Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert on Saturday picked up a second Tour of Lombardy crown as the one-day specialist landed the final classic race of the season.
The Omega Pharma rider made it back to back wins after he edged out Italian Michele Scarponi by a dozen seconds after the gruelling 260 kilometre event which required seven hours in the saddle in windy, wet conditions.
Spaniard Pablo Lastras trailed in third in the ‘race of the falling leaves’
a minute off the pace with Dane Jakob Fuglsang leading in the next group of finishers ahead of Italian Tour of Spain winner Vincenzo Nibali and Spanish Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez.
Monaco-based Gilbert made it two wins in three days as Thursday he carried off the Tour of Piedmont, also for the second straight year, compensation in part for missing out on his main objective of the season, the world championships in Australia two weeks ago.
Saturday he strove from the outset to impose his superiority, explaining that “I decided I’d go out there and put the pressure on.”.
And victory was assured once he had negotiated the tough 9.5km, 6.6 percent gradient Sormano climb at the 41km to go mark.
He went on to clinch victory after a 20km flat stretch on the shores of Lake Como, leading into the final climb at San Fermo della Battagila.
“I said the descent” – a spectacular one at that into Como – “would be even tougher than the (San Fermo) climb,” said Gilbert, who had clearly done his homework.
Looking back to his Australian disappointment, Gilbert, who revealed that he had made winning the Liege-Bastogne-Liege race his chief 2011 ambition, said he had now digested that experience.
“When you give everything you can’t be disappointed for too long,” he insisted – expressing similar sentiments over an off colour showing in the Paris-Tour last week.
Liquigas all-rounder Nibali, who almost came to grief in sliding at one point on the Sormano climb, had hoped to give home fans their first classic win of the season – but instead this has been a barren vintage for the Italians.
Sanchez for his part had finished on the podium three times since 2006 but was just unable to pull off a repeat in the 104th edition of a race won by such luminaries as Fausto Coppi, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Sean Kelly.