Continental Race Report: Il Lombardia
Once the World Championships finish, it is very easy to assume that the season is over – but you would be forgetting one thing: the Autumn Classics. This Sunday, the pinnacle of the Autumn Classics took place: Il Lombardia (The Tour of Lombardy). The race takes place in scenic Northern Italy, and is different from other classics in that the route changes every year. This year, it was a 245km course which featured many short sharp climbs; a prominent feature in Italian races. One of the climbs was particularly brutal, with an average gradient of 15.8% and a maximum of 27% over 2km, it makes Ditchling Beacon (9% average) look like a speed bump.
Lombardy usually suits punchy climbers, and that was no different this year. Favourites included last year’s winner, Dan Martin, as well as Alejandro Valverde, Michal Kwiatkowski and Vincenzo Nibali. It should also be noted that this was Martin’s last race for Team Cannondale Garmin, before he moves to Etixx Quickstep next season
The race got underway in atrocious weather conditions, with the rain tipping it down and the wind blowing fiercely. A break of eleven got away at the start of the day, including Jerome Coppel – bronze medallist in the World Championships time trial. Nonetheless, the Astana lead peloton was not worried, and sure enough when they reached the first big climb – the Madonna Del Ghisallo – they were caught. On the climb, Michal Kwiatkowski and Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) got away, and stretched out a lead of over half a minute. The bunch behind split up, with only the favourites and a few teammates left to chase the pair. Dan Martin however, was not there.
The pair was eventually caught at the bottom of the Civiglio. Then came the turn of Vincenzo Nibali, who let out a flurry of attacks. He managed to distance the chase group on the technical descent and began the final climb with over 40 seconds advantage. Dani Moreno (Katusha) attacked from the chasers, with only Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) able to follow. Together, the pair tried to bring Nibali back, but they could not manage it, and Nibali got a well deserved win in front of a joyous home crowd. Behind him, Moreno took second and Pinot rounded out the podium in third. Valverde won the sprint for fourth. The exciting end to the race seemed fitting, given that it also marked the end of the big races for the 2015 season. The next big race is in January: The Tour Down Under. In the Meantime, we will have to say goodbye to the peloton for the winter.