Martin wins Il Lombardia ahead of Valverde, Costa
BERGAMO, Italy (AP) — Dan Martin put a tough year behind him as he timed his attack to perfection to win the Il Lombardia single-day cycling race Sunday.
Martin started his sprint inside the final kilometer and built up enough time to lift his arms in celebration as he crossed the line ahead of Alejandro Valverde and former world champion Rui Costa.
The Irishman had crashed out of a number of races this year including on the opening stage of the Giro d’Italia in Belfast and had also fallen on the final corner of last year’s Lombardia.
“I just love this race, it’s one of my favorite races,” Martin said. “To get second and crash in the last corner last year, it’s just incredible to win it, especially after all the bad luck this year.”
Martin clocked a time of 6 hours, 25 minutes, 33 seconds on the 260-kilometer (161.56-mile) route from Como to Bergamo, winning by a margin of one second ahead of a group that included two-time defending champion Joaquin Rodriguez, who was eighth.
There was an early break of 11 riders who led for most of the race and at one point had an advantage of over 11 minutes.
However, that gap started dropping sharply on the approach to the Passo di Ganda — at the start of the most difficult part of the course — and there was just Sergio Paulinho and Andrea Fedi left up front with 40K (25 miles) to go.
Pieter Weening and Ben Hermans took over the lead in the final 30K (19 miles) but they were caught at the foot of the final climb as Martin’s teammate Ryder Hesjedal helped power the peloton.
Tim Wellens made a move toward the top but he was quickly caught by Philippe Gilbert, with Martin closing the gap on the lead group on the descent.
Valverde, who was also second in Lombardy last year, moved into the lead of the WorldTour classification with just the Tour of Beijing remaining. The Spaniard leapfrogged 66 points ahead of Alberto Contador, who crashed in the final 250 meters and finished 34th.
“Right now, the most important thing is to see how my knee feels tonight and tomorrow morning, when the initial swelling has subsided,” Contador, said. “I will keep my eyes on Tour of Beijing and hopefully I’ll be able to compete.”
It was a bad day for world champion Michal Kwiatkowski. The Polish cyclist suffered from a bad case of cramp and finished nearly 10 minutes behing Martin.
Il Lombardia was the final European race for 2009 champion Cadel Evans, who will retire in February. The former Tour de France winner was 25th.