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Fate Smiles on Chaves in Lombardia

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Colombian takes thrilling monument, brilliant Rosa just misses out

Luk Benies

Esteban Chaves of Orica-Bike Exchange won't be the only person on his team or from his country who is smiling widely today as Chaves used a fast finish to come past Astana's Diego Rosa to win a truly thrilling edition of the venerable classic Il Lombardia. Chaves, returning triumphantly to Bergamo where he lived in his earliest professional days with the Colombia-Coldeportes squad, nicked Rosa in the final ten meters, after Rosa had launched one last devastating attack with 300 meters to go. Rosa came out of the final turn with a few meters on Chaves and Cannondale-Drapac's Rigoberto Uran -- the fastest sprinter of the three but who had run out of gas -- and seemed on the verge of a true shock win. But Chaves, only slightly less shocking of a potential winner, was keen to Rosa's efforts and grabbed his wheel in the nick of time, saving just enough road to come around for the narrow win.

With the victory, Colombian cycling can now claim a Monumental Classic, and the one you'd have expected them to win at that. Chaves had been a leader of the Giro d'Italia before falling to Vincenzo Nibali, but his greatness in Italy was enough to seal the deal today. He ascended and descended the race's sharp final climbs, including launching the move that led to the winning trio on Selvino climb... but with a twist. Romain Bardet of AG2R and Uran were the riders who followed Chaves up the climb and into the winning position, while everyone else, including Rosa, were left back. Rosa, for his part, had been working for Fabio Aru, wearer of the #1 dossard. When it became clear on the Selvino that Aru didn't have it, Rosa finally broke three and bridged across to form a winning quartet. Four became three, however, when Bardet attacked on the Bergamo Alta ascent to the line, a cobbled climb of up to 12% inside the final 5km. Bardet himself looked to cap off his own breakout year, but the trio were on him, and before long it was the Frenchman who paid the price and dropped back when his legs more or less exploded.

Trio on break in Lombardia Luk Benies

Photo by Luk Benies, AFP/Getty

Rosa's story deserves a bit more detail. The young/veteran (27 year old) Italian, coming off fifth place last year, swiveled between domestique duties and his own affairs, and when he was finally set free, well, he was the rider who made the race. He closed a fifty second gap to rejoin the front, and when he got there, he did more than his own pulls. He attacked in the last few km a handful of times, and seemed on the verge of a truly improbable win. But Chaves, who had also contributed to the fireworks at the end, had one last card to play. Only Uran, something of an elder statesman among the wave of Colombian greats, had little to offer at the end, and settled for his third third place finish here.

Results:

1. CHAVES RUBIO Johan Esteban OBE 06:26:36
2. ROSA Diego AST 00:00:00
3. URAN URAN Rigoberto CPT 00:00:00
4. BARDET Romain ALM 00:00:06
5. VILLELLA Davide CPT 00:01:19
6. VALVERDE BELMONTE Alejandro MOV 00:01:24
7. GESINK Robert TLJ 00:01:24
8. BARGUIL Warren TGA 00:01:24
9. DE MARCHI Alessandro BMC 00:01:24
10. LATOUR Pierre-Roger ALM 00:01:24