Tour of Lombardy Men |
Tadej Pogacar wins Il Lombardia!
Van Aert outlines 2023 plans, wants to claim a 'big fish' in classics
As they entered the home straight, the Slovenian glanced over his shoulder, and opened up his sprint. It was never in doubt and he took the win by a length and a half. I don’t know if it’s easy to win a Monument, but doesn’t get easier than Pogacar made it look today.
Surprisingly, Adam Yates wins the sprint behind to round out the podium places.
1km to go: Pogacar’s got this, surely?
Easily the fastest finisher of the two.
2km to go: Homeboy with the chance of a lifetime
The road opens up and Masnada seized the opportunity to dive past Pogacar on the inside. Pogacar has no problem latching onto the Italian’s wheel.
4km to go: The race enters Bergamo
Pogacar and Masnada begin the final climb and roll onto the cobbles of the old town. It’s going to come down to one of these two. Masnada grits his teeth and fights to hang on through the animated crowds. Pogacar gives the boy from Bergamo no opportunity to go past him, but he's not able to drop the Quick Step rider either.
8km to go: Adam Yates rides alone
Not deliberately, but the momentum seemed to suddenly leak out of the chase all at once and the British rider found himself going solo. I’m not calling them bottlers but they definitely are ditherers, and their chances in this race are rapidly diminishing.
11km to go: Working on a chain gang
The riders behind know that if they don’t do it now, on the flat, the opportunity to catch the front two will evaporate. Jonas Vingegaard encourages the others with a sweep of his arms, while Alaphilppe has no responsibilities here whatsoever. Masnada wants to work but Davide Bramati shouts out of the team car at him to swiftly shut those thoughts down.
17km to go: The gap to the larger group grows
Pogacar’s advantage over the other favourites is creeping towards a minute, but at the same time, Masnada almost has him in his sights. He’s just two hairpins behind and is sure to make contact very soon. The question, raised by Dan Lloyd, is what will Masnada do when he inevitably links up with Pogacar? Sit on his wheel, or work with him? Likewise should Pogacar be prepared to allow Masnada to suck his wheel to the final kicker before the finish. There are advantages and disadvantages to all tactics. It's finally gotten fascinating.
25km to go: 45 seconds for Pog
The Roglic and Alaphilippe group have started looking at each other already and Pogacar’s lead has gone up again. Masnada’s move means Alaphilippe doesn’t have to chase, but Roglic’s team-mate Vinegaard definitely does. The reigning Tour de France champion hasn't won Il Lombardia since Bernard Hinault in 1979. Local boy Masnada, who presumably knows these roads like the back of his hand, is only 17 seconds behind him. Some fabulous-looking hairpins on this descent into Bergamo.
30km to go: Pogacar losing time over the top of the climb
He’s descending on the absolute limit. Two wobbles for him, so far.
In Dan Lloyd’s view, it all depends on how close the chasers are to him at the foot of the descent. If they’re close enough to continue working together, that could be his day done, but if he still has a reasonable gap by the time they’re riding on the flat, and the rest start looking at each other that could be the win for the Slovenian. Masnada isn't hanging around - he's on the hunt.
33km to go: 30 seconds for Pogacar
With only a couple of kilometres left of the climb, this is a seriously important point in the race. Roglic and Alaphilippe are ball-watching at this point. The latter at least has Fausto Masnada, while Roglic seems to be hanging on with team-mate Vinegaard. Also in this group are Mike Woods, David Gaudu, Alejandro Valverde, Romain Bardet and Adam Yates.
37km to go: The shark attacks
Vincenzo Nibali, two-time winner of this race, is the first of the favourites to make a move. Tadej Pogacar is not far off his wheel, before the Slovenian goes it alone. Bit of a gap to Primoz Roglic and Julian Alaphilippe. Meanwhile Remco drops away, rather vindicating my earlier assertion about him not being one of the favourites.
41km to go: It’s all going to come down to the final climb
And the descent which follows into Bergamo. The Passo di Ganda is 9.2km long, at an average of 7.3%. That’s deceptive, however, as the final 2.5km averages just under 10% and presents a real opportunity. But who for?
The bunch is still big as the race wends its way through the narrow streets of Gazzaniga. Tiesj Benoot leads them onto the early slopes, as Simon Yates says goodbye to the race for the final time.
55km to go: The bunch finally makes contact with the break
“We have one race and the fight for the Tour of Lombardy is on.” It’s Julian Alaphilippe’s team-mate Bagioli who is first to tag them out. Aggressive descending has forced mistakes, with Lutsenko (Astana) and Formolo (UAE Emirates) sliding out. Too many motorbikes are making things harder, getting in the way of riders wanting to pick their lines. Just one more climb, the Passo di Ganda, to go.
62km to go: On our way to Zambla Alta
Just about to begin descending, and it’s been very stop start so far. The break’s roughly 40 second gap isn’t really moving, and the bunch is still quite sizeable at around 50 riders. Simon Yates is back in it.
72km to go: Orrico caught from the break
While Simon Yates (Bike Exchange) is dropped by the peloton.
The gradients aren't super high at this point, but moves are coming thick and fast now, the latest being led by Pavel Sivakov. He's followed by Marc Hirschi, Romain Bardet (DSM), Fausto Masnada and Jonas Vinegaard (Jumbo Visma). Most of the big teams are represented there, which means it's up to Israel Start-up Nation, Movistar and EF to get to work.
The breakaway - "on its last legs" to borrow from Rob Hatch - has barely half a minute of advantage.
The breakaway - "on its last legs" to borrow from Rob Hatch - has barely half a minute of advantage.
79km to go: Reduce, reuse, recycle
Good lad, Chris Hamilton:
The race is nearing the top of the Dossena and the peloton is barely forty-strong, but that's still bigger than we might have expected at this point. Most of the leaders still have helpers around them. Movistar and Trek-Segafredo move to the front for the fast time, and the pace increases.
82km to go: Tao Geoghegan Hart goes it alone
Which draws out a response from Dries Devenyns, of Deceuninck Quick Step. Ineos Grenadiers have never won this race and with the strength of they’ve definitely got a good chance today.
That previous six couldn’t get organised and only survived for a couple of kilometres. Marc Hirschi of UAE Emirates was the rider responsible for bringing them back.
At the very front of the race, with a stated gap of just under two minutes, Victor Campenaerts and Tim Wellens have dropped off, as the pace and the gradient has increased. Andrea Garaosio (Bardiani) makes a move at the front.
85.4km to go: A couple of satellite moves go off the front of the bunch
Andrea Baggiolo (Deceuninck Quick-Step) follows Eddie Dunbar (Ineos Grenadiers) up the hill, before being brought back.
Then the youngest rider in the race, Ben Tulett (Alpecin Fenix), tries something, followed by Pavel Sivakob (Ineos Grenadiers), Fausto Masnada (Deceuninck Quick Step) and George Bennett (Jumbo Visma). Neilson Powless of EF joins them. Dangerous move this one, and they already have a gap.
90km to go: Onto the Dossena climb
It’s the longest stretch of ascending of the day on its own, at 11km (average 6.2%) from bottom to top, but it’s even longer than that in reality, being effectively two climbs in one. The second part comes after a brief bit of shallow descending, and takes us up to the highest point in the race, the Zambla Alta. That’s another 9.5km at a very manageable 3.3%.
"This is the last point of relaxation of the race," says Dan Lloyd. No time for trips to the car, comfort breaks etc. "It’s about to kick off," Dan predicts. (I hope.)
The big names are fighting for position, which has meant almost 45 seconds has been slashed off the break's lead on the run-in.
Mikel Landa abandons
Confirmed by our colleagues at Eurosport Spain:
109km to go: Berbenno climb completed
And the break’s advantage is down to 3:35. Pieter Serry of Deceuninck Quick Step is the main reason it’s fallen quite so fast.
ProCyclingStats tells us that Team Qhubeka NextHash are the only team with a fully international line-up today, which is to say seven riders of seven different nationalities. That none of them originates from the second largest continent does rather dispel any remaining idea that they are “Africa’s team,” but it’s a nice little tidbit.
113km to go: Orrico and Wellens slipped off the front of the break
They gapped their colleagues briefly on the descent but have since been reabsorbed. The challenging hairpins also caused a small split in the peloton and riders off the back are having to work their way back in.
We’re over the halfway point of today’s race and it’s all ticking along quite nicely. Not overly exciting so far, which actually makes a change, considering how the last few weeks of big races have unfolded.
120km to go: Bad crash for Cosnefroy
The AG2R star went down hard on the descent. We see him sitting up but battered, bruised, bloody and more than a bit bewildered. That’ll be the end of his day, sadly.
As you may be aware, Il Lombardia is unusual for the way it alternates directions in different years. Not strictly, but regularly. Last year was Bergamo to Como, with a few of the same climbs but the steeper side of them, which suits the lighter rider. This way round is better for the stronger guys. “The other way round it’s more explosive,” said Adam Yates. Certainly it makes the descents more technical and treacherous.
133km to go: 4:30 as the races passes through Roncola
The pace is being pushed on the peloton, with Koen Bouwman sharing the work with Reto Hollenstein for Jumbo Visma and Israel Start-up Nation respectively. That’s caused a number of riders to drop off the back already, including Mikel Landa. He might get back on the descent but it doesn’t look like a Landismo day.
142km to go: We’re on the second climb of the day
And it’s looking like a cagey old affair. Particularly in the peloton, the pace and power are being pushed, not quite to the limits but certainly enough to ensure the key contenders aren’t caught out of position. Half a minute has been taken off the break’s lead and we’ve only just made it onto the Roncola proper. At no point is it super steep, but with the middle six of its 9.4km averaging the better part of 10%, it's an effort they'll feel.
145km to go: Who’s going to win?
The form book points towards Primoz. His victories in the warm-up races, Milano-Torino and the Giro dell’Emilia make him a firm favourite with the pundits and the bookies.
The thing about Roglic, though, is he tends not to win when he’s supposed to. Julian Alaphilppe, in contrast, often does when he isn’t, with there being no better example than his retention of the rainbow jersey two weeks ago.
Though he wears the number 1, Julian is not even viewed as the top Deceuninck-Quick Step competitor. That honour goes to Remco Evenepoel, though to my mind the 21 year-old, at 7-2, is overpriced. Although he also claimed first price in one of the warm-up races, the Coppa Bernochi did not have the strength of field of Milano-Torino. The other really big names here are Adam Yates, who was beaten to the line by Primoz on Wednesday, and Tour de France champion, Tadej Pogacar.
If you fancied a really longshot, Ben Tulett, the youngster from Kent who is riding his last race for Alpecin-Fenix before joining Ineos Grenadiers on a three year contract, was priced at 500-1.
149km to go: Starters for ten
Our breakers consist of:
Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), Mattia Bais (Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec), Andrea Garosio (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè), Thomas Champion (Cofidis Credit Solutions), Jan Bakelants (Intermarche-Wanty Gobert Materiaux), Chris Hamilton (DSM), Victor Campenaerts (Team Qhubeka NextHash), Domen Novak (Bahrain Victorious) ,Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Trek - Segafredo), Davide Orrico (Vini Zabù).
Only a pair of proper contenders in there, but some good workers.
Benvenuti a Il Lombardia
The Giro di Lombardia, the Tour of Lombardy, the ride of the falling leaves. Whatever you choose to call it, we’re all calling it the last major race of the road cycling season.
With EF’s James Whelan our sole non-starter, 174 riders rolled out of Como an hour or so ago, on the long road around the lakes ending in Bergamo. It was a bit of a battle to get in the break, with the big target for all them being the first true climb, the iconic Madonna del Ghisallo.
It took a while to form, but eighty kilometres in we have a group of ten, just over five minutes up the road, on one of the last long stretches of vaguely level terrain across the 239km.
For most this will be the last race of the season. For several it will be the final time they will ever clip on their cleats as professional cyclists. One we know of is Dan Martin, who surprised us all two weeks ago when he announced his retirement. We'll be sorry to see him go, and will be sure to miss his presence in the peloton.
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...but before that, here is a preview of the race.
In-form Roglic the favourite for star-studded Il Lombardia
Convincing wins in the Giro dell’Emilia and Milano-Torino puts Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) at the top of the pack of favourites for Il Lombardia, the final monument of the season on Saturday. A hilly course suits the Slovenian to a tee, although the triple Vuelta a España winner may face stiff opposition from his compatriot and Tour de France nemesis Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) and a super strong Deceuninck-QuickStep team that includes the world champion Julian Alaphilippe.
In his second foray of his second stint in the rainbow bands, Frenchman Alaphilippe will surely put up more of a fight than he did on Wednesday’s Milano-Torino (where he came a lowly 25th after fading on the final climb). Although it remains to be seen which card the Belgian team play, what with Portuguese livewire Joao Almeida and Belgian tyro Remco Evenepoel also up their sleave.
A solo winner in the rain in Monday’s Coppa Bernocchi, Evenepoel returns to the race where he fractured his pelvis 14 months previously following a heavy crash on the descent of the Muro di Sormano in what was his debut Monument.
“I want to wipe out the bad memory from last year, look ahead and take revenge,” Evenepoel was quoted as saying in the Gazzetta dello Sport this week. "Together with my teammate [Julian] Alaphilippe, I hope to provide a spectacle. And I’m certain that we will."
Whether or not it’s the QuickStep duo who provide the fireworks, there is sure to be a spectacle on Saturday for the 115th edition of the race. With a fresh route, some seriously undulating roads, and a startlist to rival a Grand Tour, the season’s swansong promises to tick all the boxes. Felix Lowe takes a closer look at the race, the route and the riders gunning for glory here.
You can watch the 2021 Il Lombardia live and ad-free on the Eurosport app and Eurosport.co.uk. Download the Eurosport app for iOS and Android now. You can also watch the most comprehensive live & ad-free racing on GCN+. Go deeper and get interactive with live polls & quizzes, plus rider profiles, race updates, results & more – plus stream exclusive cycling documentaries.
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