Garmin-Sharp's Dan Martin timed his late attack to perfection to win the Tour of Lombardia. The Irishman was part of a stellar break that formed on the descent of the Bergamo Alta and attacked inside the final kilometre to win ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and former world champion Rui Costa (Lampre Merida).
For Martin, who had crashed out of a number of major races this year, and even took a tumble in Lombardia 12 months ago, it was a moment to savour, with the Irishman building up enough time to lift his arms in celebration as he crossed the line.
The win signified Martin’s second Monument, adding to his Liège-Bastogne-Liège title in 2013. His win in Lombardia was just as clinical and he once again owed much to his teammates – notably Ryder Hesjedal - who buried himself in the final of the race as the peloton sought to bring back a dangerous pairing of Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEdge) and Ben Hermans (BMC Racing).
The duo was caught on the slopes of the final climb with the main contenders vying for position at the front of the bunch. It was Tim Wellens (Lotto Belisol) who took the early initiative with a daring move but he was quickly caught by a rampaging Philippe Gilbert (BMC), who led across a group contain Martin.
The Irishman was, however, able to bridge to the leaders on the descent and as Gilbert’s teammate Samuel Sanchez led the group that contained Valverde, Costa, Fabio Aru (Astana), Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge) and defending champion Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Martin ghosted to the back of the group.
Sanchez’s pace setting briefly eased as he checked back to catch Gilbert’s position, and the moment of hesitation was all Martin needed as he kicked clear.
Valverde and Gilbert exchanged glances with neither willing to sacrifice their chances. It was all Martin needed, his only obstacles remaining, the final corners before the line.
“I love this race, it’s one of my favourite races,” Martin said at the line. “To get second and crash in the last corner last year, it’s incredible to win it after all the bad luck this year. Last week I felt good and I crashed again. I believed, and the team believed, in me all the way, that the luck would change and we would get the big victory.”
In victory, Martin can look back at an overall successful of season. Second in La Flèche Wallonne may have been followed by bitterly disappointing outings in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Giro d’Italia due to crashes but he has shown dogged determination in the second half of the season, with seventh at the Vuelta a España reaffirming confidence in his Grand Tour aspirations and this Lombardia win adding to his impressive palmares.
As for Valverde, another second place this season was at least enough to give him the lead in the WorldTour rankings with just the Tour of Beijing remaining. His nearest rival, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), dropped to second after he was eliminated on the final climb.
A new start for Lombardia
A new course for one of cycling’s most established and respected races saw the peloton limber up in Como on Sunday morning. Unlike last year, the sun was out, the autumn temperatures offering the perfect send off as riders closed out their European campaigns.
Among them, Cadel Evans (BMC), who was joined at the start by his infant son for the Australian’s final race as a professional rider in Europe.
There was little time for ceremony and nostalgia as the race headed towards the Madonna del Ghisallo. In previous years the location had been positioned closer to the finish but this time around the early break had already formed as the race passed with Tiziano Dall'Antonio (Androni Giocattoli), Francesco Gavazzi (Astana), Jeremy Roy (FDJ), Jan Polanc (Lampre-Merida), Andrea Fedi (Neri Sottoli - Yellow Fluo), Sergio Paulinho (Tinkoff-Saxo), Miguel Angel Rubiano Chavez (Colombia), Paul Voss (NetApp-Endura), Angelo Pagani (Bardiani-CSF) and Mathias Brändle (IAM Cycling) building up a lead in excess of eight minutes.
With 80 kilometres of racing remaining and barely a metre of flat road between the break and the finish, the gap had been reduced to four minutes.
Remaining were a set of decisive climbs with Passo di Ganda snapping the elastic as a number of riders from the initial break began to struggle.
When the peloton reached the climb a few minutes later the whittling down in the main field began with Philip Deignan (Team Sky) among a number of riders who raised the tempo with a darting attack.
Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural), however, was the only man to make his move stick and as he effortlessly scythed through the stragglers from the early break with just Paulinho, Fedi, Chavez and Polanc remaining ahead.
Back in the bunch, a slow but important selection process had begun to take shape. A counter attack including Pieter Weening, Bauke Mollema, Ben Hermans, Jeremy Roy, Txurruka, Chavez, and Mickaël Chérel had linked up. They sat 1:50 behind the two leaders with the peloton roughly a minute back, and the Berbenno climb looming.
With Paulinho on the offensive his team was able to take a backseat as Katusha, Movistar and Omega Pharma-QuickStep set about controlling the race.
Polanc, who rode strongly in last month’s WorldTour race in Montreal, made contact with the two leaders before Hermans, Weening and Chérel made it across.
As the gradient rose on the Berbenno, Weening applied enough pressure to distance all but Hermans and as the pair descended they held a slender 13-second lead over the field.
Leopold König (NetApp-Endura) jumped from the peloton on the descent and his presence gave the break new impetus but he was distanced with a cramp – as was world champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep). Hesjedal buried himself with a huge turn on the front as the peloton approached the final climb.
Hermans and Weening were duly caught on the lower slopes, just as Wellens powered clear. Gilbert was the first to match his countryman but by the time he made contact the leaders were already approaching the descent.
Sanchez took over as the leading group raced towards the line. At the back of the group sat Martin, laying in wait for the moment to pounce. When it arrived, he leapt into action and while those around him hesitated, he demonstrated panache and timing to take the win.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin Sharp||6:25:33|
|2||Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team||0:00:01|
|3||Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida||Row 2 - Cell 2|
|4||Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Belisol||Row 3 - Cell 2|
|5||Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team||Row 4 - Cell 2|
|6||Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica Greenedge||Row 5 - Cell 2|
|7||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team||Row 6 - Cell 2|
|8||Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha||Row 7 - Cell 2|
|9||Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team||Row 8 - Cell 2|
|10||Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale||0:00:14|
|11||Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 10 - Cell 2|
|12||Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Belisol||0:00:18|
|13||Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Team Katusha||0:00:20|
|14||Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr||0:00:25|
|15||Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) Cannondale||Row 14 - Cell 2|
|16||Davide Villella (Ita) Cannondale||Row 15 - Cell 2|
|17||Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team||Row 16 - Cell 2|
|18||Tiago Machado (Por) Team NetApp - Endura||Row 17 - Cell 2|
|19||Mauro Finetto (Ita) Yellow Fluo||Row 18 - Cell 2|
|20||Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Orica Greenedge||Row 19 - Cell 2|
|21||André Cardoso (Por) Garmin Sharp||Row 20 - Cell 2|
|22||Riccardo Zoidl (Aut) Trek Factory Racing||0:00:30|
|23||Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo||0:00:31|
|24||Frank Schleck (Lux) Trek Factory Racing||0:00:42|
|25||Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team||0:00:46|
|26||Chris Anker Sörensen (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo||Row 25 - Cell 2|
|27||Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor) Belkin Pro Cycling Team||Row 26 - Cell 2|
|28||Romain Sicard (Fra) Team Europcar||Row 27 - Cell 2|
|29||Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) IAM Cycling||Row 28 - Cell 2|
|30||Angel Madrazo Ruiz (Spa) Caja Rural - Seguros RGA||Row 29 - Cell 2|
|31||Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Movistar Team||0:00:54|
|32||Edoardo Zardini (Ita) Bardiani-CSF||Row 31 - Cell 2|
|33||Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin Sharp||0:00:58|
|34||Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo||Row 33 - Cell 2|
|35||Pieter Serry (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team||0:01:05|
|36||Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Shimano||0:01:16|
|37||Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana Pro Team||0:01:21|
|38||Diego Rosa (Ita) Androni Giocattoli||0:01:27|
|39||Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC Racing Team||0:01:34|
|40||Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida||Row 39 - Cell 2|
|41||David Arroyo Duran (Spa) Caja Rural - Seguros RGA||Row 40 - Cell 2|
|42||Kristijan Durasek (Cro) Lampre-Merida||Row 41 - Cell 2|
|43||Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Shimano||Row 42 - Cell 2|
|44||Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli||0:01:44|
|45||Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Team Katusha||0:01:46|
|46||Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||0:02:06|
|47||Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Team Sky||Row 46 - Cell 2|
|48||Simon Clarke (Aus) Orica Greenedge||0:02:37|
|49||Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica Greenedge||0:02:42|
|50||Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||0:03:21|
|51||Maxime Monfort (Bel) Lotto Belisol||0:03:52|
|52||Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Team Sky||Row 51 - Cell 2|
|53||Miguel Angel Rubiano Chavez (Col) Colombia||Row 52 - Cell 2|
|54||Marco Marcato (Ita) Cannondale||Row 53 - Cell 2|
|55||Robinson Eduardo Chalapud Gomez (Col) Colombia||Row 54 - Cell 2|
|56||Jarlinson Pantano (Col) Colombia||Row 55 - Cell 2|
|57||Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Belisol||Row 56 - Cell 2|
|58||Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Bardiani-CSF||Row 57 - Cell 2|
|59||Jan Polanc (Slo) Lampre-Merida||Row 58 - Cell 2|
|60||Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing Team||0:04:02|
|61||Francesco Failli (Ita) Yellow Fluo|