.

FDJ powered into the penultimate climb of the day and was able to eliminate the breakaway on the steep lower slopes of the climb. The Civiglio climb (4.2km, 9.7%) saw many riders fall off the back of the peloton, among them was former winner Dan Martin (Quick Step Floors).

Moscon attacked and was soon joined by Sam Oomen (Sunweb). Pinot decided to attempt to bridge to the move and that sent most of the other favorites on the move. However, Aru was not able to follow the acceleration.

Pinot repeatedly attacked his way up the climb trying to get away. Toward the top of the climb, Nibali bridged to one of Pinot’s attacks, creating a fearsome duo.

The leading duo flew under the 15km banner heading to the final climb with Nibali trying to drop Pinot who was the better-known sprinter of the two. The Italian successfully dropped the Frenchman on the descent, as Uran had a slight gap over the other chasers.

Nibali began the final climb with a 10-second advantage over Pinot with a large chase group over 40 seconds behind as Uran had been brought back into the fold on the flat.

The Bahrain-Merida rider extended his advantage on the climb and then descended to victory in Como. The victory is his second in the race in the span of three years.

“The team supported me greatly, giving me great conditions in which to conclude this season,” Nibali said. “Finally, I bagged a great victory, I couldn’t ask for more. It wasn’t easy to reproduce what I did two years ago. It was even more difficult this time around because everyone identified me as the favorite. To win a monument is always a huge achievement. I wanted this race to cap off a season with a lot of good results, I’m delighted I managed to do it.”

Alaphilippe bridged to Pinot on the climb and then dropped the FDJ rider on the descent to claim second on the day just under 30 seconds behind. Moscon sprinted out of a small group to capture the final place on the podium.

“It’s incredible,” Alaphilippe said of his runner-up finish. “I didn’t expect to finish on the podium today. I had a strange feeling after the World Championships, but I kept focused and my team did a really good job. I did my best but I couldn’t follow Nibali when he attacked.

“I’m not disappointed, it’s already something special to finish on the podium of a Monument. My thoughts also go to my team-mate who crashed during the race while he was at the front. I heard he’s OK, I strongly hope so. I want to thank my team for their work in my favor today, and I will return to the Italian monuments with the aim of doing even better than third in Milan-Sanremo and second at Il Lombardia.”

Pinot, who crossed the line fifth, said, “I’m disappointed but don’t have any regrets. It’s a pity I was riding well, I had a super team behind me, but I’m going to come back next season with more motivation and a more adapted programme.”

Top 20

  • 1. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), in 06:15:29.
  • 2. Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors), at 00:28.
  • 3. Gianni Moscon (Team Sky), at 00:38.
  • 4. Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r-La Mondiale), at 00:38.
  • 5. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) at 00:38.
  • 6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale), at 00:38.
  • 7. Fabio Aru (Astana Pro Team), at 00:38.
  • 8. Mikel Nieve (Team Sky), at 00:40.
  • 9. Nairo Quintana (Movistar), at 00:42.
  • 10. Sergei Chernetski (Astana Pro Team), at 00:47.
  • 11. Sam Oomen (Team Sunweb), at 00:47.
  • 12. Nicolas Roche (BMC Racing), at 00:47.
  • 13. Egan Bernal (Androni-Sidermec-Bottecchia), at 00:47.
  • 14. Ben Hermans (BMC Racing), at 00:47.
  • 15. Davide Villella (Cannondale-Drapac), at 01:12.
  • 16. Mathias Frank (Ag2r-La Mondiale), at 01:12.
  • 17. Diego Rosa ( Team Sky), at 01:12.
  • 18. Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunwen), at 01:12.
  • 19. Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), at 01:26.
  • 20. Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), at 01:26.

Full results to come

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