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Good morning and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage from the Giro di Lombardia.
Hello and you join us in Bergamo for the final classic of the season, the Giro di Lombardia, a 242km race from here to Lecco. The riders are now on the line and awaiting the start. It's a fairly chilly start but given the conditions the peloton faced during last week's men's road race at the Worlds, they'll be fairly happy with the dry road.
The entire peloton will now have a minute of silence for those that lost their lives at sea off Isola dei Conigli, near Lampedusa several days ago. The news has rocked Italy.
Dry and overcast as the riders now head out for the race. Movistar's Rui Costa at the front of the peloton, resplendent in his rainbow jersey. He's opted for an all-white ensemble as it almost always the case with riders these days. I think we can squarely blame that trend on Romans Vainsteins. At least Rui Costa isn't wearing a bandanna though.
As the riders head out through the neutralized zone, it's time to scan down the start list.
Joaquim Rodriguez wears number one, having claimed the race last year in the rain. The Katusha rider will be desperate to win again having missed out on the road Worlds last week. He's also in with a chance of winning the WorldTour title, although I'm not sure how much emphasis riders actually place on such a thing these days. Basically, with Froome not starting because of a sore back, Rodriguez needs to finish first or second in order to take the title. Something tells me he'd rather race for a second Lombardi win than second place here.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) also starts among the favourites. He's another rider who missed out on the win last weekend. Arguably the strongest man in the race at the Worlds, he'll be hoping that his form lasts one more race. He has a strong Astana team with him, Brajkovic, has finished on the podium in this race.
Philippe Gilbert (BMC) is racing for the first time in trade team attire without the rainbow stripes this season. The Belgian simply didn't have the legs last week when the four leaders rode away from him on the final climb. He's a double winner of this race though (2010, and 2009). His teammate Marco Pinotti is also on the BMC roster today. This could be the Italian's last race on European soil with his retirement fast approaching. Pinotti will take up a coaching role next year with the American-registered team.
The one rider not on the start today (who had been listed) is Michal Kwiatkowski. The Omega rider has has a stellar and consistent season but no reason is known as to why he's missing from today's action. We'll try and find out for you.
Around 20km have been covered by the peloton, with no significant break clear yet.
Another rider competing in his last ever race is Dave Zabriskie. We spoke to the American back in August about his career and you can read the interview right here.
His teammate Daniel Martin also races today and the Irishman is in pretty good form after finishing in the top 12 at a race earlier in the week. He abandoned the Worlds last week but has the pedigree to do well in races of this stature, having finished on the podium here before and winning Liege-Bastogne-Liege earlier in the season. Cyclingnews' spoke to Martin last night.
Here's the correct link to the Daniel Martin story.
By the way, if like me, you sit awake at night thinking 'I wonder what Robert Gesink is going to have for breakfast tomorrow' the answer is Cocoa Puffs, as Cyclingnews learnt this morning. See, we're not afraid to ask the tough questions.
30km covered so far and the race is still all together.
The steady pace at the moment allows you to have scan through this gallery of retro/iconic images from Lombardia past. From Michele Bartoli breaking mens' and women's hearts in equal measure in his tidy world cup leader's kit to Andrea Tafi stamping on the pedals in 1996, this gallery has it all.
More favourites for today: and Rui Costa of course leads a very decent Movistar squad. Rodriguez became the first Spaniard to win this race last year by the way, and we've never had a Columbian or Portugese on the top step. Uran has finished twice on the podium though, and he does start today.
Race radio crackles through that 16 riders have jumped clear of the bunch. We'll get the blimp up to the scene as quickly as we can.
If you're looking for an outside today then how about Simon Clarke. The Australian grabbed a top ten finish in the Worlds last week and will be a protected rider for Orica GreenEdge today. With Siimon Gerrans out with injury Clarke has led the line in recent weeks.
We've seen large groups go clear in this race before but the peloton thought that 16 was too many today, and the bunch is all back together again and we've 198km to go.
Rui Costa led this race last year of course. With 14km to go he was 25 seconds clear of the pack.
Barry Ryan's excellent race preview can be found here. Inside he outlines why there's been a change of date, and race title, before picking through the main contenders for today. As for the route, he writes, "After setting out from Bergamo, the Tour of Lombardy tackles it first major obstacle, the Valico di Valcava, after 81 kilometres. From there, the race heads towards the shores of Lake Como, passing first over the Colle Brianza (126km) and then the wickedly steep Muro di Sormano (158km), re-introduced after a lengthy absence last year. While the front group reformed over the summit, the brief gaps that did open on the 1.9km-long climb’s 25% slopes were a reliable indicator of the contenders’ condition."
Ryan adds, "If conditions are wet on Sunday, the descent to Nesso is a potentially treacherous one – a crash there ended Philippe Gilbert’s challenge last year – but the final reckoning begins in earnest with the evocative Madonna del Ghisallo. When the riders ride past the chapel at the summit, they are just 46 kilometres from home, and the front group should be whittled down accordingly by the time it reaches the final climb of Villa Vergano."
"3.2km in length and with slopes of 15%, the climb is just hard enough to separate the leaders, particularly given that they arrive at its base with some 230 kilometres already in their legs. From the top, it’s a 9km drop into Lecco, the town whose dramatic positioning on the shores of Lake Como is immortalised in the opening pages of Alessandro Manzoni’s 19th century novel, I Promessi Sposi."
From the blimp we can see that a small group has broken free of the bunch. Four riders with Serge Pauwels in the mix. The lead is only a matter of seconds at the moment but this could stick.
180km to go and it looks like we might have our first early break. Serge Pauwels (Omega Pharma QuickStep), Carlos Quintero (Colombia), Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Euskaltel), and Jay Robert Thomson (MTN) have 32 seconds on the peloton.
The leaders have 1:50 on the peloton now but there are a group of six chasers with Albasini and Felline in the move.
The four leaders look set for a long day in the saddle now with the peloton intent on letting them build up an advantage. The gap has now stretched out to 3:15 with 175km to go.
The leading break are almost on the lower slopes of the Valico di Valcava, their lead still around the three minute mark.
On the climb and there's a changing of the guard at the front of the race. The break has split in two and more riders from the bunch have attacked. A couple of riders from the initial break have remained clear and we'll bring you the names of the leaders six riders in just a minute.
The leaders are now Fabio Felline (Androni-Giacatolli), Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale), Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge), Reto Hollenstein (IAM Cycling), Carlos Quintero (Colombia), and Willem Wauters (Vacansoleil-DCM) but Albasini is being distanced on the climb.
Felline is also slipping out of the break and losing contact. He and Albasini will need to do all the chasing on the long descent from the climb, but the bunch are currently at 2 minutes. The break's failure in establishing itself at this early stage doesn't bode well for their chances.
We've not mentioned them yet but Lampre also line up with a strong team in today's race. Michele Scarponi, still without a contract for next year, I believe, performed well at the Worlds last week and he along with three time winner Damiano Cunego and Pozzato also start. However, Diego Ulissi could be their best bet for victory, having won Milano-Torino earlier in the week.
The leaders are over the top of the first major climb of the day but the big news is that Peter Sagan has abandoned the race. Cannondale were set to ride for Ivan Basso today, with Sagan as a plan b. At least things are a little clearer for the team in terms of leadership now.
The peloton have also crested the top of the climb and with 150km to go the gap is only at 1:15.
Perhaps the break simply don't have the fire power to keep the bunch at bay. There are no reports of a strong headwind but the gap is now down to just one minute with 135km to go.
The break are down to just four riders as well, with only Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale), Reto Hollenstein (IAM Cycling), Carlos Quintero (Colombia), and Willem Wauters (Vacansoleil-DCM) off the front of the peloton.
Next up for the break is the Colle Brianza. It will be tough for them to keep their momentum going with the gap down to under a minute now. We could see a counter attack go clear.
Peter Sagan is joined by Andy Schleck in terms of prominent abandons so far in this year's race. Schleck came into the race having recovered from illness earlier in the week. He spoke to Cyclingnews earlier this week, stating that the Tour de France and the Classics would be his major objectives for 2014.
Juan Antonio Flecha has also climbed off. Reports are that this could have been his last race too.
"It's been an interesting 13 years. But there's a time for everybody, nothing lasts for ever, even cold November rain…."
You can read the full story on Zabriskie hanging up his wheels, right here.
120km remaining now and the peloton have let the group have a few more seconds, the lead back up to just under two minutes.
The break appear to have been caught with a sudden injection of pace from the peloton. There are around 20 riders clear of the field at the moment.
The riders are about to start the Muro di Sormano. The brutal climb and descent could act as the pefect launch pad for a fresh break to form as we close in on the final 100km of racing.
Cunego, a three time winner of this race, and Herrada are both in the split at the front of the group. De Marchi and Hollenstein are also present.
21 riders have made the lead group. We have Vicosio, Rosa, Gavazzi, Clement, Van Avermaet, De Marchi, Longo Borghini, Valencia, Hollenstein, Cunego, Herrada, Intxausti, Meier, Bakelants, Preidler and Thurau
They have a lead of one minute.
Michele Scarponi has abandoned the race due to illness. The Italian had made the podium in 2010.
The climb of the Sormano is of course insane at the top, but the 5km leading up to the wall is no joke. It averages 6.6% so your heart rate is already up there when you are presented with the 15.8% average of the last 2km.
The peloton are 3km away from the foot of the climb.
A reminder of those in the break, they have roughly a minute over the peloton:
Angel Vicioso (Katusha), Diego Rosa (Androni Giacottoli), Francesco Gavazzi (Astana), Stef Clement (Belkin), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Alessandro Di Marchi (Cannondale), Paolo Longo Borghini (Cannondale), Juan Valencia (Colombia), Reto Hollenstein (IAM Cycling), Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Jesus Herrada (Movistar), Benat Intxausti (Movistar), Christian Meier (Orica-GreenEdge), Jan Bakelants (RadioShack), Georg Priedler (Argos-Shimano), Björn Thureau (Europcar), Cesare Benedetti (NetApp-Endura), Sergio Paulinho (Saxo-Tinkoff), Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff), Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Maurits Lammertink (Vacansoleil-DCM)
A crash in the bunch and Nibali is one of those down. He's limping, blood on one of his legs.
And Nibali is out of the race. He appeared to land on the same side as his crash from the Worlds last week.
Just under 88km to go and the leaders are on the main climb. There's a brief split but they're all back together in the break now.
GreenEdge are on the front of the peloton lead the chase.
The work from Orica is paying off and the peloton is coming back to the leaders.
Bakelants is doing his best to keep the move alive though and he strings the group out.
Some rain so the roads will be tricky on the descent, especially as the pace continues to rise.
Van Avermaet is on the front of the break, clearly trying to set something up for one of teammates, perhaps Pinotti or van Garderen.
Gilbert is still in the race though and he'll be BMC leader.
All back together and Van Avermaet continues to set the pace but this time on the front of the peloton. The riders are still on the climb and it's Saxo Bank who take up the pace duties on the front.
Oliver Zaugg, who won the race two years ago is riding for Saxobank today. The Danish team has Contador, Roche and Rogers in the line up too.
This is where the gradient really starts to put pressure on the riders and Saxo Bank are setting a pace that's fast enough to keep any attacks at bay, while also thinning out the main field.
Quintana, Basso, Dan Martin are all near the front of the peloton.
The fog descents onto the peloton as they continue to climb with Saxo Bank still setting an effective pace. Uran is the latest to slip out the back of the main field, as another former podium finisher is distanced.
Quintana inches his way to the head of affairs, with a Movistar wingman at each side. Saxo have pulled off now with the peloton down to less than 50 riders.
Dan Martin and Valverde are near the front, Rodriguez, Moreno, Cunego, Visconti too. Voeckler is having to chase though, along with Cataldo. Rui Costa has been dropped, Roche and Contador too.
The leaders are over the top of the climb and onto the technical descent.
Rui Costa crests the top 32 seconds down, Contador at 55 seconds.
Valverde and Quintana have a slight gap on the descent.
The descent appears to have done more damage than the climb with the two leaders clear of only a handful of riders.
An Astana rider has linked up with the two Movistar riders at the head of the race. The rest of the main group are scattered all over the climb.
Agnoli is the Astana rider holding up his team's fortunes after Nibali crashed out of the race earlier today.
Correction, it's Gasparotto and we have Caruso and Santaromita in the lead group too.
The Katusha rider isn't work but it's up to Movistar to set the tone for this move and dictate the urgency and pace.
Quintana attacks as the pace in the lead group slows. We have 63km to go.
Jonathan Fumeaux from IAM and Patrick Facchini have both crashed on the last descent and both need medical attention.
The Cunego, Pinot led chase group aren't work well together.
Quintana has been brought back and Voeckler now joins the leaders at the front of the race.
And as soon as Voeckler makes contact he attacks the group and goes clear.
Last French winner of this race was Laurent Jalabert back in the 1990s. Voeckler has a long way to go though, with 59km and the bunch starting to formulate a chase.
The Valverde group has come back together so Voeckler is the only rider on the attack at the moment.
Wyss crashes but he's quickly back on his bike and chasing again.
As we hand over live to Susan Westemeyer. It's her final day on CN by the way so from everyone on the team, a big thanks to Susan for all her hard work over the last nine years.
Thanks, Dan. It has been quite a ride here the last nine years, and I will miss it!
They are now going up the penultimate climb of the day, the Ghisallo. It's quite steep at the start, max 14% but then has a bit of a respite after 4km. Then it kicks back up to 9.5% at the top.
Voeckler moves back to the team car for some food. He is given a gel, which he makes very clear he does not want!
By the way, Voeckler now has a 2:20 lead, with 53 km to go.
Good crowds here alongside the road, cheering the Frenchman on.
This is the sixth time Voeckler has ridden this race, but to date he has only finished once.
Former World champion Philippe gilbert is amonst those who have dropped back. It is raining by the way, and the roads are wet.
Contador has been hit by cramps and can no longer stay up with the field.
Voeckler makes his usual grimaces as he climbs here in the rain.
With 50km to go, we have a chase group of 39 riders who are 2:35 behind Voeckler.
The rain is coming down even harder now, and our Laura Weislo tells us it is "increasingly miserable at the finish."
Voeckler continues to wind his way up, while the chase group, led by Katusha, is now 2:55 back with 46.5km to go.
Voeckler finally hits the top, in the pouring rain.
The large chase group is now winding its way up to the top.
Voeckler is now speeding his way down, while the field is moving more slowly on their wa yup.
The church bells ring as the field finally gets to the mountaintop: 2:49 behind the leader.
Visconti has obviously crashed at some point. He has a number of new openings in his jersey.
With 37.6km to go, the gap is up to 3:11.
Hard to tell what is going on with the chase group, but there seems to be no agreement about the chase. Which only allows Voeckler to increase his lead.
The gap has fallen back to just under three minutes.
Katusha's Trofimov has chased the group a long time, and now has finally caught on. The group is spread out single file, as they still hope to catch Voeckler.
Cunego has been dropped by the field, and keeps trying to catch back up. It is had to believe he will be successful, though.
On the other hand, Gilbert has caught the group. It is odd to see him in the red and black BMC kit, after a year in the rainbow stripes.
Voeckler takes the sharp curves here slowly and carefully. No point in taking too many risks.
He should be finally done with this long ascent. Let's hope everyone gets down it safely.
Voeckler gets another gel from the team car. It was a very long hand-off..... And if he continues to throw the gel away after such a long hand-off, the race jury just might have something to say about it.
With 26km to go, the gap is 2:46. It is still possible for them to catch Voeckler.
Gorgeous scnery here, stone cliffs and forests, with the lake only a metre or two away.
Marcel Wyss and an AG2R rider have a problem -- missed a curve and touched the stone wall, perhaps? Nope, they crashed on the wet road.
They do not appear to be injured though.
The chase group heads into a tunnel, which fortunately is well-lit.
No doubt this is what Voeckler hopes to do later on....
The chances are looking better for the chase group, but still far from sure. With 21km to go, the gap has now dropped to 2:25.
A Saxo-Tinkoff rider -- Michael Rogers -- tries to jump from the chase group, but doesn't get away.
A race car has a word with Voeckler -- perhaps because of his long hand-holding with his team car?
He then promptly talks with his team car -- but via radio, even though it was right behind him.
The rain has picked up again and there are puddles on teh road. But the biggest news is that 17km to go, the gap has fallen to only 1:17!
Katusha continues to lead the chase, no doubt seeing now a realistic chance for Purito Rodriguez to go for the win.
World Champion Rui Costa has fallen back. But honestly, we think it is really a bit early to start talking about The Curse of the Rainbow Jersey.
The gap is now under one minute. We don't really know why it has dropped so quickly.
Voeckler is bleeding from a scrape wound on his chin. He was fussing a few minutes ago about something. Perhaps he crashed in that tunnel, which we now hear was over 2km long?
13km to go. Movistar has taken over the chase work, and with only 34 seconds' gap, they can see Voeckler.
It looks like the group has gotten smaller now, as they head up this final climb of the day.
This climb is only 500 m high and 3.28 km long. It starts out at 6.1% before reaching an average of 11.75% and a maximum of 15%.
Voeckler has pulled his radio out. Apparently he doesn't want to hear the bad news that he will soon be caught.
He peeks back over his shoulder though, to see his worst fears confirmed.
And on this final climb, with 11.4 km to go, he is caught.
AG2R is at the head of the field -- perhaps setting up an attack by Pozzovivo?
The first attacks! Pinot and Pozzovivo, but they are quickly caught.
Pozzovivo keeps trying and now manages only to pull the whole group up behind him.
Eight riders with a small gap now, including Basso, Valverde and Rodriguez.
Rodriguez attacks, as expected. He won this race last year and would also love to get revenge for losing the World championship.
He has pulled away, while the many fans on this climb cheer him on.
Gilbert is struggling to hang on to the small chase group, falling back as they hit the steepest part of the climb.
Dan Martin passes Valverde to lead the chase. Three in that group now.
8.6km to go, ad Rodriguez has a nice lead.
The third rider is Rafal Majka of Saxo-Tinkoff.
Rodriguez has only 8 seconds on the chasers.
The gap is now up to 11 seconds. It is still raining and the roads are wet.
The three chasers look to be "every man for himself", which makes it more difficult for them to catch Rodriguez.
Valverde jumps and pulls dramatically away from the other two.
Less than 3km to go now.
It is flat from here on to the finish line.
Roerigze looks back to see if anyone is in sight. But Valverde is too far back.
Last kilometer for the Katusha rider!
Around a roundabout and over a long bridge.....
One more look back, just to be sure, a few more cuves and finally he can rejoice.
He has plenty of time to raise his arms in triumph, with of course a huge smile on his fae.
Valverde takes third place, with Majka second. Martin either had a mechanical or is crahsed. He crosses the finish line almost togehter with a Belkin rider.
We think he crashed. And in fact, another rider just crasheed when he apparently slipped out on the finish line itself.
Let's get that straight. Valverde second and Majka third, of course.
Rodriguez says he was absolutely determined to win this race, and knew he had to attack on the final climb.
That makes two consecutive wins in this race for Joaquim Rodriguez, and should give him the title in WorldTour races. Perhaps that will make up a little for his bitter loss in the World championships in Florence last weekend.
The top ten:
1 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha 6:10:18
2 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:17
3 Rafal Majka (Pol) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:23
4 Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp 0:00:45
5 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:45
6 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha 0:00:55
7 Pieter Serry (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:00:55
8 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli 0:00:55
9 Ivan Santaromita (Ita) BMC Racing Team 0:00:55
10 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:00:55
Thank you for reading along today. And thank you for making my time at Cyclingnews so great!