There were many more besides ‘the big three’ in contention for the 2023 Il Lombardia, but Tadej Pogačar was too good for the lot of them. The Slovenian national champion made a move on the penultimate climb – the Passo di Ganda, where he snagged the Strava KOM a short while ago – but it was on the descent that he made his winning attack, riding away from the Primož Roglic-led elite chase group with a little over 30 km to go. Pogačar arrived in Bergamo solo to take his third consecutive victory, as Andrea Bagioli (Soudal Quick-Step) and Roglič completed the podium.
- An early crash dented Remco Evenepoel’s quest for glory, and his elbow which was soon wrapped up by the race doctor, but the Belgian was soon back into the fold. A curiously timed acceleration from the whole Soudal Quick-Step team on the second climb of the day – still 140 km to go – might have been instigated as a form-tester for their leader, who then retreated, along with most of his team, on the descent and didn’t get involved again until much later. Evenepoel was in the mix when the favourites began to make their moves, but the bell tolled as a split opened up ahead and he was left chasing for the rest of the race.
- With the break caught and Jumbo-Visma having done most of the day’s work, Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates) was the first to attack on the Passo di Ganda, Julian Alaphilippe quick to follow. The Frenchman was soon called back to help his ailing Belgian teammate as Yates drew out an elite group of favourites that included his brother Simon (Jayco-AlUla), Pogačar, Roglič, Bagioli, Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe), Carlos Rodríguez (Ineos Grenadiers) and Richard Carapaz (EF Education-EasyPost) who’d overcome an earlier crash.
- It was Pogačar versus Roglič on the upper half of the climb as those around them attempted make something of the day. At one point, both the Slovenians found themselves in a second group which had kept its powder dry among the constant attacks, but after some drawn out cat-and-mouse, Pogačar took his chance to bridge up to the front, then attacked again just as Roglič regained contact a few moments later. An impressive Vlasov was quick to respond, and the group was together again over the top. There was no let-up though, and Pogačar could be seen assessing his rivals’ determination as the descent began, then he looked back for the last time and settled into the downhill run that he is getting to know rather well now.
- There was a moment of doubt for Pogačar with 12 km to go when the two-time winner appeared to suffer cramp in one or both legs, but his lead and the lack of cohesion in the chase group helped the Slovenian keep and even build his advantage between there and the finish. He hoped to arrive in Bergamo solo and he made it happen, winning his second Monument of the season by 52 seconds.
- It wasn’t just the bragging rights of Monument victory up for grabs for UAE Team Emirates and Jumbo-Visma. Both teams have made known their interest in topping the UCI team rankings for 2023, and though the Dutch squad has won all three Grand Tours, even their unparalleled dominance at the Vuelta didn’t enable them to pull ahead of UAE. This might go some way to explain why they’ve sent such big squads to recent relatively small races – Wout van Aert’s debut appearances at the 1.Pro Italian semi-classics last week, for instance, his only second-tier one-days of the season. Before ‘The Race of the Falling Leaves’, UAE sat on 28,717 points, 258 ahead of Jumbo-Visma (28,459), but as Il Lombardia entered its final act, it soon became clear that UAE Team Emirates would remain in top spot as Roglič sagged and Pogačar soloed away to take the pot of gold, Adam Yates also collecting a good dollop of points with sixth.
Il Lombardia was the last race of Thibaut Pinot’s career, and the organisers of the race he won in 2018 marked the occasion with a thoughtful gift.
The beloved Frenchman had a huge cohort of fans at his last race.
The Soudal Quick-Step bus looked like a happy place in Como, the team undoubtedly relieved that their future is no longer in doubt (at time of writing). That said, the rumours still circle Evenepoel who said cryptically “I am focusing on the race first, you will see the rest next week” in answer to questions over his future at the start. The drama is not over yet …
Cillian Kelly was, as ever, ready with the stats pre-race …
And he did.
- The elite women’s gravel World Champs was another high-profile bike race happening in Italy today, but it took place under a shroud of controversy after the UCI withdrew provision of any live coverage, though the elite men’s race will still be broadcast live on Sunday. Abby Mickey explains what it means and why it’s so damaging.
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