In the final WorldTour race of the season, Vincenzo Nibali used team tactics, a well-timed attack and a fearlessness that bordered on madness while descending to take his first monument and end a controversial season on a high point. Dani Moreno came in second, 21 seconds back, and Thibaut Pinot made sure France was represented on the podium with third.
Astana team tactics were on song today. The parcours itself was doing its part in keeping the break small once they hit the Muro di Sormano with its 15% average gradient, topping out at 25% in sections. Two breaks were ahead of the main peloton, ultimately whittled down to former world champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick Step) and Lotto-Soudal’s Tim Wellens holding half a minute on the peloton on the descent of the climb.
The climb blew the peloton to bits, leaving Astana leading a very select group, including Katusha’s Moreno, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), in the chase. Mikel Landa and Diego Rosa rode hard on the front, catching the break duo and chasing down attacks, until their team leader took his chance on the descent of the penultimate climb. Once he got the gap, there was no catching him.
Rider of the race
You don’t win a monument by accident and Vincenzo Nibali took this race by the scruff of the neck – or, considering the risks he was taking on the descents, the seat of the pants – and won by quite simply not letting up.
Nibali has always been known for his descending skills, but he was taking some serious chances, nearly coming a cropper on a few corners, including nearly smashing himself into a drystone wall. Luckily, he was on the right side of mayhem and it won him the race. As Shane Sutton pointed out in cyclingtips, Nibali has now joined a very select group of Felice Gimondi, Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault as a champion of all three grand tours who has also won Lombardia.
Three things we noticed
1. Riding for teams – both present and future. There were two riders who epitomised that weird part of the season where transfers have been announced or rumoured, yet they are still racing with their current team. Mikel Landa, who is leaving Astana for Sky next year, rode wholeheartedly for his present team today, making sure his team leader was in the right place at the right time and that no one was going to touch him. His final gift to Astana perhaps.
Dani Moreno of Katusha, on the other hand – well, I wouldn’t mind playing poker with him if he was as transparent as he was today. He was in that select group at the end and he was so clearly working to keep Valverde in the mix – chasing down attacks, making sure Valverde was on his wheel. Rumour has it he’s in talks with – surprise, surprise – Movistar for next year so he was basically laying out his stall. That he actually broke away and took second was a surprise …
2. Chaves and Thibaut. I love that two of my favourite young riders – Esteban Chaves and Thibaut Pinot – rode hard and were in the main group for the majority of the finish. Only Chaves fell back on the final climb – he looked to have cramp – while Pinot kept his wits about him, even when he was clearly on the rivet, to take a well-deserved third.
3. Magic flags. As Nibali was nearing the finish line, one of those clingy plastic flags flew to him and clung to his jersey, which is essentially an Italian national jersey that actually has an upside down Hungarian flag on it. Okay, the plastic flag was backwards (the Italian flag is a vertical green, white, red) but at least it gave it a good try.
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 6:16:28
2. Daniel Moreno (Katusha) +0:21
3. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) +0:32
4. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:46
5. Diego Rosa (Astana) same time
6. Mikel Nieve (Sky) s/t
7. Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) +0:56
8. Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) s/t
9. Sergio Henao (Sky) s/t
10. Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-Quick Step) +1.10
Link: Official race website
Header photo: copyright AFP