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Hello and welcome to our live coverage from the Tour of Lombardy.
We have 91 km left to race in the race of the falling leaves. The rain has battered the peloton in the first few hours of racing but we have a break up the road, with a 2;40 advantage over the peloton:
Romain Bardet (AG2R), Emanuele Sella (Androni), Steve Morabito (BMC), Stefano Locatelli (Colnago), Johan Esteban Chaves (COL), ,Alberto Losada (Katusha), Cristiano Salerno (Liquigas), Tom Jelte Slagter (Rabobank), Nicki Sörensen (Saxobank)
Federico Rocchetti (Utensilnord Named)
And the break are now on the Sormano climb with their lead down to 1:14.
And the break are now on the Sormano climb with their lead down to 1:14.
Salerno is doing the majority of the work at the front of the break
The largest foreign media presence at the Tour of Lombardy is the sizeable Belgian delegation, who dutifully camped outside the BMC bus at the start in wait for newly-crowned world champion Philippe Gilbert, who debuts his new rainbow jersey today.
“It’s a beautiful jersey and a beautiful race, I’m very motivated today,” Gilbert said. “It’s going to be interesting with the rain. I think that the race could be won and lost on the descents.”
Michele Bartoli, winner of the Tour of Lombardy in 2002 and 2003, never raced up the Muro di Sormano but he tested the climb for himself recently. “It’s a place where the selection will come naturally. There won’t be any accelerations, it will just be one big, long effort and you have to be ready to hurt yourself.”
Back in the bunch and BMC are controlling the pace with Gilbert sitting in second wheel. The race has been billed as a battle between Gilbert and the in-form Contador but there are a stream of big names in this year's race including Basso, Nibali, Hesjedal, Rodriguez and last year's defending champion Zaugg.
As the gradient kicks in the break has started to splinter on the climb with three riders creating a small gap.
BMC, meanwhile, continue to set the pace on the front of the bunch, with Contador sitting a little further back. With the poor weather and tired legs this is a vastly reduced bunch. Perhaps 40-50 riders make up the pack.
Vincenzo Nibali makes his final appearance for Liquigas-Cannondale today before setting off for pastures new at Astana in 2013. On the podium at both Milan-San Remo and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, he is chasing his first classic victory in Lombardy.
Nibali crashed out of contention on the descent of the Colma di Sormano in 2010, while his do or die attack on the Ghisallo twelve months ago was snuffed out before the finale. Might it be third time lucky this afternoon?
“My sensations are good, but not great,” Nibali said before the off. “Lombardy is very hard and there are some big riders here like Alberto Contador and Philippe Gilbert. My season’s been very long, from January to now, so I’ll just see how I go. There are other riders here who haven’t done as much early on and have been going very well in the later part of the season.
An attack from the peloton from Euskaltel.
The break is down to four men with :Romain Bardet (AG2R), Steve Morabito (BMC), Stefano, Alberto Losada (Katusha), Cristiano Salerno (Liquigas) and they've started the wet descent now.
It's just a brief subjection to downhill roads as the tarmac kicks up again.
Romain Bardet (AG2R) and Alberto Losada (Katusha) are clear.
Nibali takes up the pace and leads the bunch passed the lone Euskaltel rider. Contador then takes over and sets the pace on the climb.
The in-form Uran is there, along with a handful of other riders, but there's no sign yet of Gilbert.
The two leaders have 25 seconds on the Contador/Nibali led peloton.
Fresh from taking his first-ever win in a one-day race at Milano-Torino on Wednesday, Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) lines up among the favourites for victory at the Tour of Lombardy, less than two months after returning from suspension.
“It’s a hard race, a very hard race and I’m not really used to riding these kind of classics,” said Contador, who was reluctant to be drawn on whether he will be back to Italy for the Giro d’Italia next May. “I’ll be at the presentation tomorrow, but I still haven’t decided on my programme for next year. I’ll decide with the team after my holidays.”
And Rodriguez is also in the main chase group that contains amongst others, Nibali, Contador and Uran.
With Gilbert dropped, but remember there's still a long way to go, Rodriguez is hoping to distance the world champion for good in this race. Basso is actually leading the Gilbert group, which is strange as they have Nibali in the move.
Bardet is on his own as he tackles the descent. With a number of tricky wet corners the Frenchman isn't taking any risks whatsoever.
Gilbert has apparently crashed and abandoned the race. We've not seen footage yet but he was attempting to chase down a dangerous group including Contador and Nibali.
Contador, Basso and Nibali are chatting on the front of the bunch and it looks as though they're slowing the peloton down.
The gap to the lone leader is at 1:03
So the Contador, Nibali group has been neutralized, with just Bardet alone and on the attack. With 64km to go he has a lead of 1:04.
A race motobike has crashed on the descent too.
After Rodriguez show of strength on the last climb, Katusha have put a man on the front of the bunch as they look to contain Bardet.
This year’s Tour of Lombardy began in Bergamo as a nod to the 70th birthday of Felice Gimondi, and the triple Giro d’Italia winner tipped Alberto Contador to triumph in Lecco this afternoon.
“He’s a rider who excites the people,” Gimondi said. “He reminds of the kind of Spanish riders I used to come up against in my time. Last year, he was very impressive at the Tour de France. He cracked on the Galibier but the next day he was straight back up and on the attack on the road to l’Alpe d’Huez.”
60km to race and the race so far has been a process of elimination: First with the riders who abandoned at the feed today, then on the last climb when the peloton imploded after Contador and Nibali increased the pressure on the front. There were a number of crashes on the descent, with Gilbert to most notable to abandon.
The next and penultimate climb will be the Ghisallo. Bardet, with a 58 second gap, is on the lower slopes now.
Hesjedal hits the front as soon as the bunch hit the climb. Cunego is also in this Contador group, the Italian a multiple winner if this race.
Contador is looking slightly isolated this the lead group, while Nibali and Rodriquez both have several teammates with them.
Still on the climb and Bardet's lead is down to 20 seconds with 53km to go.
Tiralongo is here. So that's one teammate for Contador then.
Badret has just 10 seconds on the fast-approaching Katusha-led peloton.
Daniel Martin, who was on the podium last year, is suffering this time around, dangling just off the back of the peloton.
And with 51km to go the catch has been made.
Kevin De Weert attacks for the second time in the race.
Kevin De Weert continues to lead the bunch and has moved 56 seconds clear with 46km to go.
On the descent of the climb with Katusha continuing to take responsibility for the race.
Over 30km before the final climb to Villa Vergano starts. Tricky descent soon then wider roads on the flat. De Weert leads by 38 seconds.
@inrng Sat, 29th Sep 2012 15:15:22
Ten Dam shaved his beard prior to today's start. Seems it's grown back already. *chuckle*
@UCI_Overlord Sat, 29th Sep 2012 15:26:54
34km to go for the Omega leader. The select group eases up slightly. Di Luca is still there by the way.
Samuel Sanchez is also in the main group, with a couple of Euskaltel teammates should he need them.
Tiralongo and Mollema are down. A Liquigas rider too. It's Nibali.
Nibali crashed in this race two years ago as well.
The Italian is back up and chasing, alone, on the descent.
Kevin De Weert comes down on a corner as well. His bike just slid out from under him.
Again, he's back up but the bunch are about to close the gap with 30km to go.
Nibali is 54 seconds back, so his race may be over. Basso is still there for Liquigas.
Costa from Movistar has attacked.
25km to go for Rui Costa.
Nibali as made it back to the Basso group after a quick chase on the descent of the last climb. The pair are currently chatting tactics.
Mikel Nieve has jumped out from the bunch as Movistar and Euskaltel try and position riders before the final climb of the day.
11 seconds or Rui Costa but Mikel Nieve is about to be caught.
Losada, who was in the earlier break, continues to set the pace on the front of the main group. He's been outstanding today in terms of work rate.
Looks like Ryduuuuuuuuurrr is having a good ride today in Lombardia.
@Vaughters Sat, 29th Sep 2012 15:41:57
21km to go for Rui Costa.
Contador has taken off his glasses and rides up alongside Samuel Sanchez.
Martin, Hesjedal both still here for Garmin, Di Luca, Rodriguez, Zaugg, Nibali, Basso, Cunego and Quintana are all still here. Uran too with a couple of teammates.
20 seconds for Rui Costa with 17km to go. This last climb is going to be the battleground for the win.
Rui Costa's lead is now 30 seconds.
It's now Sky and Lampre on the front of the peloton.
14km to go and Rui Costa leads by 22s. Lampre and Sky chasing. The final climb starts very soon, he could easily be caught on Villa Vergano
@inrng Sat, 29th Sep 2012 15:52:41
It's all about positioning as the riders left in the race move to the front and try and get the best line into the final climb. The rain begins to come down a little harder.
Costa has been caught.
Kessiakoff moves up with Tiralongo for Astana.
Two attacks, one from Vacansoleil and the other from Euskaltel.
Marcato is the rider from the Dutch team. And Kolobnev attacks for Katusha.
Hesjedal is bringing it all back together for Martin on the climb.
Kolobnev and Verdugo are still clear though.
As Contador rides in second wheel in the bunch.
Apologies. The rain is so heavy that we have no way of getting information from the race.
But at the top Rodriguez is alone.
It looked like he only had a small gap from what we could see.
Rodriguez is leading. Uran is chasing him down.
8km to go and Rodriguez is clear and alone. He's stretched his lead over Uran, Contador, Henao and one other rider.
It's up to Sky to chase Rodriguez down.
Quintana and a BMC have joined the chase group.
The lone Katusha rider has 15 seconds.
And both Sky riders are leading the chase with Contador struggling to keep up. And Zaugg has made it to the chase group too.
Santambrogio is the BMC rider in the mix.
Rodriguez has just 7 seconds with the descent about to begin.
No Spaniard has ever won this race. Can Rodriguez hang on?
And Kessiakoff joins the chase.
Just 4km to go for Rodriguez.
It's a flat run in, Rodriguez versus a chase of around 8 riders. Can he hang on?
Hesjedal and Sanchez join the chase but I'm not sure they're going to catch Rodriguez.
Only 1.6km to go.
10 seconds for the leader. The win is in the bag.
Here he comes, one last corner to go.
Rodriguez takes the win, the first win for Spain in the race, and the rider will now finish the season as the world number 1.
Contador and Sanchez both approach the winner and give him a pat on the back. The Katusha leader was simply the best rider on the day.
Sanchez took second, with Uran grabbing third on the line.
1 Joaquím Rodríguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team 6:36:27
2 Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:00:09
3 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:00:09
4 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) BMC Racing Team 0:00:09
5 Sergio Henao Montoya (Col) Sky Procycling 0:00:09
6 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp 0:00:09
7 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:00:09
8 Oliver Zaugg (Swi) Radioshack-Nissan 0:00:09
9 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank 0:00:09
10 Fredrik Carl Wilhelm Kessiakoff (Swe) Astana 0:00:09