Vincenzo Nibali has always been noted as a rider with great tactical nous, paired with descending skill. Those two talents were put to great use on the run-in to Como today, as the Italian took his second Lombardia victory in three years, on a similar course to his previous win. The style of the two victories weren’t too contrasting either, as Nibali vanquished what was, if anything, a more powerful opposition in a Monument classic that seems to suit his strengths perfectly.
No attacks, other than Nibali’s final move, really looked capable of threatening for the victory, with the early break of Lorenzo Rota, Lennard Hofstede, Jacques Janse van Rensburg, Davide Ballerini, Matthias Le Turnier and Pierpaolo De Negri being given a long leash while still in easy reach of the peloton. A couple of chase groups, notably one including Mikael Cherel and Laurens De Plus, made an effort to make the race on the Ghisallo, but by the bottom of the Muro di Sormano the peloton were only a minute behind the leaders, who grovelled their way up the steep slopes as their pursuers bayed behind, Le Turnier the last of the break to be swept up as Cherel forged ahead alone.
The cresting of the Sormano wouldn’t be the end of its drama, as De Plus, hurrying down the tricky, steep descent in pursuit of Cherel, misjudged a right-hand turn, losing the back wheel and hurtling over the metal balustrade. He did not emerge from the side of the road for some time afterwards, as medical vehicles arrived on the scene and a stretcher was prepared, a few of his teammates stopping on the side of the road the ensure his safety. Fortunately, it was revealed that the young Belgian climber has suffered no serious injuries.
Little further incident would come from the descent or the valley that followed, with the peloton swelling as they approached the decisive penultimate climb of the Civiglio. There, Thibaut Pinot attacked, all out. He quickly formed a sizeable gap as Domenico Pozzovivo, the only person to immediately react, was shelled out by his pace. Nibali was alive to the danger, however, and quickly set about bridging the gap, blowing past Pozzovivo on the way up to the Frenchman’s wheel. The two were well-matched on the ascent, but that was only half of the job to be done on the twisty, narrow Italian roads.
Pinot has recovered from the majority of his demons when going downhill, but he is no Nibali, who used his smaller frame to get into what looked like a more practiced, polished aerodynamic position than Pinot’s awkward style, pulling out a gap in the corners, which he could extend further on the flat road. As the final climb came, Nibali just kept extending his advantage as Pinot fell away, with Julian Alaphilippe sweeping past him for second place. Pinot, swept up by the chase group, contested the sprint for third, losing it to Moscon.
Nobody was close to Nibali, however. Sure of his victory upon reaching the final kilometre, lo squalo called for more noise from the crowd, raising his arms after taking an extremely assured victory. It was a champion’s victory, a classy victory. A Nibali victory.