Gianluca Brambilla finished 12th, after struggling with stomach problems in the last 30 kilometers.
The eight ascents and 4400 climbing meters of the 110th Il Lombardia meant that it took until the iconic Madonna del Ghisallo for the break of the day to form, and when it happened, only four riders made it to the front, enjoying a maximum advantage of seven minutes. On the second hill of the race (Colle Brianza), the gap already began to come down, as several teams joined their efforts in a chase which saw the bunch explode long before the new additions to the final Monument of the year.
Once the escapees got caught, three riders went clear on a descent, David De La Cruz being in that group which tried to put pressure on the chasers. After the catch was made, Il Lombardia continued to be an action-packed race, and David went one more time, but again the severely reduced peloton came back.
At the bottom of Miragolo San Salvatore (8.7 kilometers, 7% average gradient), the race was in pieces, as only 16 riders were left at the front, including David and Gianluca Brambilla, 10th at the previous edition of "The Classic of the Falling Leaves". Despite several attempts, the group stayed together until Selvino, where an attack of Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange) saw Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac), Romain Bardet (AG2R) and Diego Rosa (Astana) respond and build a gap of 40 seconds by the time they crested the ascent.
On Bergamo Alta (1700 meters, 7.9% average gradient) – a climb which included a challenging cobbled section – Rosa put the hammer down and dropped Bardet, but not the two Colombians, who glued themselves to his wheel. In the end, the winner was decided from a three-up sprint, and it was Chaves who took the spoils, ahead of Rosa and Uran.
Gianluca Brambilla, who was riding Il Lombardia for the seventh time in a row, concluded the race in 12th position, a remarkable result considering he was hit by stomach problems on the 6.9-km long Servino. At that point, the 29-year-old Italian was part of the strong chasing group which was just 30 seconds behind, but couldn't hang in anymore and rolled over the line two minutes later, completely empty after his huge effort.
"On the downhill before Servino I led the way in the elite group and I was feeling ready for the final part of the race, but suddenly I had this stomach problem and couldn't ride so smooth in the last kilometers, as every turn of the pedal made me suffer. For that reason, it became a matter of surviving until the finish, and to come 12th in these conditions makes me happy", explained Gianluca, who put an end to his successful season (three victories and 14 top-10 placings) at Il Lombardia.
"We were prepared and motivated for today. Our team worked hard and did a great job to deliver Gianluca in a good position for the finale", said sport director Davide Bramati, who followed the Etixx – Quick-Step riders from the car. "Going into the last hour, it was obvious that everybody was cooked, due to the tough course and intense racing. Unfortunately, Il Lombardia was over for Gianluca with 30 kilometers to go because of those stomach problems. We came close to a good result and it's a pity for what happened, but we must take things as they are and keep our confidence and motivation for our next appointments."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele