Gilbert was excellent today in the Tour of Lombardy 2010. Scarponi was very good and Nibali showed grinta; especially given that he rode and won at San Luis, Argentina way back in January.

Our pal Viktor reckons that the lead group were glad to let Lastras go to get third spot; it saved them the trouble of worrying about the sprint – maybe he’s right?

195 starters and 34 finishers says it all – cold, wet, mist, low cloud and a lot of guys keen to end their season.

We flew out on the Friday and spent the night in Bergamo – the ‘new’ town.

The old ‘Alta’ or ‘high town’ is lovely, perched on the hill top with narrow cobbled streets and beautiful old shops and bars – but we couldn’t get a room up there.

Tour of Lombardy 2010
Philippe Gilbert looked happy to be here.
Tour of Lombardy 2010
Ex. World Champ Ballan is all smiles.

Saturday dawned grey but the rain held off until Menaggio – we had hoped to see the race on the Intelvi, like we did last year but they beat us from Milano to Como where the race goes lakeside – long faces for us.

Tour of Lombardy 2010
The Start Line.

The start in Milan was cool though, mingling with the stars and catching up with old friends.

Tour of Lombardy 2010
Callum and Ernesto Colnago.

We got a nice shot of Callum with Ernesto Colnago, and a quick word with Adam Hansen – but most of our ‘regular’ guys were edgy and we left them in peace.

Tour of Lombardy 2010
One of Adam’s last races with HTC – he’ll be with Gilbert next year

Menaggio is where the race drops back down from it’s excursion to Lake Lugano, after the climb of the Intelvi.

The Intelvi is too early to impact the race outcome but it’s where the early break usually goes – and there were six clear at the top of the drop into Menaggio.

Tour of Britain winner Albasini being best known; big Diego Caccia was there too – he was away for 202 kilometres in Milan – San Remo and 185 kilometres at Lombardy.

Tour of Lombardy 2010
Local Boy Diego Caccia.

He’s a hard working boy, but then his DS at ISD, Luca Scinto isn’t a man you would wish to disappoint.

The bunch was well back and whilst the main activity seemed to be wrestling with rain capes, Lotto were vigilant, there would be no panics at the end to nail fugitives, today.

Tour of Lombardy 2010
Six Lotto riders keep an eye on things for Philippe.

The rain began in ernest here and would continue all through the day.

As the race headed north to lap the eastern leg of Lago di Como, running all the way down to Lecco before heading north to the Ghisallo, we took to the waves – the ferry to Bellagio at the foot of the Ghisallo.

The Ghisallo lies at the tip of the peninsula which juts north to separate the eastern and western legs of the lake and which gives it the distinctive ‘star’ shape.

Visibility was dire; last year we could snap away, taking plenty of good pictures of the lake, the mountains, the forests and the beautiful lake side villages – not in 2010.

Tour of Lombardy 2010
Oscar Freire chats, out the back on the Ghisallo.

Bellagio is a lovely place, touristy but in a nice way; we didn’t have time to admire it and headed straight up the Ghisallo.

It’s one tough climb.

At the top the crowd was minimal, much smaller than last year – the grim conditions didn’t help, it must be said.

We had a chat with off duty ISD pro, Aussie Simon Clarke who was on the hill with his girlfriend and Cadel Evan’s wife.

Simon lives in Varese and is Evan’s regular training partner.

He’s off to Astana for 2011 – the minute he told Sr. Scinto that he was leaving the team, that was it – no more races. We didn’t ask for a snap – the man was off duty.

Tour of Lombardy 2010
Albasini first over the summit.

First up through the murk was Albasini, then Caccia – but their time was running out.

There were a few dour faces in the group, but not Gilbert’s – he looked very sharp.

There were still maybe 80 riders at the top of the Ghisallo but those shortcuts to Como were just too tempting for many.

If you had good local knowledge and a fast car then maybe you could see the race one more time before the finish – we had neither and opted to watch the last hour in the warmth of the café at the summit.

Tour of Lombardy 2010
The warm and cosy Ghisallo café.

The finalé was brutal and Gilbert’s win epic; but this is the most beautiful of the five monuments and the lack of that glorious visual element took a lot away.

This was Gilbert’s second Lombardia, to go with two ‘Parigi-Tours’ and takes his pro roll of honour to 30 wins.

The next day the Gazzetta awarded the Belgian 9/10; given the toughness of the day and the grinta displayed by Scarponi and Nibali they’d get good marks.

Scarponi got 7.5 for his ‘going away present‘ to Diqui whilst Nibali got 6 and was told he made a ‘grave error‘ by falling off – although I think he might have worked that out for himself.

Sunshine next year? – we hope so.

Tour of Lombardy 2010
Lago di Como, beautiful, even in the rain.

Tour of Lombardy 2010 – Result

1 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 6:46:32
2 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli 0:00:12
3 Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 0:00:55
4 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Team Saxo Bank 0:01:08
5 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
6 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi 0:01:12
7 Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi 0:02:07
8 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) BMC Racing Team 0:03:01
9 Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Quick Step 0:03:25
10 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Team Katusha 0:03:50
11 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Team Katusha 0:04:24
12 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Caisse d’Epargne 0:05:13
13 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank
14 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick Step 0:05:32
15 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Team Milram 0:05:52
16 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:06:00
17 Vladimir Miholjevic (Cro) Acqua & Sapone 0:06:10
18 Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Team Katusha
19 Maciej Paterski (Pol) Liquigas-Doimo
20 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Team HTC – Columbia
21 Christopher Horner (USA) Team Radioshack
22 Guillaume Bonnafond (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:06:41
23 Jurgen Van Goolen (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:08:23
24 Serge Pauwels (Bel) Sky Professional Cycling Team 0:09:38
25 José Luis Rubiera Vigil (Spa) Team Radioshack 0:09:52
26 Ludovic Turpin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:11:50
27 Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini 0:12:30
28 Jose Rodolfo Serpa Perez (Col) Androni Giocattoli 0:12:42
29 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne 0:12:44
30 Assan Bazayev (Kaz) Astana 0:12:46
31 Thomas Peterson (USA) Garmin – Transitions
32 Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Milram 0:14:34
33 Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling Team 0:20:39
34 Aleksejs Saramotins (Lat) Team HTC – Columbia 0:21:35

Gallery