Oliver Zaugg of Leopard Trek this afternoon won his first ever professional race, and what a race it was to win - the year's last Monument, the Giro di Lombardia. The 30-year-old Swiss rider had attacked on the day's final climb from a select group of riders that were preparing to contest the finale, and managed to hang on during the descent and run in to Lecco to win by 8 seconds from Garmin-Cervelo's Dan Martin, with Joaquin Rodriguez of Katusha third.
You’d have got very short odds at the beginning of this season on a Swiss rider from Leopard Trek winning a Monument, but not on it being Zaugg, rather than team mate and compatriot Fabian Cancellara. The latter was destined to be the nearly-man of 2011, coming second in Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix and third in the Tour of Flanders, and also lost his world time trial championship crown to Tony Martin.
Today, in the closest of the classics to his homeland, often visible as the race headed up into the mountains that loom over Lake Como, Zaugg had sprinted away from a select group approaching the summit of the final climb, the Salita di Ello, and at one point on the twisting descent had built a lead of 20 seconds.
With the road levelling out in the final 3 kilometres to the finish in Lecco, however, and the riders behind him working well together to try and reel him in, the 30-year-old’s advantage had been halved to 10 seconds as he passed under the flamme rouge.
Somehow, though, Zaugg managed to dig in and maintain his advantage to win the 105th edition of the Italian classic, which will be moved forward in the calendar by a fortnight next season and thereby lose some of the mystique attached to its nickname of the race of the falling leaves.
Some 40 kilometres into the 241 kilometre race which began this morning in Milan, a group of six riders managed to get away from the peloton, including Paris-Roubaix winner Johan Van Summeren of Garmin-Cervelo, Europcar’s Yukiya Arashiro, Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Mikel Astarloza.
By the time the escapees crested the day’s second big climb, the Colma di Sormano with around 80 kilometres left, those three had dropped their companions in the break, a trio of riders from Italian teams, Androni Giocattoli’s Omar Bertazzo, Andrea Pasqualon of Colnago-CSF Inox and Acqua & Sapone’s Claudio Corioni.
The three remaining escapees were caught however ahead of the climb to the Madonna del Ghisallo as a series of attacks caused the peloton to splinter behind them, with Philippe Gilbert, winner of the last two editions of the race, and Italian champion Giovanni Visconti, both prominent.
It was another of the pre race favourites, Liquigas Cannondale’s Vincenzo Nibali, who managed to break clear to lead the race past the famous chapel and over the summit of the climb.
At one point, the 2010 Vuelta winner, who has had a difficult season, had a lead of nearly two minutes, but with Team Sky leading the chase, the Sicilian was caught ahead of the final climb, the Salita di Ello.
Approaching the top of the ascent, with the front of the race whittled down to a select group including Gilbert, Ivan Basso and Dan Martin, it was Zaugg went on the attack in what proved to be the day's decisive move, cresting the summit with a clear advantage as the riders behind him got strung out down the road, his margin of victory meaning he had plenty of time to savour the biggest moment in his eight years as a professional.
Giro di Lombardia 2011 result 1 ZAUGG Oliver LEOPARD TREK 6:20:02 2 MARTIN Daniel TEAM GARMIN-CERVELO +8 3 RODRIGUEZ Joaquin KATUSHA TEAM +8 4 BASSO Ivan LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE +8 5 NIEMIEC Przemyslaw LAMPRE - ISD +8 6 POZZOVIVO Domenico COLNAGO - CSF INOX +8 7 VISCONTI Giovanni FARNESE VINI - NERI SOTTOLI +15 8 GILBERT Philippe OMEGA PHARMA-LOTTO +15 9 BETANCUR Carlos ACQUA & SAPONE +15 10 CHIARINI Riccardo ANDRONI GIOCATTOLI - C.I.P.I +15 11 PAOLINI Luca KATUSHA +27 12 VAN AVERMAET Greg BMC RACING +27 13 CATALDO Dario QUICKSTEP +27 14 STETINA Peter GARMIN - CERVELO +27 15 ANTON Igor EUSKALETL – EUSKADI +27 16 ROCHE Nicholas AG2R LA MONDIALE +27 17 MORENO Daniel KATUSHA +27 18 PAURIOL Rémi FDJ +27 19 URAN Rigoberto SKY PROCYCLING +27 20 LOVKVIST Thomas SKY PROCYCLING +27
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.