Lombardia: Pinot wins with late attack to claim maiden monument
Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) took an impressive victory in the final monument of the year, dropping fellow leader Vicenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) on the penultimate climb before soloing to the win. The Italian held on for second after being caught and then attacking the chasers in the final kilometers, with Dylan Teuns (BMC) taking third.
“It’s huge, it’s the most beautiful race,” Pinot said. “I was on a good day, maybe it was the best shape of my life. The key was to get rid of Valverde and Nibali. The key in fact was to attack.”
Moves went almost immediately in the 241km race, with Israel Academy, Bardiani CSF, and Androni Sidermec being particularly aggressive. Several groups went clear in the early hours of the race, and after 80km, a break of Davide Ballerini (Androni Sidermec), Umberto Orsini and Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani CSF), Florian Sénéchal (Quick-Step Floors), Franck Bonnamour (Fortuneo Samsic), Jonathan Restrepo (Katusha Alpecin), Michael Storer (Sunweb), and Marco Marcato (UAE Team Emirates) had gained 5 minutes over the peloton.
The breakaway held a gap of between 4 to 5 minutes as the pace in the peloton remained steady. However, with 70km remaining, the pace noticeably upped in the bunch, driven by Movistar and Bahrain-Merida on behalf of new world champion Alejandro Valverde and Nibali respectively. The lead to the breakaway was soon cut to 2:30 as they took on the race’s iconic climb Madonna del Ghisallo, and the gap continued to tumble.
With 50km to go, the race hit the infamous Colma di Sormano climb, which features prolonged pitches at 25-27%, and all the action came back together. Primož Roglič (LottoNL-Jumbo) launched an attack at the base of the climb, however, he only gained 8 seconds on the group, before Nibali and Pinot caught and dropped him.
Nibali led the Frenchman over the summit and down the descent, with Pinot marking the skilled descender through the technical bends. By the base of the climb, Roglič had bridged to the pair. Egan Bernal (Team Sky) displayed stunning descending skills and strength to chase from the group on the descent, making contact with the lead trio with 33 kilometers remaining.
Behind, Valverde attempted to bridge as he sensed the race getting away from him, with the leaders now 40 seconds in front. Rigoberto Urán (EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale) joined the Spaniard as he chased, solo.
The remnants of the bunch caught the chasing pair of Urán and Valverde with 30km remaining, with Daniel Martinez (EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale) taking a huge 10km turn to drive the pace for his team in a group of around 20 riders containing dangermen Teuns, Michael Woods (EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale), Uran, Valverde, Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), Daniel Martin (UAE Team Emirates), and Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe). However, the gap to the leaders remained steady at 40 seconds, with other teams failing to assist EF’s chase.
As the lead quartet took on the penultimate climb of the Civiglio, Roglič and Bernal ceded ground to Nibali and Pinot. The lead pair soon gained a significant gap on the same slopes as where Nibali had launched his winning attack in 2017. Behind, the chasers were at 35 seconds, with Martin, Woods, Majka, and Teuns looking strong.
As the Civiglio climb started to bite, Pinot repeatedly attacked Nibali, who eventually cracked, with the Frenchman soon taking a gap of several seconds. Behind, Martin’s furious pace took him away from his group as he chased down the leading pair.
On the technical descent off the Civiglio, Nibali’s trademark descending skills seemed somewhat absent, as Pinot stretched his lead to over 30 seconds, with new-formed chase trio Martin, Wellens and Majka 45 seconds behind the leader. However, these three were soon joined by the remnants of the chase group, with only 10km and the final short climb of Monte Olimpino remaining.
With 3km to go, Pinot continued to stretch his solo lead as Nibali faded, and the chasers re-gained contact with the Italian. However, the 2017 Lombardia winner regained the strength to immediately attack again, holding on for second place by 32 seconds, marking a strong comeback after crashing out of the Tour De France in July.
Behind, the chasers contested third place, with Dylan Teuns leading the sprint for the final podium spot.
“When I saw him [Nibali] attacking I said ‘bingo, this is the right move’,” said Pinot. “I’m glad he attacked at Sormano, that was the key to success.”
“The condition is what it is,” second-place Nibali said. “However it grew just in time for Lombardia, which is a very beautiful race for me. I care about it, but I couldn’t do more.”