The Moment The Race Was Won: Il Lombardia

Nibali dicesa descent lombardia 2015

Religion and sport combine once a year in Italy as the Tour of Lombardy passes the Ghisallo chapel. This year’s edition was a communion between Vincenzo Nibali and Italian cycling fans. With 16km to go Nibali attacks on the descent from Civiglio and uses his descending skills to distance a select group of climbers.

An early break of 11 riders endured heavy downpours and began to fragment on the Ghisallo climb with 70km to go. Behind a counter-attack including Tim Wellens, Michał Kwiatkowski, T-J Slagter, Zdeněk Štybar and Robert Gesink went clear of the bunch. Astana had been doing a lot of work all day and led the bunch up the climb with Nibali always visible near the front.

Onto the Muro di Sormano and it was everyone for themselves, a private battle of power to weight ratios. Kwiatkowski was the first to catch the two survivors of the breakaway, Cesare Benedetti and Marco Canola, and Tim Wellens was close. Wellens and Kwiatkowski linked up to lead the race. Too much too soon? Apply hindsight and Wellens let Tony Gallopin rest before surging to seventh place. Back in the moment and being in front on these tricky roads is an advantage. The region looks stunning from the helicopter shots but ride these roads and you’ll soon see just how densely populated the area, the twisting roads are pounded by traffic and full of irregularities like bends that tighten up more than expected, sunken inspection covers, cracks in the road and more. Many distanced on the Sormano could not make it back on the descent.

In the valley a group of 22 riders were left. Astana led the chase or rather they kept the pace up as the lead two were in sight. Other teams had numbers, for example Etixx-Quickstep, Ag2r La Mondiale and Team Sky but they all sat tight as the race approached Como and started the climb to Civiglio. Kwiatkowski was caught immediately and with the road clear of obstacles Nibali began a series of soft attacks designed to test his rivals, aided by team mate Diego Rosa. Rosa and Nibali haven’t been perfect team mates, Nibali was critical when Rosa left him behind in the Strade Bianche race earlier this year but the Sicilian’s moans were probably more a complaint about his own form, the capo dropped by his gregario. Now Rosa was the perfect team mate as he shut down moves from Thibaut Pinot.

By now there were only seven riders in contention: Nibali and Rosa, Pinot, Esteban Chaves, Dani Moreno, Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Nieve, the later riding with his knees sticking out as he tried to force the pedals round. Nibali launched a big attack, starting near the back of the group and the kind of acceleration last seen when he grabbed hold of the Astana team car in the Vuelta and was towed away from the chase group. As big as the attack looked Nibali was brought back and they rode crested the climb together.

Then Nibali attacked again just as the descent started. It’s likely everyone else was cooked and wanted a moment to get their breath back but had someone found the energy, would it have been worth trying to respond to Nibali’s attack? Jump on his wheel for a moment and he’d drop you on the next corner. These were scenes reminiscent of Peter Sagan’s drop off La Rochette into Gap at the end of Stage 16 the Tour de France. You could say Nibali was cornering like a motorbike but he was faster, having to squeeze past one moto on the way down. Nibali was sitting on the top tube, the low tuck is proven aerodynamically but try it yourself and it’s uncomfortable and unsafe. But this was all or nothing for Nibali, at times staying in the tuck as he swept through the bends. It meant he’d got over ten seconds on the descent, not much but just enough.

The others in the group were watching each other in a classic stalemate: chase and you help your rivals. It takes time to agree to collaborate, plus Diego Rosa was still there. There was the added complication of Dani Moreno, was he riding for himself or has he signed with Movistar and so helping his future jefe Valverde? Valverde meanwhile wasn’t helping himself, perhaps he simply didn’t have it, but he was sitting tight and seemed to be gambling on a sprint finish that wasn’t going to happen.

The gap was 40 seconds as they reached the start of the final climb to San Fermo della Battaglia. The chasing climbers resorted to instinct and started attacking, first Pinot and then Moreno who went past Pinot and closed the gap to a tiring Nibali to 14 seconds. But reports kept coming through of 14 seconds, as if Moreno could not get closer. Over the top and Moreno was timed at just 11 seconds but now it wasn’t about timing but style and risks. Nibali was using the whole road and adopting the low tuck while Moreno was descending with his hands on top of the brake hoods. The gap went out and in no time Nibali’s arms went up as he celebrated the win, a gust of wind sending an Italian flag to his chest and it stuck there as if Italy had embraced him again.

Vincenzo Nibali Lombardia

The Verdict
A thriller in the last 20km. Last year’s edition wasn’t as good with the race only coming alive as they raced up the slopes to Bergamo’s città alta with a few kilometres left. Here we saw attack after attack with Nibali, Rosa, Pinot and Chaves in the mix. Nibali then delivered a maniac descent to keep millions of Italians on the edge of their seats as he rode the edge of his tires’ grip on the descents. It was a comprehensive win for Astana too, they set the pace for much of the day and had Rosa in the final move when everyone else was isolated.

Nibali needed that. His humiliating exit from the Vuelta was the farce that hid the tragedy of a lost season: transparent in Tirreno-Adriatico despite his billing among the Big Four; invisible in the Ardennes classics save for face-saving premature attack in the Amstel; off the pace in the Dauphiné and reduced to salvaging a stage win in the Tour de France. Today doesn’t remedy the structural issues of a whole season but it does mark a change in fortunes.

Dani Moreno held on for second place, proof he can deliver when not subjugated to work for Joaquim Rodriguez? Probably not as he’s won three stages of the Vuelta and the Flèche Wallonne for himself. Thibaut Pinot was third, aggressive on the climbs he might have used up a lot of energy but he wasn’t going to match Nibali on the descent and the podium is huge for a rider who is still 25. FDJ believe in him so much that they’ve stopped sponsoring Francis Mourey, France’s Monsieur Cyclocross, in order to spend the money on windtunnels, training camps and stage race recons. When Marc Madiot surrenders cyclocross on the altar of sports science something big has happened.

81 thoughts on “The Moment The Race Was Won: Il Lombardia”

  1. Well Nibali won deservedly, mainly due to his desending abilities. Just somehow I felt that Rosa was even a bit stronger uphill. The number of talented young climbers in Astana is surpizing.

  2. The only way I could be happier today would be if Nibali was on an ITALIAN team!! Today was the result I wished for back in 2011.
    I was able to get a pirate video feed going only with 20 km to go and with colors so bad I thought Nibali had donned a Belgian National Team jersey! Commentary was even worse so muted soon enough – but I didn’t need sound to sit on the edge of my couch, almost spilling my breakfast cereal as The Shark showed his teeth on the descents. He took some chances for sure, but he raced to WIN rather than not to lose. That’s what I admire about this guy. So he has “only” the Italian National Champions jersey and one of the 5 monuments of cycling to show for a challenging 2015 season. I think a few would trade places with him.

    • As I’ve said at the bottom of the preview article, a typical ride by both Nibali and Valverde.
      Nibali wins more races than he perhaps ‘should’ because he is brave enough to attack – Valverde is precisely the opposite.
      That’s what I so admire about Nibali – that and the fact that he’s a grand tour rider who also tries to win one day races.
      A fantastic race and one that showed ASO how the LBL parcours should be (if the race finishes with a climb, the riders – certainly the favourites – mostly wait for that climb and you get less attacking racing).
      The others had to chase down Nibali immediately – and Valverde certainly could have. (That’s why Valverde gets so many top 5 and top 3 places – he seems happy with that, but no-one cares who comes 4th and the overall points winner for the year means little.)
      Moreno clearly had good legs, but rode like a dunce: needlessly countering every move and then attacking too late – it was like he thought Rodriguez was in the race and that he was riding for him; and then realised too late.

        • True, but then he attacked, rather than attempting to drag Valverde back to Nibali.
          Wouldn’t be surprised to see him join Movistar, though (and maybe he got the nod from Valverde in the end – although that wouldn’t be like AV).

          • Yeah…poor Valverde. All those 2nd’s and 3rd’s this year in TdF, Vuelta, Amstel, Oman, San Sebastian & Strade Bianche. Really overshadows his #1 in UCI World Tour and wins in Liege Bastongne Liege, Fleche Wallone. Oh…almost forgot the Green Jersey in the Vuelta.

          • That doesn’t alter the point, billiam, that he could have won many more races if he raced a bit more daringly, rather than relying on that sole tactic.

          • You’re a tougher task master than Tinkov or Vino…

            The reason Valverde has a job is to bring publicity to his team. If he had spent all his energy attempting to win, regardless of his success rate, he and his team would most likely lose points toward the individual and team season overall titles. Clearly, the overall has been a goal; Movistar is a household name and Valverde is a revered rider.

          • It’s a fair point, but I would say that had Movistar focused more on individuals, they might have won the Tour with Quintana and perhaps even the Vuelta with Valverde had they not had Valverde in the Tour. That would be better publicity.

          • And, what I mean to say in a more obvious way is that one of, on the long list of beautiful, subtle, nuanced details of the sport is that what you don’t do is often just as important as what you do.

          • And winning is everything – overall points mean little and publicity means nothing.
            If Valverde is doing what you say then he shouldn’t be such a corporate stooge.

  3. If sport combines with religion at this race, it also delivered redemption to Nibali after his cycling sins this year.
    And Nibali’s descending skills, on the damp and rutted roads, were not far from miracle proportions.

    It felt like a fitting finale to an action-packed year on the road also.
    The last Monument of the season won with wonderful all-round cycling skill, bravery and cunning to match the example of the new World Champion last weekend.
    A fitting Italian triumph today and well done to the photographer at the line !

    A lovely write up Inner Ring, and I appreciate the information about FDJ (I asked about this on the Preview).

    • Yes, two Sundays in a row with winners not afraid of riding to win AND winning due to more than just watts/kg. Big time bike racing’s at its best when skill and tactics are as important as watts/kg!!!

      • It would be tempting to say that these two wins (Sagan’s worlds win and Nibali’s Lombardia) were delivered with that elusive ingredient, panache.

        I enjoyed watching both, each made me think that this is what I watch pro cycling for.

  4. Great last 40km (Eurosport) and a bull by the horns win by Nibali. So easily he could have sulked his way into winter but played his strengths today for a great win. My hopes were dashed when I saw Pip pulling the chase group, knew it was over for him, however pleased to see Vincenzo win. Ha ha that flag stuck to him like a falling leaf!

  5. Thanks, INRNG for your great write-up of a great race on a great course! That race proved that if you want to have an exciting race better make sure your course provides the opportunities for longer range attacks which stick.

    You can say what you want about Astana but this team seems to have a great team spirit. They had one of the big favorites, they rode accordingly all day and finally Landa and Rosa rode like perfect team mates of Vincenzo. No wonder that Nibali first wanted to embrace Rosa behind the finish line when all those surrounding him were already wanting their part of him and that moment.

  6. Valvaerde saw one of the best descenders go away and must have thought “hmm i’m proabaly the second best descender in this race, better sit behing Pinot”

  7. Impressive ride by Nibali, and an impressive palmares with a monument to go with his full set of grand tours.

    I feel like the only one who’s a bit disappointed with the race as a whole though. I feel like Muro di Surmano ruined it. Astana drove a pace so high up there that none of the punchuers could hang on and we were left with a climbers race. For some reason I find that less satisfying.

    • A compelling race, by far the most exciting and action-packed Monument this year – still, I agree with your observation about the course.
      Too tough climb-wise. The first no-GT rider (be they GC-captains or gregari) was Gallopin in 7th place and he never looked like he was in contention. Then we got Poels and Slagter, both more than 4′ behind Nibali! It’s true that we’ve got some good all-rounders who’ve shown their skills in the classics, too, like Nibali and Valverde but also Moreno, Rosa, Henao… Still, other riders like Nieve barely have any experience when fighting for victory in a one-day race is concerned – yet they could nevertheless be up there.
      The course was great, in terms of providing action and quality racing, but it was a bit unbalanced.
      However, it must be noted that this sort of changes and experiments belong to Lombardia’s history.
      Nibali has stepped up from being a Tour winner / Monuments contender (which always meant being sort of a special rara avis, like Evans or LeMond) to be a winning rider in both categories. I still struggle to include Andy Schleck or Armstrong in this group (for different reasons), which would bring us 30 years back to find comparable racing ways. In that sense, going 30 years back would mean a giant step forward for cycling 😛

      • PS Ops, what a fail! Lance had won a Flèche in his first cycling incarnation, whereas in L-B-L he came close a couple of times, but “no cigar” – no Monuments at all for him. Should have checked 😉

        • You’re right most of the top results were taken by the more punchy alround climbers who specialise in the shorter stuff, Moreno, Chaves, Valverde, Henao all fitting that description. But I think any one day race that has a top 5 containing Pinot and Nieve was too hard and too much like a grand tour mountain stage. I’ve no objection to a climber getting away and winning, but I think the likes of Gerrans (in form), Gilbert etc should be in the chase group. I think the route would have been spot on without the Surmano novelty climb. I really enjoyed the finish into Bergamo last year, but as you say variety of route is as much a part of Lombardia history as anything else.

          • I agree on Muro di Sormano. It’s stupidly steep. A real leg-breaker and also not very attractive to watch. IMHO the race would be even better without it.
            That said I still think that the likes of Nibali, Pinot, Chaves, Valverde can get rid of Gerrans, Gilbert and Kwiatkowski also on Ghisallo, Civiglio or Sormano (if they took the normal road not the Muro) if they want to. Those climbs are all long enough to give climbers a sufficient advantage in terms of (sustained) power to weight.
            And why not have one classic which route favors those guys? In the community posting here regularly some always argue that MSR with its sprinter-friendly route should not be made more demanding because Cav, Greipel and co. deserve a chance to fight for a monument.
            As it was ridden yesterday the GdL has the most selective and entertaining route for the race final of all major classics. I suggest to leave it as it is and just remove the Muro from the route.

          • I like the variation in the route. All the Monuments vary routes to some extent, otherwise they get stale. This is a good thing, despite some traditionalists’ views to the contrary, but Lombardia seems to be the only one that makes a virtue of it. It makes the race different, and interesting.

          • I loved the route – and agree with STS that it’s good to have a more ‘mountainous’ Monument; it fits well with the others.
            But I also liked the Muro – maybe only include it occasionally, though.

          • The climbers do have a monument, Liege-Bastogne-Liege. I think that by finishing on a hill this is unfairly weighted towards climbers too. They already have the vast majority of stages on all 3 grand tours! As I said I’ve no problem with a climber like Nibali, who has historically generally done well at monuments anyway and is more adventurous than most, getting away due to his superior bike handling on a descent. It was fantastic viewing. I just think the Surmano made the finale weighted too much towards climbers. The one year in Bergamo, probably well suited to heavier puncheurs, and one year in Como, for lighter puncheur climbers, is probably fair though. I think L-B-L should finish down in Liege itself though. There should be a chance for climbers to win if they get away on one of the last climbs, and a chance for heavier Stybar/Gerrans/Gilbert types if they can ‘minimise their losses’ and try and chase them down to the line. I’m not sure even 2011 vintage Phil Gil would have stood a chance on that course though. Or maybe just none of the puncheurs were a) on good form (Gilbert/Gerrans) or b) got their tactics right (Wellens/Kwiatkowski). Who knows!

          • Well, LBL is more a puncheurs’ sort of course.
            So, that means Lombardia can be even more hilly, perhaps – especially if they continue to vary its parcours: that way, some years it can favour a ‘Nibali’ and some years it can favour a ‘Gilbert’.
            I see your point: the climbers do get the GTs, of course, and most of the stage races – but the puncheurs get the World Championships usually and they have the Eneco.
            I like variety: that’s why I’d have the odd mountainous WC, it’s why I like the Eneco – a stage race not for climbers – and it’s why I’d have the occasional more hilly Lombardia, like this one.
            Most importantly, as you say, LBL should end in Liege and not up a hill.

          • LBL a climber’s course? I think – and I’m sure Gerro would agree – that any race he can win cannot have a climber’s course.
            So we have one monument which favors sprinters (MSR), two for the Flandriens (RvV and PR although considerably different), one for puncheurs (LBL) and one which favors climbers (GdL). Pretty balanced, right? Even more impressive then that even nowadays there are guys who could contest for the podium in all of them. Winning all of them in one year would really be the Grand Slam of road cycling. Forza Vincenzo! 😉

          • re Valverde, I am definitely not seeing the same thing you are. I’ve seen a guy who has attacked repeatedly, ridden hard and placed in an unbelievable number of high quality/tough races. His riding also softened up the field for Quintana. This guy has been racing his balls off all year, including at the Vuelta. Nibali had no such accumulated fatigue.

            BTW, I used to be a Valverde hater, always sitting in and waiting for sprint. Seems like Gerrans has taken over that mantle, Valverde is a serious racer who hangs it out frequently.

          • When I saw the race, I had very similar thoughts as in some comments I read above. We had for sure the most thrilling monument of the year, with a winner not afraid of attacking and of loosing if it does not work. Exactly the opposite of Valverde. As well, I really appreciate that Nibali as GT rider also tries to win monuments.
            However, I also agree that this race was really too much climber wise. The muro de sormagno was too close to the finish – it was impossible for a gilbert or a gerrans to come back after it. I think it is right to have it to spend a bit the punchers’ legs but not to eliminate them. Then maybe the Civiglio is also too tough this close to the finish. Really, I don’t think the gilbert 2011 vintage would have won this neither.

            And btw, LBL should definitely finish down in Liège near the Meuse river (probably via a loop in the ourthe valley after la Roche aux faucons), not up in Ans after crossing all the post industrial suburbs.

  8. Valverde had cramps according to his team, but as they were still fighting for best team with Katusha and no other rider from his team was there, he carried on. And thanks to his fourth place Movistar won. When I think of Valverde’s retirement, I already feel kind of sorry for the people who always spend so much of their time worrying, thinking, writing, talking about Valverde. What will you do without him??? Who will you talk about??? Tough times ahead!

    • To be honest, Valverde’s dismal reputation on the internet is part of the reason I enjoy watching him. ‘Will THIS be the race he finally shows his true colours and shoves Quintana into a ditch?? Let’s find out!’ All in good fun, of course.

        • The internet is one of those places where media and “fans” tend to give more importance to Operación Puerto (usually without knowing much about it) than to cycling.

          • With all respect, I think people are capable of forming their own opinion of someone through an event, without the ‘fans’…well, sneer. And if Valverde hadnt continued to behave in such a cynical way as he fought tooth and nail to prevent it going to instead of manning up, some might have a different view. As it is, he’s divisive as a result of his own actions, rather than ‘fans’ being too thick to understand.

          • Forming an opinion is a thing, forming an ‘informed’ opinion is a whole different world. We (me included) may not have all the relevant elements, but most people really don’t have a clue. I could bet on it – and if I were right, they wouldn’t be as “capable” as you wish.

            Besides, what is the definition of “manning up”? Taking a responsibility for something which probably didn’t depend on him? With like, zero chances, that people would understand the context properly?
            Antidoping is/was (even today, IMHO, but that’s an opinion: let’s stick with “was”, if we want facts) just a matter of politics – laws were quite secundary, merely a tool. No moral stance to be seen anywhere there. Riders have all the right to try and fight political decisions through laws – they’re going to lose anyway most of the time. What’s wrong with that? By the way, culpable or not, you’ve got the right to defend yourself – that’s quite essential to guarantee that a system works as a whole.

            I agree that Valverde’s defense crossed the line seriously once or twice, and that shouldn’t be excused. At the same time, he underwent exceptional circumstances which were totally beyond any ideal of equal treatment before the law.

          • Cosmo sums up what most of us think about Valverde but could never express in quite the way he does.

            Is there any solid evidence (given the small size of any sample population, etc.) that previous doping gives any athlete a career-lifting benefit long after the fact?

            On GdL, given the season Valverde’s had, I’m amazed he can still be there or thereabouts in any event with a field of this calibre. If he didn’t have the legs fair enough; if he was psyching others into chasing, chalk it up as another potentially missed opportunity, squandering of talent, whatever…

          • But Cosmo, despite his surname (or because of it?), looks like to be very far from Spain ^__^
            He didn’t get much of what was happening in Puerto (or is he playing naive?) and, no, he didn’t even guess right the bag’s vintage. Which would have helped to understand something more of the whole story. As I said, it’s hard to form an opinion without most of the puzzle’s pieces. Not that I’ve got very much of it, but enough to suspend judgement on a personal level.
            IMHO, a sort of equal prosecution should follow kind of a judicial and investigative logic, be systematic in a way, not go on picking a few VIP names out of hundreds. Not sure that doing like that you’re helping a serious antidoping fight (lots of reasons and *historical exaples* which I won’t list here and now).
            In fact, I like and share a good deal of Cosmo’s approach to the matter – through most of the post, he isn’t focussing on Valverde as much as on the cycling world/institutions surrounding him.
            However, I think we can agree about letting the whole thing go. I only wanted to say that Valverde (who isn’t at all a rider I root for, on the contrary) as a cyclist is much more than the doping subject. Nonsense insisting on the latter on my part, either 🙂
            As long as i’m concerned: period. I’ll gladly read any answer (not shutting the door), but I’ll try not to insist on this thread.

          • PS (ok I wasn’t going to write anything more, but this is “answering to a question” and it is a PS, too 🙂 )
            Not a scientific thing, but I could list a huge number of proven dopers who didn’t get any career-long benefit. Quite the contrary. However, I suspect it’s not physiological. And if it was… well, wild guessing, I’d say that from a theoretical, physiological POV it doesn’t help your long-term career, either, at least in the terms you suggested.

      • @GB
        This might be what you were waiting for (or right the opposite):

        It’s the official Movistar Team account. They posted: “Worn out Nairo because of his illness the days before, but he’s got Valverde’s love”. Then: “Valverde cheers up Quintana after a hard stage in Andorra – A day of suffering for the two captains of Movistar Team, but that’s not spoiling their good humour”.
        I don’t know… I feel that Valverde is quite happy while Nairo doesn’t appreciate that much the mood of his fellow captain.
        AV: “Today… got less of it…” (incomplete sentence) – NQ: “I’ve lost a couple of kgs but…” – AV: “Yeah, but that’s better, you know, look how fast you were climbing!” – NQ: “An hell of an ailment” – Voice off: “2 kgs of strength” – AV (looking at the camera): “Look, the way he’s whining” (kiss).

        It’s a bit awkward, it’s not like AV looks *that empathetic* here, but maybe that’s just what was needed right then in psychological terms – it must be acknowledged that Nairo always showed a lot of respect and appreciation towards Valverde (perhaps a bit too much?), and he definitely isn’t a submissive type, hence I think there must be some sort of equilibrium between them.

        • I’ve seen the video but of course had little idea what they were actually saying, so thank you! If Nairo was still getting over being so ill, I’d be surprised if he were more cheerful.

          I feel bad because my comment was mostly in jest and it seems to have reignited an argument 😀 I don’t have many illusions about Valverde, and both he and Quintana seem too pragmatic to get into a strop about team leadership (at least publicly).

          All I meant was that considering what people (fans, commentators etc) say about participants while watching the race can be entertaining, especially for people like Valverde where opinions range from ‘awesome’ to ‘literally Dick Dastardly from Wacky Races’.

  9. A fantastic way to finish off the last Monument of the season–Nibali rode like a champion!

    It was eerie that Italian flag blowing across the road and sticking to his chest like that…^^

    Some of the best biking landscape scenery all year: cycling paradiso!

  10. First off, I’d like to thank Inrng for an entire season of insightful commentary on our Sport. I am relatively new to professional cycling (this time last year, I had not even heard of Il Lombardia) so this site has been a valuable tutor. The riders, the teams, the races, the strategies and tactics, the history, the courses… There is SO much to it! And Inrng does a good job of making it accessible in real time to anyone who cares to tune in. I also appreciate the insights (and generally positive demeanor – not to be taken for granted) of the community as a whole.

    On to today’s race. WOW. What a descent. I found a youtube clip of Nibbles careering down the hill and watched it a few times with my 10-year-old niece. “Wow! I had no idea this sport could be so interesting!” was her reaction. Now that I’ve caught on to the sport, I find myself wondering why it doesn’t find more of a mass appeal in the US. Races like this, won by someone throwing caution to the win and racing to WIN (as opposed to trying not to lose), are the sort of thing that may help convert souls, one at a time (to play off of Inrng’s religious analogy).

    And now… What to watch until racing starts up again next year???

    • +1 I was in a similar position and Inrng has definitely given me more insight and knowledge about cycling than any other site. Thank you!

      Nibali’s descending was unbelievable. Right on the edge of the Tarmac but keeping it together – great end to the race. Forza Nibali!

    • Vincenzo Nibali is a true shark: first he circles his pray assessing it (series of small attacks) and then he delivers the killing bite (the forceful attack on the descend). It’s always a thrill watching Nibali on the downhill, a true discesista as the Italians say, cornering on the very limit and literally gaining seconds on every turn of the road.

      @AshburnMike Perhaps your niece will decide to take up cycling, IMHO races like Il Lombardia bring new fans to the sport!

    • Great post AM.
      As Inner Ring points out, the traditional option to cure the Winter blues, is to tune in to cyclocross.
      A fantastic sport, and off-road biking is great fun too.

      • The season is not finished, there’s still Paris-Tours on Sunday. As said by many in recent years it’s lost its lustre but often delivers a thrilling finish. Miss it and you’ll have to wait until January for the next road race on TV.

        • As another newbie (who has also found this blog super-helpful) I can vouch for Paris-Tours. I caught the end of the race last year and it was great.

        • It’s crazy, if you really think about it: All the riders that have won this race from the Petit-Breton over both Pelissiers, Rik van Loy, Francesco Moser, Freddy Maertens, Zoetemelk, Raas, Sean Kelly, Ludo Peeters, Phil Anderson, Zabel, Dekker, Petacchi, Gilbert- just to name a select few. And yet it is about to vanish or become meaningless. This year even more with Abu Dhabi, where almost all the top dogs race (never saw so many riders informing us over Twitter where they are heading-it is like these Oakley-tweets-do they really think we fall for this?). The UCI and the Velon-teams right now think they can control RCS easier than ASO, they think RCS is more dependant on them (plus the old “the enemy of my enemy…”) and Paris-Tours, as an ASO race, is once more one of the victims of those power struggles between the UCI, RCS, ASO and VELON. A shame. But don’t worry Paris-Tours, I still love you!

          • Hear hear.
            The UCI could help counter this by making P-T a World Tour race – as it always should have been.
            I’m not watching Abu Dhabi – the only way to stop this BS taking over our sport.

          • Wasn’t Paris-Tours already demoted by the ASO when it withdrew all its races from the ProTour in 2008?

            I’ve no intrinsic objection to having new races in new places. All of the classics were once new, and I can’t get behind the idea that a bike race is only worth watching if it was promoted by the right newspaper in the 1950s.

          • You have to think there is something deliberate going on when this ‘Abu Dhabi Tour’ finishes on the same day as Paris-Tours. Why couldn’t it have just been held the week after? Or even finish the day before? And you’re right about all the big names coming out in support… I wonder why that is. Especially Mark Cavendish describing a 20 lap criterium around a (rubbish) F1 circuit as ‘the ideal way to finish the season’. Give me a break Mark. Cav has never won Paris-Tours (or any big races this year really) and should be there (if he wasn’t injured) to put to bed one of the few blank spots on his palmares. I genuinely hate all these grotesque money shows put on by Sheiks. I certainly wont be watching. Paris-Tours on the other hand has been in my planner for a week.

    • He wasn’t so close last season, and later he was made to ride a lot of road races. Poor cyclo-cross when some people seem to make fun of resources getting diverted from it and thrown into wind-tunnels.

  11. Some of the grimaces on the Muro di Surmano were a picture as was Pinot’s in the chase., showed the efforts they were putting in on the last 40 or so. What a spectacle, I was lucky enough to be riding out there last week and can appreciate both the climbs and sweeping roads carved into the rocks. I enjoyed watching the coverage and listening to Magnus and Matt (Eurosport) who were genuinely exited at the event in front of them. Nibali was on another plane picking his moment perfectly and then having to pick his lines perfectly and demonstrating some local knowledge there (does he live just over the border?) . The motorcycle moment was hairy! All in all super race, definitely a favourite and prospects good for battles next season. Fantastico coverage INRNG as ever.

    • Someone claimed Nibali reconned the final 100 kms of the course since it was a new version. He looked like the Nibali of the Liquigas days on that descent. I’d kind of wondered if his descending prowess had been dented with the switch to a new bike since those days but that’s either wrong or he’s had a new bike made to look like the team-issue? Nah, that could never happen 🙂

      • Did his two fast descents yesterday look that outstanding to you, Larry? Sure, he seemed to know the roads (compared to his chasers who clearly did not), descended fast, always picked the sweet line while making good use of the whole road but to me it did not look like he was doing anything insane. During the stage he won in this year’s TdF he was also descending like that when he chased down Pierre Rolland.

  12. What the hell happened to Chavez?

    Looking good, easily following moves, suddenly he pulled to the side, seemingly struck with some kind of acute cramp in his left leg/thigh? Anyone?

    • “Chaves cramps but fights on for eighth at Il Lombardia
      Colombian Esteban Chaves has been hampered by cramps within the final eight kilometres of Il Lombardia having ridden himself into serious contention in the final monument of the 2015 season.

      Chaves, who returned to racing after his breakthrough fifth place at the Vuelta a Espana, put in an attack to chase sole leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Pro Team) at the start of the final climb but immediately dropped out of contention.

      Nibali went on to win, Chaves holding on bravely for eighth place as ORICA-GreenEDGE’s top finisher.

      “Top ten in one race in really good,” Chaves said. “But when you stay really close to first position and you can’t win, it’s disappointing.”

      “Today when I tried to attack to close the gap to Nibali, (I suffered) cramps in my legs on the last climb.”

      Starting alongside talented young climbers Adam and Simon Yates, Chaves was the strongest amongst three options for ORICA-GreenEDGE on a brutal 245km day of racing.

      “Right from the finish of the Tour of Spain, Esteban was talking about this race, he was very excited about it,” sport director Neil Stephens said.

      “We were lucky to be able to start with three guys that could potentially be around the mark today and the best on the day was Esteban.

      “He gave it his best. He was cramping on the last climb and had to stop pedaling but it was great he was able to fight through and finish in the top ten.”

      Stephens credited his motivation to take advantage of strong form off a successful Vuelta a Espana campaign.

      “Esteban knows after Grand Tours in the past that he has had good form,” Stephens said. “He was good in China last year and he was good after the Giro this year. Now we have seen he is good after the Vuelta as well.”

  13. I like that Nibali can win grand tours, stages and 1 day classics and He’s an attacker.

    Help Me understand why (about) 99 finished the race and (about) 103 DNF?

    • Yes, indeed. Even managing to recognise riders – and a huge lack of cliches, awful jokes and random jabbering.
      I’ve e mailed saying how much better they – and Rob Hatch – are better than Kirby. The more who do so, the more likely they are to listen.

  14. Well deserved win.

    Terrible year for him and I think that just goes to his training. Sounds like they tried to use last year’s training plan this year and it just didn’t work. Hopefully his coach can get it together for next year. He’s a great rider, fun to watch, and could be one who could win many different types of events every year. Could be one of the greats.

  15. Nibali’s descent in Il Lombardia reminds me of a descent I saw him nail in the Giro during his Liquigas days. This was around the time that he had started gaining his reputation as the best descender in the Peloton (I want to say sometime around 2009/2010). It was off one of the major Dolomite passes with plenty of snowmelt on the road chasing a small group that had gapped him over the climb (which he caught easily). Random, non-specific observation but does anyone else remember this and/or where it was? It was up there in the masterclass stakes.

    • Could it be 2011, the Dolomiti monster stage Conegliano-Gardeccia? He attacked Contador from far, after 170 kms of racing with other some 60 kms to go, on the Giau (apparently his only remaining hope to go for the maglia rosa), but the Spaniard was helped by other Spanish guys from other teams (Antón had been granted the Zoncolan victory…) while nobody joined Nibali. Nibali was exhausted by his lonely attack and found himself in troubles, after they reeled him back in, on the last, steeper ramps of the Fedaia/Marmolada. He was dropped but could come back in the top group thanks to the descent, even if he then paid an high price on the last climb, the hard Gardeccia. The funny thing is that without this sort of half-suicidal attack he probably would have ended up being second in GC, which would have meant being entitled the race after the clenbuterol sentence ^__^
      I also remember the very fine descent from Monte Grappa in 2010, which led to a stage victory while working as an helper for Basso, whereas in 2009 he was doing the Tour.

  16. Impressive descent is a understatement for Nibali race.
    Those of us riding a a road bike besides following races could better understand and got the creeps even more…

  17. “… the low tuck is proven aerodynamically…”

    Its use seems to be more widespread and I’ve seen it said before that it’s proven aerodynamically, but no-one ever comes up with references to controlled trials or wind tunnel testing. Anyone got a link?

    • Thanks, interesting, though as you say the analysis is not exactly in-depth. Not particularly conclusive either, given that they say they’ve also tested athletes where the super tuck is not as fast.

      Subjectively (i.e. just going by how things look from the camera bike!), some riders seem to get into what looks like a good super-tuck; for some, the reduction in frontal area seems to be offset by a much more draggy position; some seem to get into the super-tuck and find a clean position but somehow end up with more frontal area.

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