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Having failed to drop his companions on the final climb, Chaves still had enough left to beat Rosa and Uran in a 3-rider sprint and claim his first monument win at Il Lombardia; Bardet and Villella completed the top 5

Photo: Sirotti








01.10.2016 @ 17:50 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange) confirmed that he is more than a grand tour rider when he claimed his first win in a monument at Il Lombardia. Having made it into a front quartet on the penultimate climb, he got rid of Romain Bardet (Ag2r) with a stinging attack on the final ascent and ultimately beat Diego Rosa (Astana) and Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale) in the sprint for the win.


Esteban Chaves may mostly been known for his grand tour skills but he has developed into a bit of a specialist in the late-season classics. Whenever he has finished the Vuelta, he has come out of the race in excellent form and that has made him one of the strongest riders at the tail end of the last few seasons.


In 2014, Chaves animated the World Championships and went on to take third at the Tour of Beijing. Last year he was maybe the strongest in Il Lombardia until cramps took him out of contention and he ended his year on a high by winning the final race of the season, the Abu Dhabi Tour.


This year Chaves has again come out of the Vuelta with all guns blazing and he firmly established himself as the favourite for Il Lombardia when he won the Giro dell’Emilia one week ago. Today he lived up to expectations by taking his first monument win in the Italian autumn classic.


The 110th edition of the race was one of the hardest yet and it turned into a race of attrition. After 14 riders had escaped on the third last climb of the day, Chaves attacked as they went over the final long climb of the day. Only Romain Bardet and Rigoberto Uran could follow and after Diego Rosa had bridged the gap, it was a quartet that would decide the race.


Chaves tried to drop his companions on the short, steep climb to Bergamo Alta with less than 5km to go but only Bardet was left behind. Hence, it came down to sprint from the front trio and here Chaves did everything right to just come around Rosa to claim the win.


After a hard race, 14 riders had gathered in front when they hit the Selvino climb with around 35km to go. Rosa, Fabio Aru (Astana), Bardet, Pierre Latour (Ag2r), Rodolfo Torres (Androni), Alessandro De Marchi (BMC), Uran, Davide Villella (Cannondale), Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep), Alejandro Valverde, Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), Chaves, Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) and Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) were still in contention. As soon as they hit the ascent, Chaves attacked and only Uran and Bardet could follow. Barguil, Rosa, Aru, Valverde and Brambilla formed a chase group but even though Rosa worked hard, they lost ground to the three leaders.


Surprisingly, no one could keep Rosa’s wheel and so the Italian took off in pursuit of the three leaders. Further back,
Villella, Torres, Latour and De Marchi rejoined the chase group.


Rosa never made the junction and so dropped back to the chase group where he continued to ride hard on the front. Impressively, he managed to escape again, this time with Torres and Villella for company. Meanwhile, Gesink and Viscoti rejoined the chasers.


Rosa dropped his companions and after a huge fight, he rejoined the three leaders just as they went over the top wig an advantage of 40 seconds. Visconti was still leading the chase and briefly dropped Brambilla who made it back on the descent. Hence, Aru, Latour, Torres, De Marchi, Villella, Brambilla, Valverde, Visconti, Barguil and Gesink hit the final 25km 45 seconds behind the front quartet.


The gap was unchanged as they hit the flat roads and even though Visconti did his best, he failed to bring the leaders back. When he swung off, the cooperation was gone and after Torres had launched a failed attack, the gap went out to more than a minute as they hit the final 10km.


Visconti returned to the front of the chase group but it was clearly over for the chasers. When the attacking started again, Torres managed to get clear but he knew that he was riding for fifth place.


Uran led the front group onto the final climb with and advantage of 1.25 and it was Rosa who launched the first attack. After a bit of hesitation, Chaves closed the gap with Bardet and Uran on his wheel and so the quartet was still together as they hit the final 4km.


Chaves took a moment to recover and then attacked as soon as they hit the steepest section. At first he didn’t get clear but as he kept riding hard, Bardet cracked from second position. Uran quickly reacted and bridged the gap to his compatriot.


The two Colombians crested the summit with a small advantage over Rosa while Bardet had lost more than 10 seconds. Further back, Gesink, Villella and Barguil had passed Torres and were joined by Valverde, Latour, Aru and De Marchi before they crested the summit.


Uran led down the descent but as he wasn’t going full gas, Rosa made it back. He took a short moment to recover and then launched a first attack with 1700m to go. However, Uran shut it down immediately and then led the group under the flamme rouge.


Uran stayed on the front until Rosa tried again with 400m to go. Again Uran was straight on his wheel and as Rosa continued to ride hard through the final turn, it looked like the Colombian had the perfect lead-out. He launched his sprint but never managed to come around the Italian and instead it was Chaves who timed everything great to just pip Rosa on the line. Bardet rolled across the line 6 seconds later and Villella made a late attack to complete the top 5. Valverde won the sprint for sixth.


With Il Lombardia done and dusted, the WorldTour and the Italian season are over. The European season continues tomorrow at the Tour de l’Eurometropole and the Tour de Vendee and during the next few weeks, there are still a few races in Belgium and France.


A brutal course

The 110th edition of Il Lombardia was held on an unusually hard course that brought the riders over 241km from Como to Bergamo. The first 56km were mainly flat and led to the famous Madonna del Ghisallo climb. Another mostly flat section only included the Colle Brianza but when the riders hit the Valcava climb after 133km of racing, all Hell broke loose. From there, the riders tackled five major climbs in quick succession, with the Selvino climb summiting just 28.3km from the finish. A long descent then led to the final 16.3km which were mainly flat apart from the small cobbled climb to Bergamo Alta that topped out with 3km to go. From there it was a downhill and flat run to the line.


As forecasted, it was cloudy and light rain fell when the riders gathered for the start in Como. Only Laurens De Plus (Etixx-QuickStep) was absent when they rolled through the neutral zone. Unsurprisingly, it was a very fast start with many attacks. The first rider to get a real gap were Gert Dockx (Lotto Soudal), Gianfranco Zilioli (Nippo - Fantini) and Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff) who had a gap of 7 seconds after 8km had of racing, but Gazprom RusVelo quickly neutralized the attempt .


Colbrelli on the attack

Etixx-QuickStep and Cofidis were very active in the next phase, but Gazprom-RusVelo controlled everything. Nonetheless, Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) managed to get a small gap but at the 18km mark he was brought back too. Lampre-Merida then took control, and so things were still together after 22km of fast riding. In the fast phase, 10 riders briefly got clear and the field began to split slightly, but after 35km no one had gone clear. In this hectic phase one of the favorites, Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale), punctured.


Colbrelli refused to give up and suddenly built up a lead of 24 seconds. Mikael Cherel (Ag2r) and Alexandr Kolobnev (Gazprom-RusVelo) took off in pursuit but they were still 33 seconds behind at the 40km mark. They were quickly caught by the peloton before Zdenek Stybar (Team Quick Step) bridged the gap to Colbrelli. Tanel Kangert (Astana), Mickael Cherel (AG2R La Mondiale), Alessandro De Marchi (BMC), Petr Vakoc (Etixx - Quick Step), Peter Kennaugh (Team Sky) and Julien Bernard (Trek - Segafredo) chased, but they were caught after 50km of racing.


Four riders get clear

Colbrelli and Stybar were caught just before Madonne del Ghisallo where Grega Bole (Nippo) and BMC were very aggressive. Astana tried to control things before Mikael Cherel (Ag2r), Rudy Molard (Cofidis), Damiano Caruso (BMC) and Stefan Denifl (IAM) finally made a big gap. The peloton slowed down and at the 63km mark the gap had grown to 1.17. When Denifl led the group over the top, the peloton followed 4.57 later.


The gap peaked at 7.28 before Moreno Moser (Cannondale) started to chase after two hours at an average speed of 44.5 km/h. The American team were soon joined by Astana, and together they had reduced the gap to 6.00 at the bottom of the Colle Brianza. After 116km, the break was just 4.19 ahead and it was still Moser who did the majority of the work.


FDJ take control

After three hours, the average speed had dropped to 42.550km/h but it did not mean that the peloton took it easy. Lampre-Merida took over the pace-setting as they approached the Valcava climb which the break hit with an advantage of around 4 minutes.


On the climb, FDJ hit the front, and especially Steve Morabito did an excellent job of reduce the size of the bunch and educe the gap to the front group. Caruso was setting a brutal pace which was too hard for Denifl as he was the first to get dropped from the break. Also Cherel lost contact, but Molard managed to follow the Italian.


Bakelants and Hardy take off

The front duo reached the top with a lead of 3.28 while Denifl was now 2.12 behind - with Cherel still in no man’s land around a minute behind. On the descent, Philippe Gilbert (BMC) attacked and he was joined by Mathias Frank (IAM). FDJ, however, continued the chase and the pair was quickly brought back.


Instead Jan Bakelants (Ag2r) and Romain Hardy (Cofidis) attacked and they reached the bottom of the descent with a small advantage over the peloton which was still led by FDJ. At the same time, Caruso and Molard managed to push their gap out to 4.15.


Movistar hit the front

On the Berbenno climb, Bakelants and Hardy passed Denifl and then caught Cherel who sacrificed himself for Bakelants. Movistar took over the pace-setting in the peloton with Dayer Quintana and Winner Anacona and they had reduced the gap to 3.45 as they crested the summit where the three chasers were still 2.50 behind.


Caruso suffered a puncture on the descent but managed to get back on the lower slopes of the Sant’Antonio climb. In fact, he dropped the Frenchman immediately and soloed towards the top.


The peloton explodes

In the peloton, Anacona emptied himself before Orica-BikeExchange took over the pace-setting with Amets Txurruka and Carlos Verona. The latter made the bunch explode and quickly brought Bakelants and Hardy back after the pair had left Verona behind.


Surprisingly, Daniel Moreno (Movistar) and Julian Alpahilippe (Etixx-QuickStep) were among the riders to suffer as Verona continued to press on. When he finally swung off, Matvey Mamykin (Katusha) used a moment of hesitation to attack and he quickly got a 30-second advantage.


The favourites make their first moves

As there was no one to take control, Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo), David De La Cruz (Etixx-QuickStep), Pierre Latour (Ag2r), Diego Rosa (Astana) and Davide Villella (Cannondale) attacked and they managed to bridge the gap to Mamykin. Further back, the peloton exploded completely in a festival of attacks. Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin), Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange), Darwin Atapuma (BMC) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r) were among the riders to try and it was total chaos as the riders crested the summit.


Caruso got to the top with an advantage of 1.25 over Molard and 2.10 over the Gesink group. The peloton was at 3.05, with Valverde, Chaves and Bardet still in between. Gesink rode aggressively on the descent but Barguil still managed to catch the chasers. As they reached the bottom, Chaves, Bardet, Rodolfo Torres (Androni), Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep), Fabio Aru (Astana, Visconti, Valverde and a few more riders also made it across.


Uran rejoins the main group

Caruso hit the third last climb with an advantage of 1.30 over Molard, 2.10 over the chase group and 3.20 over the peloton and then started the third last climb. As soon as the road ramped upwards, Latour attacked and he immediately distanced the rest of the chase group and caught Molard. De La Cruz caught the pair while Rosa started to work hard in the next group which was made up of Rosa, Aru, Bardet, Torres, Villella, Brambilla, Valverde, Visconti, Chaves, Barguil, Mamykin and Gesink.


Alessandro De Marchi (BMC) and Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale) bridged across to the chasers on the lower slopes of the climb where Rosa quickly caught Latour, Molard and De La Cruz. With 45km to go, it was also over for Caruso and together with Mamykin, he was soon distanced. Hence, it was a 16-rider group that had gathered. Further back, FDJ led the chase with Kenny Elissonde and Sebastien Reichenbach but that group was constantly losing ground.


Molard and De La Cruz were distanced as they approached the top and it was Villella and Rosa who led the group onto the descent. Brambilla used his excellent descending skills to split the group slightly and Bardet was also active. Moments later, they hit the Selvino climb where the Chaves launched the decisive move.



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