Il Lombardia 2022: Who is riding? When is it on TV? Tadej Pogacar favourite but why no Remco Evenepoel?
With newly crowned world champion Remco Evenepoel choosing his wedding over Il Lombardia on Saturday, the door is open for the in-form Tadej Pogacar to double up. Slovenia’s Pogacar won Tre Valli Varensine mid-week and will look to end a mixed season on a high after his earlier Tour de France heartbreak. Stream Il Lombardia live on discovery+ and eurosport.co.uk
Pogacar beats Van Aert in sprint to win GP de Montreal
A clash with his wedding means the newly crowned world champion will not show off his rainbow bands in the final Monument of the season. Fresh from scooping a famous Vuelta-Worlds double, Remco Evenepoel is not willing to change the date of his nuptials to add a second Monument win to his swelling palmares this year, the Belgian having won Liege-Bastogne-Liege back in April.
Evenepoel’s absence will play into the hands of defending champion Tadej Pogacar, who did the Liege-Lombardia double himself last year either side of his second win at the Tour de France. A winner in Strade Bianche back in March and Tre Valli Varesine this week, the UAE Team Emirates leader clearly loves racing in Italy and is the form rider entering Saturday’s race.
The Slovenian will come up against a cluster of top-tier names, including compatriot Matej Mohoric, former champions Jakob Fuglsang, Bauke Mollema and Vincenzo Nibali, as well as the man who ended his reign in the yellow jersey this July, Jonas Vingegaard.
The last of cycling’s major classics this year will provide a fitting stage for the farewell of two of the sport’s long-serving stars – the Italian double champion Nibali and the Spanish veteran Alejandro Valverde, the latter a three-time runner-up (2013, 2014, 2019) of the so-called ‘Race of the Falling Leaves’ without ever standing on the top step of the podium.
WHEN IS IL LOMBARDIA?
The fifth and final Monument of the season takes place on Saturday 8 October. It is due to start at 09:10 UK time and will finish between 15:37 and 16:37 depending on the pace. There is no women’s edition of Il Lombardia.
HOW CAN I WATCH IL LOMBARDIA?
Live coverage of the race will be available on Eurosport, discovery+ and GCN+ from 08:55 to 16:25 UK time, book-ended by The Breakaway.
WHAT IS IL LOMBARDIA?
The final monument of the season earned the nickname “The Race of the Falling Leaves” because of its autumnal position in the calendar. Now known simply as Il Lombardia after a recent rebranding, it’s a race wedded to the blue coves of Lake Como and its surrounding foothills of the mountains.
Just as San Remo and Lombardia bookend the season, the two races mirror each other in their proximity to water, whether that’s the Ligurian coast or the glistening lake of Como.
According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Il Lombardia boasts “the most beautiful final 70 kilometres in world cycling”. It’s a race synonymous with one climb – and in particular the small church of Madonna del Ghisallo perched on its summit – even if the live TV images over the years have often missed this unique test, which rises above the beautiful town of Bellagio at the end of the finger jutting out into the Y-shaped lake.
“This is a unique site for Italian cyclists,” writes John Foot in his biography of Italian cycling, Pedalare! Pedalare!, “and a key climb in one of the earliest and most celebrated one-day classic races, the Giro di Lombardia.”
Madonna del Ghisallo has become a shrine to the sport, with thousands making the pilgrimage there by bike every year. They take in the sumptuous view, as well as the statues, and a nearby museum (founded by Fiorenzo Magni) dedicated to the history of cycling. An annual mass for cyclists of the past is held in the church on Christmas Eve.
While the route – most notably the start and finish points – of the Giro di Lombardia have changed over the years, the race has never turned away from the Madonna del Ghisallo, the essence of its being. In the words of Foot: “The Madonna del Ghisallo is a living monument to the memory, the popularity, the beauty and the physical effort of bike riding in Italy. A number of famous riders even got married here. The shrine symbolises the sport’s continuing hold over the popular imagination and its intimate relationship with landscape and history.”
For more on the history of Il Lombardia and the significance of the Madonna di Ghisallo climb, check out Felix Lowe’s feature on Felice Gimondi’s victory over Eddy Merckx in the 1966 edition of the race here.
Felice Gimondi and Vittorio Adorni, possibly at the Giro di Lombardia in 1966, won by Gimondi thanks to his Salavarini teammate Adorni (Photo by Blick/RDB/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
Image credit: Getty Images
WHO WON IL LOMBARDIA LAST YEAR?
Ten weeks after he won his second Tour de France, Pogacar got the better of Italy’s Fausto Masnada (Deceuninck Quick-Step) in a two-up sprint to add a second Monument to his swelling haul. The Slovenian became the first rider since Moreno Argentin in 1987 to win two Monuments in a single season, having triumphed in Liege-Bastogne-Liege in April.
Pogacar struck out on the main climb of the day, the Passo di Ganda, with an attack 35km from the finish. He was joined at the foot of the descent by Masnada, who had attacked from a chase group, and the duo combined to hold off a stellar septet of Valverde, Adam Yates, Primoz Roglic, Julian Alaphilippe, David Gaudu, Romain Bardet and Michael Woods.
The sprint was one-way traffic as Pogacar easily picked off his rival Masnada, who had closed down an earlier attack from the Slovenian on the steep ramp outside Bergamo.
Highlights: Pogacar matches Coppi and Merckx with Il Lombardia success
WHO IS RACING IL LOMBARDIA THIS YEAR?
Pogacar returns to defend his crown and will face stiff opposition from the man who stopped him from winning a third successive yellow jersey in July, the Dane Jonas Vingegaard (but not his fellow Jumbo-Visma team-mate Roglic).
Russia’s Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe), three-time Vuelta runner-up Enric Mas (Movistar) of Spain, and Colombian quartet Dani Martinez (Ineos Grenadiers), Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana-Qazaqstan), Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-EasyPost) and Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe) are down to race.
A strong French contingent includes Alaphilippe, Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic) and Bardet (Team DSM). British interests are represented by Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) but not his twin brother Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco). Fred Wright is also absent but Bahrain Victorious have sent Mikel Landa and Damiano Caruso along in support of in-form team-mate Mohoric.
Veterans Valverde (Movistar) and Nibali (Astana-Qazaqstan) make their final appearance in a Monument before retirement, while Belgians Dylan Teuns (Israel-Premier Tech) and Quinten Hermans (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) could be in the mix, along with Portugal’s Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates), Canada’s Woods (Israel-Premier Tech), the Netherlands’ Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma), Italy's Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost) and previous winners Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Fuglsang (Israel-Premier Tech).
One notable absentee initially scheduled to race is Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) who will not get the chance to make headlines for the right reasons after his World Championships controversy in Wollongong. Former champion Thibaut Pinot (both Groupama-FDJ) is also not on the start list, ditto team-mate and compatriot Gaudu.
WHAT IS THE ROUTE FOR THE 2022 EDITION?
After riding a reverse route in 2021, this year’s edition flips things round with a more traditional start in Bergamo and a finish in Como. That means the Passo di Ganda features earlier on amid a flurry of climbs that pepper the opening half of the 253km race.
Madonna di Ghisallo (8.6km at 6.2% and a maximum gradient of 14%) is crested with around 60km remaining and precedes a spiky finale that includes two ascents of the short but sharp San Fermo della Battagia (2.7km at 7.2%) either side of the challenging climb of Civiglio (4.2km at 9.7%). After the final descent there is a 1.5km flat run into the finish.
WHO WILL WIN?
It’s hard to look beyond Pogacar doubling up given his form (he won the GP Montreal last month and then Tre Valli Varesine on Wednesday), the route and his super-strong UAE team – although his Tour-mentor Vingegaard showed his good condition in the CRO Race, ditto Martinez with his win in the Coppa Sabatini.
That said, the route is a puncheur’s delight and a lot will depend on the quality of the group that goes up the road as well as the make-up of any chase group. Pogacar’s compatriot Mohoric recently showed strong legs by winning the CRO Race on the final day – perhaps he could spring a surprise and add to his Milano-Sanremo victory from the spring?
Spain’s Mas also held off Pogacar in the Giro dell’Emilia last weekend, so the Spaniard clearly has some good post-Vuelta legs – but surely he doesn’t have the attacking nous to win as big a one-day race as Il Lombardia?