The Moment Il Lombardia Was Won

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Across northern Italy it’s been vendemmia time, the grape harvest. This time Vincenzo Nibali picked, pressed and bottled Thibaut Pinot to win the tour of Lombardy, reeling in the Frenchman on the climb to Civiglio and dropping him on the descent to ride solo into Como. It was Nibali’s second win in the race and if many expected the result it was thrilling to watch.

It took a good 4okm before a move went clear and from this Mathias Le Turnier of Cofidis was the last survivor as he was swept up just outside the Madonna del Ghisallo chapel. The early break being reeled in with 65km to mattered because it meant the road was open to fresh attacks and Le Turnier was caught by Mickaël Chérel and Laurens De Plus with the likes of Primož Roglič and Jesus Herrada chasing behind. The racing moved up a gear even if the big names were wisely sat tight.

The Muro di Sormano was once a fearful addition to the race but it’s a better spectacle to ride up or even to read about than to watch a race on because the steep slopes render attacks impossible, the sheer force needed to accelerate by 2-3km/h is too costly. So it looks like the group are huddled. This race had rider data but the graphics don’t help tell the story of the effort so well, displaying the absolute numbers with little context.

Sadly Laurens De Plus’s crash was all too graphic. Chérel had led over the top of the Colma di Sormano with De Plus in pursuit and one bend Chérel wobbled while seconds later De Plus locked up the back wheel, slid and flipped over the barriers and plunged down the terraced hillside and for a moment viewers could only imagine how far below the ground was for him to land, shades of Jan Raas descending the Cipressa in 1984 when he was found in an olive tree. De Plus will be ok but Jan Bakelants of Ag2r La Mondiale would crash and if it wasn’t on TV he too was taken to hospital as were others like Simone Petilli and Daniel Martinez.

Once the peloton made it safely down to the lake shore Philippe Gilbert attacked with 35km to go. A race winning move? With hindsight no but remember his long raid in the Tour of Flanders? Nobody could give him room and he was marked by BMC’s De Marchi as FDJ led the chase into Como and the start of the decisive climb to Civiglio. Early on the likes of Dan Martin were dropped and Adam Yates was at the back of the group. Yates has been known to dangle on the back but this time he was being ejected by the pace set by FDJ’s David Gaudu and Rudy Molard. Gianni Moscon attacked and was joined by Sam Oomen with Thibaut Pinot bridging across, the old man. Was Pinot chasing down Moscon a vendetta? We don’t know but it made sense too, the Frenchman is not an explosive climber known for searing accelerations, he tends to pace himself and making this short climb as long as possible suited him. Whatever the reason or the tactics it set off alarm bells and this was when the race was being decided. Vincenzo Nibali gave chase with Rigoberto Urán, Egan Bernal, Davide Villella and Nairo Quintana joining in. Pinot attacked again and was reeled in by Nibali only “never two without three” say the French and Pinot took off for the third time and got a good gap. Domenico Pozzovivo tried to chase and it all felt like May again as the same cast of riders chased each other around Italy, only Ilnur Zakarin and Tom Dumoulin were missing. With Pinot 15 seconds up the road Nibali went in person and blasted past Pozzovivo in that low characteristic tuck, hands on the brake hoods and arms bent at right angles like a waiter ferrying an invisible tray. Only Pinot was the dish and Nibali attacked him over the top of the climb to lead down the descent.

Pinot a bad descender? It’s one of those tropes that exists because millions saw him in the 2013 Tour de France and it stuck despite railing descents in the Vuelta weeks later or finishing third on the podium in the 2014 Tour and so on. Still he lost seconds to Nibali between Civiglio and Como, not bad descending but still not able to follow a virtuoso like Nibali. Once Nibali got a gap he wasn’t coming back, in the moment you wondered if the pair would be better suited by cooperating on the flat roads to Como but Nibali must have believed he was the strongest and there were no strong teams waiting to bring him back. He was away once again just like in 2015. Rigoberto Urán gave chase briefly but faded.

Auvergne volcano Julian Alaphilippe took an impressive second place. He’s got the sprint in his legs to have sat back and waited but not the head, instead he went clear late on the final climb to San Fermo where he caught and dropped Pinot to collect second place. This is pure Alaphilippe who told L’Equipe on Saturday that he doesn’t bother racing with a powermeter… just as he doesn’t bother training with one either. Should he be more calculating in races? Perhaps but he’s still 25 and it’s a matter of time until he picks off his first major classics win.

Ditto Gianni Moscon who was active on the climbs and won the sprint for third place ahead of an unhappy Alexis Vuillermoz but there was nothing outrageous. Moscon’s been controversial several times this season and for good reason but this now means he’s in a similar spot to Nacer Bouhanni and riders prior like Djamolidine Abdoujaparov or Graeme Brown who only had to deviate marginally in a sprint to attract criticism from their peers, the media and fans. So Moscon’s tangle with Alexis Vuillermoz in the finishing sprint meant more controversy.

The Verdict
The pre-race favourite wins in the same manner as he did the last time yet this was an exciting race with suspense and action in the finish and all with the backdrop of achingly beautiful scenery. Lombardia never throws up a surprise winner – Oliver Zaugg in 2011 as the exception to prove the rule – because of the select parcours and distance so there’s rarely any doubting the manner of the victory but this was a decisive and indisputable win for Nibali, a capolavoro claimed the Italian media, a masterpiece. His team were strong when it counted, he was the fastest up the climb to Civiglio as well as down it and he had the energy to keep going on the flat too. Pinot didn’t make the podium – fifth place – but made the race with his attacks and he ennobles Nibali’s win. It was one thing for Nibali to ride away but catching Pinot on the climb and then dropping him added to the visual spectacle.

As the season draws to close talk already turns to 2018 and RAI television were asking Nibali about his plans for 2018 and both Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the World Championships are of interest, presumably with a grand tour or even two along the way but this wasn’t mentioned. He’ll turn 33 soon and maybe his thoughts are turning to the missing lines on his palmarès? It’s not far-fetched, he crossed the finish line gesturing 5-0 with his fingers to celebrate his 50th career win. With many editions of the World Championships offering softer courses it’ll be interesting to see just how many climbers and stage race specialists focus on Innsbruck next year as an elusive chance to wear the rainbow jersey.

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Larry T October 8, 2017 at 12:19 am

“…not bad descending but still not able to follow a virtuoso like Nibali.” Thanks for writing this – all the Nibali haters (#1 being Gerard Vroomen?) can go on about The Shark being an “overrated descender” all they want but it’s tough to argue that wasn’t the difference between winning and losing today. Then they’ll go on about him holding onto a car and riding for a team with a reprehensible sponsor while ignoring the fact that this year’s winner of LeTour and La Vuelta is pretty much guilty of the same. Lombardia 2017 was a nice way to end the season and talk of Nibali at L-B-L 2018 only intensifies my interest in seeing the last (for me) of the five monuments live, in-person.

Neuron1 October 8, 2017 at 3:35 am

Larry, Ain’t that the truth. Every time Nibali wins the Haters come out with the car holding episode, while forgetting the many others who have done the same, including Mr. Froome (in the past) and Steve Cummings in this years TDF. They also seem to forget the illegal feed, riding behind the team car for prolonged periods, getting your wounds sprayed by the medical car while hanging on for a few minutes, illegal wheel changes, race mechanics fixing your chain on the fly (Uran), etc. They also seem to have memory lapse about the glucocorticoids actually used and those offered by the team in the later stages of the Giro and TDF for both Wiggins and Froome. Nibali’s win today was a master class in tactical nous and descending savy, you could just see the elastic stretching until it broke, along with Pinot’s will. When they crested the climb in proximity, all I could do was feel sorry for Thibaut. He is a very good descender, despite the reputation, but he just isn’t crazy/focused/intense enough to keep up with a breaching squalo. I certainly would have loved to see him on the podium along with Nibali, they seem to get on well, based on the interviews earlier this week.

AnotherDavid October 8, 2017 at 4:18 am

So, all cyclists cheat? Including doping?

Morten Reippuert October 8, 2017 at 7:06 am

Nibali was pure class. Fastest man up Civiglio, fastest man up San Fermo and by a huge margin fastest man down Civiglio and where he really zapped both Pionot and Uran’s legs.

The speed he is able to carry in and out of any corner on such a narrow decent forced them to sprint out of every corner just to keep up and once both hit San Fermo climb they where toast.

You’d have to be Sagan or Cancellara to copy that trick, and even then Sagan and Cancellara tends to use much more power to sprint out the corners than NIbali does (Both Sagan and Cancellara lost a few San Remo’s trying to create the gap down Poggio).

If Nibali is serious about a monument hunt next season to complete his palmeras watch out for a Sagan Nibali duel up and down Poggio.

_kw October 8, 2017 at 8:49 am

I had the impression that Nibali had worn down Pinot to an extent that Pinot was not concentrating on every detail while Nibali’s attention to detail was impressive. Not only did Pinot lose seconds here and there by misjudging turns (including that uphill turn with the construction tape at the exit he took way slower). His position on the bike was also constantly higher and more on the hoods while Nibali was low and did not even bother to raise his torso to take a drink from his bottle. That way Nibali was collecting second after second while a tiring Pinot was fading. I’m not a huge Nibali fan but his finale was impeccable IMHO.

E_Pi October 9, 2017 at 3:50 pm

Yes I can never understand why Nibali gets so many boos but Froome gets nothing but love.

David October 8, 2017 at 9:38 am

Can’t say I agree. It didn’t seem to me that it was Nibali’s descending, per se, that made the difference. In fact, in the early stages he had a few sketchy corners, probably pushing too hard out of frustration that he hadn’t managed to shake Pinot.

It looked like Nibali was just the stronger of the pair at that point, and would have gapped Pinot whether they’d been going downhill or up. Pinot looked to be going round the turns just as well, but wasn’t able to accelerate in the straight sections and lost ground there.

And that’s kind of borne out by the fact that the gap was a mere 5 or 6 seconds by the bottom of the descent, but yawned out a lot more quickly once Nibali was able to simply power away on the flat and the subsequent climb.

gabriele October 8, 2017 at 12:12 pm

Sorry, this looks plain wrong. As a couple of ex pro (one of them had been living in the area) commented on Italian TV, Nibali was quite clearly “holding back” in the first part of the descent, which, despite the impression produced by narrow streets, is actually less technical. Better said, he was more worried to grow the gap with the chasing group than about dropping Pinot. In descents, too, just like on climbs or on the flat, the kind of behaviour needed to maximise your gap towards the chasers (that is, to go as fast as possible) isn’t exactly the same as the one you’d need to drop a rival from your wheel. That’s what Nibali started doing in the way more selective second part of the descent. Moreover, the speed at which you come out from a corner is paramount for the subsequent acceleration. The argument about the time gap isn’t that convincing, either, albeit I agree that Nibali was by far the strongest out there might have easily dropped Pinot on the climb if he hadn’t before. It’s quite obvious that once you’ve got a gap, that is, your rival isn’t on your wheel, you’ll make more of a difference on the flat than on the same descending distance (some 3 kms) – and, guess, what? – you’ll grow an even bigger gap on 3 uphill kms given similar skills and a proportional difference in strength. This year only, we’ve got a good number of examples of Nibali winning races *also* thanks to descending skills…

David October 9, 2017 at 7:42 am

“the speed at which you come out from a corner is paramount for the subsequent acceleration.”

I think ‘paramount’ is stretching it. Speed out of the corner is certainly important, but so is the power you can apply to the acceleration. To me, Pinot’s speed out of the corner looked to be pretty much matching Nibali, but he was much more laboured in the subsequent acceleration.

“The argument about the time gap isn’t that convincing, either … It’s quite obvious that once you’ve got a gap … you’ll make more of a difference on the flat than on the same descending”

The point about the time gap was simply that it demonstrated that Nibali was indeed stronger, rather than just descending better. You’d only expect to make more difference on the flat if you were stronger than your opponent – if you were evenly matched you’d expect it to remain static. And being stronger could itself account for the small gap made on the descent.

gabriele October 9, 2017 at 2:10 pm

Stronger riders don’t *drop* a slightly weaker rider just “accelerating”, unless they’re climbing. On the flat, and even more so on a descent, the slipstream usually prevents you from just sailing away by accelerating, especially if your rival is generally more explosive than you (as Pinot is against Nibali). The difference in power is normally more than made for by the advantage granted by the slipstream. Hence the difference which allowed Nibali to drop Pinot could depend only on his descending skills.
But let’s check the video.
Around km -15 you can see that Pinot matches Nibali’s acceleration after a sketchy (or forced) corner. But it’s on a right-hand turn at km -14.3/14.2 that the difference in tracing the line becomes very apparent thanks to a heli take (Urán will use the same zone to drop the rest).
There’s pretty much no subsequent acceleration because a hairpin is coming soon: on the left-hand hairpin, Nibali, once more draws a better line, using the road all the way to the margin while Pinot has closed to much the angle (check the guardrail shadow on the ground).
Even before they start pedalling again, Nibali has stretched the rubber a lot.
It’s Pinot who pushes harder to get back on Nibali’s wheel; in fact, you see him closing in on a straight section, and he’s more or less on Nibali’s wheel again after the longest straight stretch in this second part of the descent, that is, the very first 500 mts. right after entering the road to Camnago Volta.
But the rubber is going to break because then you’ve got the *really* technical section of the descent, from -13.5 to -12.4… Nibali gets already away on the first, twisting half of this sector, where both riders just give a couple of pedal strokes from time to time.

No need to further tackle the other question, but I’d just point out that being a better descender forces your rival to go deeper in order to avoid losing your wheel – and then, if the rival ends up indeed losing your wheel, he’ll be suffering from the previous efforts when he’ll need to match you in whatever following section.
Pinot’s effort (700 mts. pushing hard at very high speed on two straight sectors) to get back to Nibali’s wheel after he got distanced essentially through better line-tracing at -14.2… well, that doesn’t come for free.

Paul October 12, 2017 at 9:11 am

Pinot was looking behind him almost as soon as Nibali hit the front, he was toast by then, Nibali benfited from FDJ doing so much work late on and Pinot was 3rd man from the front taking way too much air.

Great ride by Nibali

Joe G October 8, 2017 at 11:21 am

I get the point of your post, but it falls into the category of, that’s how it’s always been. As the Italians say, polemiche. It was that way between Coppi and Bartoli, Moser- Saroni. The points his detractors make are legitimate points. While on the other hand your post is right on. The controversy and debate is what drives us, the tifosi forward. Don’t complain, but enjoy it. Talk of purity makes me laugh. This is pro cycling, hardest sport, period. We are all fans, then we love to get indignant when riders teams try to get an edge. Personally, I love, will always love it. Bring on the haters, it only makes the debate better. Nibali was a worthy winner on a absolutely perfect Saturday in northern Italy. On that point there can be no debate.

gabriele October 8, 2017 at 12:14 pm

+1

Ecky Thump October 8, 2017 at 1:07 pm

A worthy winner indeed, if a pre-scripted one.
You could get odds as low as 23/10 on a Nibali win. Not quite as mean as the 6/5 for a Froome 2018 Tour de France victory but we love it when the overwhelming favourite wins, right?
😉

gabriele October 8, 2017 at 2:27 pm

Especially when he wins against a serious opposition, which is mostly supported by stronger teams than his (as it was apparent in Moscon, Alaphilippe and Pinot’s case), and when the victory is achieved thanks to a generous display of technical skills, taking strategical risks and igniting the race before the very last climb, while answering personally to several attacks – before attacking himself – in a man-against-man battle some 20 kms to the finish line.

However, if you want to bet I’d advise you to look for higher odds… Nibali was offered at 7/2 (with Urán at 13/2, Alaphilippe and Pinot both at 10 or 20/2).

But, after all, that’s the reason why Contador retiring produces the feeling that he’s going to be missed by most, personal fans or not, while – things as they are now – you wouldn’t suspect that Froome would be missed by *as many* if he decided to retire today 😉

Chris October 8, 2017 at 9:11 pm

As a Nibali fanboy it really grates that Kirby and his ilk cannot identify/describe Nibali without reference to his “do everything what it takes” attitude including reference to that sticky bottle cheat.

A worthy win, regardless if he was the favourite.

Mancuniancandid October 9, 2017 at 2:04 pm

Worst first comment ever, was a nice race, don’t spoil it…..

AP October 9, 2017 at 2:24 pm

Oh Christ, whataboutism has infected the cycling community too.

Barbarossa October 8, 2017 at 1:49 am

Was never much of a Shark fan but I have to admit he’s won me over the last couple years, especially with the pair of Lombardia wins which have both been absolute class. Have to respect a dude who seriously goes after GTs and major classics in this day + age (pretty much just Nibs, DMart kinda, & (sigh) Valverde). Don’t think the L-B-L parcours is nearly as favorable but he’s been close there before & you’d never count him out if he’s in form.

Great ride by Egan Bernal to finish 13th, pretty excited to see how he goes the next few years. Does anyone know how his time trial is?

Also as the season is basically over, wanna take a moment to thank INRNG for another great year!!! This + Podium Cafe are the prisms thru which I follow cycling. Always top quality!

Vitus October 8, 2017 at 9:51 am

Bernal’s 13th was impressive, like all his riding in the Italian races of last week. Head to head with the best in pro racing, with 20 years… Hope he must not once regret the career step joining Sky. I fear he can’t shine there like he could with Androni. I just can’t see how they not turn the three greatest junior talents, who rode against each other the last years, into a bunch of trained workhorses. I’d rather want to see such riders join a Contador gut feeling attack class than the boring Academy of powermetring.

His ITT skills are mediocre, I would say reading his results. Though he won one ITT stage once, but that was a pure 11km uphill http://www.procyclingstats.com/race.php?id=177400&c=4&code=stagerace-profiles

S October 8, 2017 at 12:53 pm

I think the best response to concerns about Bernal’s future at Sky is to look at yesterday’s podium – Moscon is only a few years older than Bernal and in his second year as a pro, yet he was 3rd yesterday and 5th in Paris-Roubaix. Yes he did his bit as a dometique in the Vuelta (also getting a 2nd place on stage 13) but he has been allowed to ride and supported when suitable.

Chris October 8, 2017 at 9:45 pm

Bernal has raced a crazy volume this year.. i hope that they will be more selective with his race program at SKY.

gabriele October 8, 2017 at 4:26 pm

You’re absolutely right to point out how special Nibali is “in this day + age”.

Now that he’s got a second Monument – albeit in the same race – he entered a peculiar category with little sporting value, indeed (it’s not a task which athletes decide to tackle as such) but with an interesting statistical and historical meaning: that is, cyclists who were able to repeat victories in GTs *and* in Monuments, too.

In fact, the sort of riders which could win at least one Monument & at least one GT has remained quite active through the years, even if it never was exactly crowded… Valverde, as you said, but also Cunego, Vinokourov, A. Schleck (more or less) and, if you decide to count the Worlds as a kind of Monument, perhaps we could also add Evans and Armstrong (again, sort of). No cigar for Purito and Chaves but they went close, probably closer than D. Martin. Urán is someway around there, too.

The main difference with the past is that you end up noticing specialisation all the same: that is, in the case of most contemporary or recent riders you feel that they are really good in one of the two things (often specialising in one single Monument) while they *just* were top contenders in the other category, good enough to linger around until they got that one single victory when stars aligned, but not enough consistently on the top to be able to repeat.

It wasn’t like that in the past, when several top riders – as such! – were able to get 2+ victories in GTs *and* in Monuments: Merckx, Bartali, Coppi, Hinault, Gimondi, Binda, Girardengo, Magni, Bobet, Brunero, Fignon, LeMond (I’d say you pretty much need to count his Worlds, even more so since he also podiumed in Sanremo, Liège and Lombardia), Saronni… (Bugno went close, but…). Then, if I’m not getting this wrong, the last representative of the category before Nibali was Rominger, his last big win in 1995, more than 20 years ago.

Not a huge lot of people, through the whole history of cycling, but still it’s 11 of them in the first 50 years of postwar cycling, but just *1* of them -Nibali – in the last 22 years!

And it’s not like the “other” category of winners didn’t exist before: huge Classics champions who could grab that single GT, or strong GT champions who picked their single Monument, already coexisted with “more accomplished” all-arounders… Anquetil (Liège), Poulidor (Sanremo), Thys (Lombardia), Moser (Giro), Kelly (Vuelta), Kübler (Tour), Janssen (Roubaix), Jalabert (Vuelta), Altig (Vuelta), Belloni (Giro), Guerra (Giro), Péllissier (Tour), Lapize (Tour)… and, for sure, several others which I can’t remember right now.

No doubt that Rominger or Nibali are the product of their age, too, with their focus on Lombardia (and a podium in Liège for both – Nibali can add the Sanremo one). Saronni, with his wins through Sanremo, Lombardia, Worlds (plus Liège podium) was probably the last, even if already “pale”, specimen of the previous and very different times, his last big shots in 1983: later, both Fignon and LeMond – riders stronger than Saronni in general terms – limited their one-day big victories to one race, respectively Sanremo and the Worlds. All the same, at least… there they were!

I can only hope that, as it seems, we may see more riders entering this special category or at least the “lesser” one of “just” 1 GT + 1 Monument: Alaphilippe, Moscon, Chaves, Aru, Barguil, Pinot, Bernal, Oomen, Kwiatkowski, Bardet, 2xYates are promising among the (more or less) youngster, Urán and D. Martin of the supposedly already “mature” generation.

In the while, let’s be grateful for having Nibali around…

Nick October 9, 2017 at 12:54 am

Moscon finished every Monument this year, and all but Liege in the/a leading group.

Did anybody else ride all 5?

gabriele October 9, 2017 at 3:27 pm

Wow, complicated question…

GVA was the obvious pick but he wasn’t at Lombardia.
Same for Kragh Andersen, he nearly made it – at least, if we speak about “starting” – but he preferred to be 2nd at Paris-Tours to Lombardia (how would you blam him?): Sanremo (121), Ronde (74), Roubaix (DNF), Liège (DNF).
I thought Keukeleire might be a candidate but he pulled out the Ronde on the startline itself (some health issue), I don’t know if we should count that, and he wasn’t at all at Liège. Indeed, the hardest part looks like to find someone who was at the Roubaix then went to Liège, too. Erviti made it, but he’s got no Italian monuments, just as young Troia.
Luisle Sánchez, Albasini and Kwiatko missed the cobbles.
Lutsenko’s got a nice Sanremo-Ronde-Liège series but no Roubaix and the autumn is all about Almaty.
This is not exhaustive, I’ve just been checking some guys who looked to me more or less plausible candidates – a serious search might produce some better results.

Dunno… what’s sure is that Moscon has been hugely impressive (and not only for his polemica track).

Barbarossa October 9, 2017 at 7:47 am

Yes, as great as both Lombardia wins have been that Sanremo podium is perhaps the most interesting data point from his career, Lombardia and L-B-L being of course the 2 Monuments you’d expect a GT all-rounder to be able to compete in. When’s the last time a GT winner even got on the Sanremo podium? I wouldn’t at all surprised if was Kelly’s win in 92, and even Kelly was really a Classics guy who got a GT rather than a true GT rider, tho you do have Fignon in 88 + 89. Even riders who can seriously contend in both Sanremo + Lombardia are pretty rare these days; Alaphilippe, Kwiat, maybe Moscon. PhilGil in his prime obviously.

As far as current potential GT + Monument guys: I very much doubt DMart will ever win a GT. Uran could but he needs to do it soon and he’d need things to really break his way. Chaves, Pinot, and Bardet all have time trial issues of varying severity. I’ll believe in Barguil the GC contender when I see it. The Yates bros are thus far much more credible as 1 day/1 week than GT riders. I would love it if Kwiat and/or Ala could become serious GT contenders but I think a Geraint Thomas situation unfortunately more likely. Moscon, who the hell knows. Oomen and definitely Bernal (and Sivakov, and whoever else, I don’t really follow juniors/U23) are too young to say, even if early returns are promising. Otoh, who knows what’ll happen w/the GT scene when Froome retires/the inevitable decline sets in, tho Nairo + Dumoulin will still be in their primes at that point.

Speaking of which, 2 guys you left off that list of p0tential future GT + Monument winners: Dumoulin and Zakarin. Granted he doesn’t have any real Monument pedigree, but Doom was 5th in Strade Bianchi and 4th in San Seb this year, he’s an aggressive and tactically solid 1-day racer, I could definitely see him winning L-B-L some year; of course he’d have to seriously go after it + who knows what his race program will be going forward. Zakarin is another 1 of those he’d need everything to go his way to win a GT guys, but he was 5th in Liege a couple years ago.

Anyway, I definitely agree on appreciating Nibali while he’s still here. Even if 1 or more of the above riders do pull off a GT + Monument combo, it’s tough to see anyone winning all three GTs + one of the Monument with podiums in two others. I’d still say Froome is comfortably the superior GT rider, pretty much cemented by this year’s double, but best-rounded palmares you’d have to go Nibs…

gabriele October 9, 2017 at 4:25 pm

I thought about that couple of athletes, and they might be candidates, sure, but if you look at my list of “promises” above you’ll notice that you’ve got either very young riders or riders just entering their supposed prime, but the latter have already shown in practice more than once that they can top-ten in a Monument.

Don’t forget that Dumoulin is a 1990 and Zakarin is a 1989. They’ve got their respective good reasons not to have achieved great results in the Monuments: Tom raced a lot of them with very poor results (18th his best placement) because he was focussing on GTs and TTs (which generally doesn’t help for some qualities you need in a Classic); Ilnur barely raced any, both for the same reason and also because of his relative late start as a pro (comparatively to his age).

Sure, I’d agree that they’ve got the potential, but the names I listed above who are the same age already proved something more… or you might include Quintana as well!

Urán and D. Martin, it’s rather obvious, were *desperate* picks (the latter was named by you, and, in fact, I added Urán in order to state that he looked like a more serious candidate than the Irishman). Yet, it’s clear that the most probable thing is that neither of them will make it.
The 1985-1989 generation is seriously lacking in terms of talent, both in GTs and in Monuments.
You can see how more often than not “older” riders from the previous, hugely gifted generation still prevail… and the new winners look like young, preocious guns who’ve started winning before their prime. Having a look to podia with an age perspective is quite impressive.
On the cobbles things look just a little better with the likes of Stybar, Degenkolb (if he recovers), Vanmarcke and Kristoff, plus the more versatile of them all, Van Avermaet. All the same, one can’t avoid to wonder, even there, if there’s a question of relative value + rivals’ age factor, given that, after all, they all look to struggle to get a full self-affirmation, despite a reduced competition… until now, at least (*partial* exception, GVA).
And just imagine what if MDVP and WVA keep their level on the road! (this is just fantasy, for now).

However, no doubt that winning GT + Monument it’s always a huge challenge. If it was easy, it would happen more often, I’d dare to say.
The previous decade, rich in talent, just had 4-5 riders able to do that: you can’t expect all the current potential candidates to succeed. I share most of your observations about the names in the list, even if I’d add that if they got a podium once, they might as well get *one* win in their whole career – and that’s true for Chaves, Bardet, A. Yates, Pinot in GTs. They’ve got their limits, but so has the rest of the world. You can always bring home a Vuelta, as Aru did, and that’s fine, it counts! Even Barguil might.

We’ll see! 🙂

Richard S October 10, 2017 at 4:18 pm

I think the multiple GT one monument rider is more likely going forward than a multiple monument one GT winner. A multi GT winner can contend at both LBL and Lombardia in the future just as Nibali has done. Riders who you’d consider classics men who picked up a GT always seem to get the Vuelta (not including Moser and Saronni as that was a) ages ago and b) on courses made to measure at the Giro) i.e. Kelly, Jalabert and Valverde – I think looking at Valverde’s dominance in the Ardennes and consistency at the Worlds he can be considered primarily a classics man, albeit a versatile one. That he hasn’t done better at Sanremo and Lombardia looks odd in retrospect. But of current riders who may win multiple monuments – Alaphilippe who with a fair wind and a bit of luck might already have had 3 of them, Kwiatkowski and Moscon maybe – I cant really see even winning the Vuelta which has got a much stronger startlist nowadays generally and with its mass of steep summit finishes has taken itself away from riders of that ilk. All 3 are relatively strong time trialists though. I suppose what I have taken ages to say is cycling is tilted more towards climbers now, whereas perhaps in Kelly and Jalaberts day it was tilted more towards powerful riders.

gabriele October 8, 2017 at 4:28 pm

And well, about Nibali’s career…
This season has been very good, podiuming both at the Giro and at the Vuelta against top opposition, and still showing top form with this classy Lombardia win.
Yet, I still prefer, in terms of continuity (due to obvious physiological reasons, too!), but especially in terms of variety, seasons like 2012, less successful when victories are concerned, but very impressive with podia in Sanremo, Liège and Tour de France final GC (on a laughable course), all on the same year, while winning short stage races both in March and in September; or 2013, a bit lacking in terms of one-day racing (although the Worlds were good) but winning Tirreno, Trentino, Giro and with a very close shot at the Vuelta (a peculiar situation, again).

However, I’m afraid this could be sort of an Indian summer, like Boonen’s 2012 or Contador’s 2014-(2015?). Which doesn’t mean that Nibali won’t be able to get top performances again, just as both Boonen and Contador showed in the last season or couple of seasons before retiring: yet, the sort of high-level continuity both during a whole racing season and in a single race which belonged to their best years isn’t available anymore once sporting age has taken hold of them. The most relevant element, I think, is that peaks become more elusive, that is not only shorter but also harder to programme (compare Contador’s TdF and Vuelta, or see Nibali’s 2016 Giro).

Morten Reippuert October 8, 2017 at 9:07 pm

Nibali is the outright favorite to the Insbrook Worlds next year. And he will be a significant factor in which ever ravees he chooses to focus on next year – if it be San Remo, Roubaix, Lige, Giro, Tour or Vuelta – but im pretty shure his main goal will be the worlds in Insbrook with a pacour that is taylor made for him. That victory that eluded him in Florance and Rio.

gabriele October 8, 2017 at 9:53 pm

Hitting the deck once more? ^__^
The very last wall isn’t exactly what Nibali likes best… and, as a spectator, I’d have preferred it on the penultimate lap, perhaps (to help people jump from far, not to make them wait for it).
But you’re right, obviously. It’s a great course for him.

osbk67 October 9, 2017 at 8:31 am

Sure, Nibali has had a good season, but let’s not get carried away. To be a factor at Roubaix he’d have to start the race. As best as I can tell he has yet to do so… Liege perhaps, where to his credit he competed on 12 consecutive occasions to 2016. To me it is the one and two-dimensional nature of the modern specialists which makes them harder to support than the racers of yesteryear who started and competed all season, across the five monuments, a Grand Tour or two, several week-long stage races and a winter Six Day or cyclo-cross event or two for good measure!

gabriele October 9, 2017 at 2:38 pm

Well, in Liège he sure can be a factor (which doens’t mean an easy triumph…) if he focus on that, as he already came so close to winning it, wasn’t it for Iglinsky’s glorious day.
He can be a factor in Sanremo, too, even if seeing him winning is a far shot: but even a suicidal attack on the Cipressa can indeed be “a factor” changing the shape of the race.
Whereas, I really, really doubt he could be a factor on the cobbles next year (and I don’t think it would be possible in the long term, either).

However, it’s precisely the fact that it’s in *modern age* that Nibali entered the “club” of multiple Monument and GT winners (15 in the whole cycling history, 3 of them in the even more different pre-WWII cycling) which makes the feat so peculiar.
As I said, the last before Nibali was Rominger 22 years ago.
You’ve got to achieve that against riders who specialise in a more brutal way than it happened in the past – and if they do so, it’s because it brings you a competitive advantage, obviously enough.
Even the likes of LeMond and Fignon (and we’re speaking of riders whose career was essentially over after 1990, that is, it developed some 30-40 years ago) already bring the sign of a different age, given that, with very few exceptions, they weren’t a factor on the cobbles, either. OTOH, yeah, you could at least see them participating – and pulling a classy performance from time to time!
Hinault himself was practically forced by public and commercial pressure to tackle the Roubaix (and he pretty much never factored in when we speak of Sanremo and Flanders). But that’s precisely an example of how different was the mentality, then.
The very first 80s were a turning point.

Larry T October 9, 2017 at 9:30 pm

LeMond was just off the podium (4th) at Paris-Roubaix 1985 so one can only wonder what he might have done had it been a priority? I would LOVE to see Nibali put on a bit of cobble-busting bulk and get out there – he did more than OK when LeTour went over some of them! Could he get in shape early enough to be a factor in Strade Bianche without being fried by the time L-B-L comes around?

gastro george October 10, 2017 at 6:48 pm

Is it too late for Poels to join the list of GT/Monument winners? Assuming Sky give him a shot in the next couple of years.

James Cadieux October 8, 2017 at 4:38 am

The finish was thrilling and Pinot made the race a great spectacle. Nibali got the seconds on the descent but had the legs to finish it. Lombardia is a beautiful race, the colours and scenery. I always watch it with a hint of sadness as the season ends and it always seems like forever until the Omloop…

Anonymous October 8, 2017 at 7:23 am

Glad to see Nibali win, as I said in the preview, didn’t realise there would be a follow up. Beautiful race to win in beautiful surroundings, bravo!

Pax October 8, 2017 at 9:18 am

Nice ride by Nibali

It seems he had much better knowledge of the downhill than the others, who didn’t have a chance. One would think he may had ridden the decisive downhill 10 x more than some of the others via training and being an Italian.

Michael October 8, 2017 at 10:46 am

Nibali lives in nearby Lugano across the Swiss border, so I am more than certain that he knows the Civiglio climb inside out 🙂 Top performance from him and an impressive ending to his season.

gabriele October 8, 2017 at 2:37 pm

Spot on. He confirmed it in post-race interviews.

Morten Reippuert October 8, 2017 at 9:09 pm

Yet he didnt know it in 2015 when he did the same trick.

gabriele October 8, 2017 at 9:40 pm

True. Probably, that time it cost him a greater effort and maybe greater risks, too.

Alastair S October 8, 2017 at 9:55 am

Yes, great race (again) but I always feel short changed by the TV coverage. For most WT races we usually get the last 80-100k and for the other monuments considerably most. But yesterday we only got the last 50k, missing the Ghisallo and most of the Muro di Sormano. I can only guess that it’s penny pinching by RAI. Personally l could sit and watch helicopter shots of this race/area all day.

The Inner Ring October 8, 2017 at 10:24 am

TV coverage started on the approach to the Madonna del Ghisallo so it depended which channel you were watching.

Eskerrik Asko October 8, 2017 at 12:33 pm

Eurosport Nordic also found FIFA U-17 World Cup (ES1) and Euro Masters (ES2) more interesting and worthwhile than Il Lombardia before the leading rider had nearly crested Muro di Sormano.

(I do wonder whether the viewing figures support that judgement or whether it was simply because those sports attract more or better “sponsors”. It seems to be the same online betting companies and DIY hardware chain stores, though, it’s just the various national tourist board that appear to have bought more airtime during cycling coverage…)

PS My most sincere thank you to the Inner Ring for the past season! Not that I will stop reading during the off-season. And a big “No hard feelings” and “See you next summer” to all commentators!

Fortunately a cycling mate of mine can watch RAI (and since I remember to bring a nice bottle of with me I haven’t yet become a persona non grata in his household).

gabriele October 8, 2017 at 2:36 pm

It must be said that apparently it was a last minute decision by RAI, put under pressure by *significant* grievance among the fans. At first, they had decided to start the coverage at 3:05 pm CET. It was only the day before or so that things changed. I can imagine that foreign broadcasters with a more serious planning of what they show just couldn’t or wouldn’t adapt to the last minute shift.
Is it a shame? Yes, it is. Somebody in RCS – namely, Vegni – is in love with Sanremo (even worse, the “easiest”, sprinter friendly version of Sanremo!) and doesn’t appreciate as he should the Giro di Lombardia, which has consistently proven itself as a solid and growing value (with few editions as the inevitable exception)…

Morten Reippuert October 8, 2017 at 9:10 pm

Erosport player had the RAI signal from approx 13:20, almost wto hours before Ghisallo. Broadcast signal was not on until 15 at the bottom of Ghisallo.

Richard S October 8, 2017 at 7:59 pm

Did all those riders named crash on the descent of the Surmano or over the course of the whole race? If they were all on the same hill I wouldn’t be surprised if it was binned, which wouldn’t be a shame to me as watching riders slog up a cliff in a slow motion isn’t a great spectacle. I think the Ghissalo- Civiglio-San Fermo finale is perfect.
What a shame we only got to see the final 50k when as others have said we usually get to see at least the last 100 of all the other Monuments. It’s a race that’s definitely worth seeing both for the racing and the scenery. I think the the Como finish only has the Bergamo finish as a rival as the most beautiful in the world! What odds we see Nibali gunning for victory there next year in the rainbow jersey?

Morten Reippuert October 8, 2017 at 9:13 pm

They crashed in the same corner down Ghisallo/Surmano – 4 bikes hanging from the same tree.

Chérel who Depuis was chasing almost missed that corener too.

Vitus October 9, 2017 at 8:57 am

@Morten
Somehow I doubt that. After De Plus crashed, there were 2 medic cars in that corner, motos, staff, everything, to be seen in the heli shot. How can 3 riders then crash in the very same corner?

STS October 9, 2017 at 11:44 am

But that’s exactly what several sources reported.

Vitus October 9, 2017 at 1:33 pm

Either all 4 fell down into the ravine before all the medic cars arrived and the doctors found whole pile of riders and bikes down there, or the came half’n’hour later when the corner was cleared again. Or they went down in different places and several sources aka Chinese whispers mixed things up.

MattF October 9, 2017 at 5:58 am

I’m shocked at how many serious crashes occurred on one corner. Potentially career threatening injuries involved too. Is there any rule INRNG which prevents the race organiser from installing warning signs on this or other well known black spots. More to the point, it is presumably clearly marked in the road book. It’s the participants responsibility to take that information on board and the DS’s responsibility to remind and warn their charges. Failure all round.

gabriele October 9, 2017 at 2:57 pm

The roadbook only warned about it being a dangerous descent.
As Vitus points out above, it’s dubious if it really was the very same corner. However, this same descent has been tackled in several occasions already, hence the DSs, at least, should know well about its dangers.
Many riders, too, including Nibali, who fell there (on that descent, I mean, not the corner) when Gilbert won against Scarponi, I think. They raced here, in recent years, from 2010 to 2013, then again in 2015 (plus, the historical racing in the past).

De Plus, Petilli and Martínez are too young and never experienced this descent, but, sadly, Bakelants, who suffered the worst consequences, had already tested it at least two and up to four times in previous Lombardias which included it (a couple of DNF for him… but I don’t know if he draw from the race after Nesso or before Sormano).

Richard S October 9, 2017 at 3:16 pm

I was thinking that in 2010 they did the easier route up the Sormano, I wasn’t sure if they came a different way down too?! If they did that descent in the pouring rain and almost darkness in 2010 without serious accident then you have to assume that de Plus and Bakelants were just pushing too hard, maybe because the conditions were so good they thought they could.

gabriele October 9, 2017 at 3:40 pm

Yes, in 2010 it was the easier uphill Sormano route, but they descended through the same Nesso descent. Nibali hit the deck hard and lost the three men group who’d get the podium, eventually finishing in 5th position.
In fact, Nibali’s descending skills have got a notable weak point: on wet roads, he tends to fall down more often than the most (that’s perhaps why he jumped over that little stream during the Stelvio stage, he doesn’t like a wet tyre).
In 2012 and 2013 his Lombardia bids were also brought to an end by crashes on wet roads, respectively down the Ghisallo and in an urban sector.

STS October 11, 2017 at 1:11 am

Interesting observation, gabriele. But yes, you’re right, we’ve already seen him on the deck quite often on wet roads. I’m curious whether we will ever learn why. It’s obvious that he seems to go faster on wet roads than most others, too.
And in fact, from my own experience as an avid descender with most turns you can go just as fast in the rain as you go when that very turn is dry. Simply because you could go even faster in the dry. leaning the bike over even more, but if you’re already doing beyond 65 kph there’s no point in pushing the pedals anymore. Only a steeper incline could help increase your speed.
It’s only when dirt and water mix that some turns might become really slippery. And the problem is it’s almost impossible to tell when approaching the turn whether it’s safe to pass at full speed or not :-((( .

Steve October 9, 2017 at 8:36 pm

Thanks for another great seasons worth, inrng, but I fear your vendemmia metaphor is rather wide of the mark. The grapes are brought in but nothing ends up in a bottle for a while yet, and much like in cycling, only in the future will we know whether the liquid is significant in any way. .

NSW October 10, 2017 at 12:38 pm

+1 for inning’s great coverage all season. Chapeau!

Has anyone else noticed Nibali has gone electrical this season? He had always refused to use Campag’s EPS because he was quoted as saying something like ‘if it goes wrong it could be the difference between winning a Grand Tour or just being on the podium’.
Anyone know why he’s switched? It’s not as if his new team aren’t pandering to him, and mechanical D-A is hard to get…

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