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Thibaut Pinot wins 2018 Il Lombardia after besting defending champion Nibali

Martin James
13 Oct 2018

Groupama-FdJ rider makes decisive move 20km from home but late Nibali rally sees Italian secure hard-earned second place

Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FdJ) claimed the final Monument of the year and the biggest win of his career by winning the 2018 Il Lombardia with a peerless performance over the roads of Lombardy on Saturday.

Pinot made his move on the toughest climb of the day, the Muro di Sormano, going clear in a select group but always looking the most likely winner.

Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) finished second, 32 seconds down on the winner, having had no answer to Pinot’s aggressive pace on the penultimate climb of the Civiglio inside the final 20km.

BMC’s Dylan Teuns finished third, heading in a select group of contenders 11 seconds later despite the group having briefly caught Nibali as they crested the small final climb just under 3km from the line.

The 241km ‘Race of the Falling Leaves’ was the final serious engagement of the season for most of the top contenders, and the first high-profile chance for Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) to show off his newly earned World Champion’s jersey.

Il Lombardia is the one Momument of the season that really does suit GC-style all-rounders, meaning Valverde would be closely watched and not just to admire his rainbow stripes.

So too Nibali, previous winner of all three Grand Tours and Il Lombardia last year (his second triumph in this race). Having progressively ridden himself back into form over the past couple of months after a season derailed by injury, the rider with No.1 on his bibs was eyeing victory in the season’s final Monument.

It would neatly bookend a season that looked so promising when Nibali won Milan-San Remo not far from here in the Spring.

A break of eight riders stayed clear over much of the opening half of the race, but the action started in earnest on the Muro di Sormano, a tortuous 2km stretch of average nearly 16% and peaking upwards of 25%.

Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) made a strong early move, then Nibali attacked, taking Pinot with him as he bridged across to the Slovenian. The trio continued the attacks, but once over the top they came together to form a formidable trio at the head of the race.

Behind them, Team Sky’s Egan Bernal made a move and an impressive effort on the descent of the Sormano saw him close down the gap to swell the group to four, with a dozen or so chasers around 40 seconds back, driven along by EF-Drapac’s Dani Martinez and also including the likes of Valverde, Rigoberto Uran (EF-Drapac), Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) and Nibali’s teammates Dominico Pozzovivo and Ion Izagirre.

The final big climb of the day was the Civiglio, 4.2km long at 9.7%, hitting a maximum of 14% near the top. At the summit there would be just 14.6km to the finish, much of it descending. A well timed move here and the race would be won.

With well over 200km already in his legs and having gone so early on the Sormano, Roglic was the first to make a move on the Civiglio too, but this time in the wrong direction, his earlier efforts clearly showing.

Then Bernal was blown off the back too, also paying heavily for having pushed so hard to bridge to the group in the first place just minutes earlier.

That left Pinot and Nibali in front, the two who had looked the strongest all along. But at the steepest point of the climb, just as Nibali’s head drooped slightly as the gradient bit, Pinot launched a huge attack and instantly opened a gap.

By the summit he was 20 seconds clear, and looking invincible. A strong descender, Pinot continued to open the gap, adding a crucial second or two with nearly every passing kilometre.

Bernal and Roglic had been caught by the chasers, who by now no longer counted Valverde among their number, the mercurial Spaniard perhaps finally tiring after another busy and highly successful year.

The new climb of the 1.7km Monte Olimpino was the only real obstacle remaining, averaging 5% but hitting 9% in parts – a modest test but sure to hurt the legs this late in the day.

Pinot, though, had victory in his sights, and took the climb well in his stride. Nibali, though, looked spent and with Martin in particular riding aggressively with second place now clearly up for grabs, the junction was made right at the top of the climb and with just 2.9km remaining.

But then the small group eased off, needing a breath to prepare for the final sprint for second, with Pinot clearly now beyond their reach. Nibali attacked again, catching everyone by surprise and showing his racecraft.

Within a couple of hundred metres he was well clear again in a perfectly timed attack that would easily have been the move of the day had Pinot not already earned that title with his race-winning move on the Civiglio.

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