Just two days after experiencing sweltering heat at Strade Bianche, Basque rider Gorka Izagirre (Astana Pro Team) again raced in adverse weather—this time soloing to victory at another Italian classic, the Grande Trittico Lombardo, in a torrential downpour. “It was a wet day, but it was a beautiful one too,” Izagirre said. “It was a really hard race and this final circuit is very difficult. We had a small group get away and I managed to get a gap and then I was able to stay away alone.”
Normally, the Trittico Lombardo is a three-day event comprising three races—the Tre Valli Varesine, Coppa Ugo Agostoni and Coppa Bernocchi—with an overall winner crowned based on lowest accrued time. But due to time constraints from the pandemic-abbreviated race calendar, organizers combined the events into the single-day Grande Trittico Lombardo, combining portions of all three races, including the eventful final circuit in Varese.
After departing from Legnano, the 200-kilometer race entered Varese for the four-lap finishing circuit—similar to the one used at the 2008 world road championships. By the final lap, with 13 kilometers to go, a select group of 12 had formed, including star riders Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team), Michal Kwiatkowski (Team INEOS) and Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo), along with Izagirre and his fellow Basque teammate Alex Aranburu.
Izagirre attacked at the top of the Montello climb on the final lap and quickly opened a gap. With the other riders marking each other, Izagirre managed to extend his lead to over 30 seconds. “In the last lap we rode a very fast pace,” Nibali said. “In one of the few calm moments, Izagirre made his strong attack. There was little agreement in the chasers’ group and the advantage increased quickly. On the last climb (the Ronchi), I tried to attack a couple of times, but I was too controlled to go alone.”
Izagirre held onto his half-minute gap all the way to the final straight. His Giordana race kit completely soaked through, sunglasses docked in his helmet and water droplets streaming off his body, the Astana rider raised his arms for an extended victory salute with no one else in sight. Aranburu out-sprinted the group some 27 seconds later to take second, with Van Avermaet rounding out the podium.
“After [Izagirre’s] attack, I sat in the group…but they were not able to close the gap,” Aranburu said. “I saved energy for the sprint and was able to finish second. Gorka and I started at the same cycling club back home in the Basque Country, so for me, it’s very special to share the podium with him today.”
For the podium ceremony, the two teammates dawned masks and changed into fresh, dry Giordana long-sleeve jerseys to accept their trophies and well-earned bottles of champagne. Congratulatory elbow bumps with the race organizers replaced traditional handshakes.
The restarted European race calendar is just days old, but we have already been treated to memorable racing and new twists on familiar events.