I didn’t get to see a lot of Il Lombardia as it is now known, or the Tour of Lombardy as I know it. To tell the truth I forgot it was even on. I was watching the Liverpool match on my television that morning and when it ended I was thinking what to do with the day when I remembered.
The race, I thought. How long is left? Have they crossed the crucial climbs? I couldn’t find it on TV and so I was scrambling for a feed on the iPad. The kids were nearby and any use of the iPad was liable to have them circling for a turn themselves. ‘Can I watch some princess songs?’ I was bracing for that, so I stayed subtle and got the race up, always ready to switch to the phone if required.
There was still 40km left. I was okay. The first main selection had been made but the best action was still ahead. Over the next half hour or so I dipped in and out. I refreshed the feed a couple of times. I made a cup of tea. I even fed the children some breakfast. By the time it was nitty-gritty time, I had settled back in and was ready for the climax.
That came when my pre-race prediction, Romain Bardet made his move. The young Frenchman has a big monument win in him and after his second place at the Tour, is having a superb season. Following him was Esteban Chaves, anotherpre-race favourite, with and two Grand Tour podiums in 2016. Rigoberto Uran, an excellent one-day rider on this kind of terrain, also went. Their move looked decisive. Everyone looked to one another. Diego Rosa had team-mate in Fabio Aru with him, but whether Aru sensed a foil or just didn’t have the legs I wasn’t quite sure. Either way Rosa was the one to try to bridge and Aru stood pat.
Rosa put in a huge effort and he did make it across. You had to wonder for his legs though; what else could he muster? Bardet looked strong, Chaves confident, Uran experienced. None though had won a monument before. The gap was going on so one of them soon would. Into the final stretch and the short climb near the finish and against my prediction it was Bardet who cracked. Rosa made a move to try and unsettle the others but it came to nothing. It seemed like a first Colombian monument win was upon us.
Into the three-up sprint it was well poised. Chaves sat quiet; Uran looked strong. Rosa opened the sprint. It made sense. The Italian had done a lot of work, he was the tired one. Throwing it all at the line early to hope one of the two missed his wheel was worth a try. They didn’t though. Uran was onto him, but he couldn’t come round him. Was Rosa about to win this? Two Italian winners of this Italian of races, back-to-back after Vincenzo Nibali in 2015?
Don’t forget Chaves. The little Colombian on the Australian team used Uran’s wheel to come back to the early kicking Rosa. He then had enough left to put himself in the wind and come past both a fading Uran and a diminishing Rosa. The Italian held on very well for second but there was one Colombian too many. Chaves had his monument glory.
That will end the season for many riders of the Chaves/Uran ilk. Anyone who prefers climbs to sprints likely won’t show up and Qatar for the Worlds. It’s a flat course and as much suited to the climbers as this race would be to a sprinter.
And so the five monument winners of 2016 and an eclectic group indeed:
Milan-San Remo: Arnaud Démare
Tour of Flanders: Peter Sagan
Paris-Roubaix: Matthew Hayman
Liège–Bastogne–Liège: Wout Poels
Il Lombardia: Esteban Chaves
Rider of the month: September
Peter Sagan. Coming back from the Olympics and his transition to mountain biking, the Slovak picked up right where he left off. He won the GP Cycliste de Quebec, was second in Montreal, won the European road title, and took two stage wins at the Eneco Tour along with a third place in GC.
Rider of the week
Given the major race of the week was Lombardy and that Esteban Chaves became the first Colombian to win a Monument, it seems only fair he wins.