Tadej Pogačar keeps adding monument wins to his palmares, winning his third Il Lombardia in a row. After not being able to distance everyone on Passo di Ganda, Pogačar attacked on the descent and soloed to his fifth monument victory.
UAE’s Slovenian superstar was the main favourite to win Lombardia after being victorious in 2021 and 2022, beating Fausto Masnada and Enric Mas in a sprint. Pogačar prepared for Lombardia with four Italian classics, running 2nd in Giro dell’Emilia, 3rd in Coppa Sabatini, 4th in Giro della Toscana and 5th in Tre Valli Varesine. Primož Roglič and Remco Evenepoel, who both started in La Vuelta, were the other two big contenders. Unfortunately for the Belgian champion he crashed early in the race with more than 200 km to go. Evenepoel continued but the hard crash definitely affected his race performance.
238 kilometres with 4,646 metres of climbing makes Lombardia one of the hardest one-day races of the year. The main climb this year was Passo di Ganda, where in 2021 Pogačar attacked and later was caught on the descent by Fausto Masnada. Passo di Ganda is a relatively easy climb as the average gradient of the first six kilometres are little bit above 6%, where drafting is extremely important, while the last two kilometres, where the action usually happens, average almost 9%.
Before Passo di Ganda there was a big crash in the peloton with Richard Carapaz, Esteban Chaves, Mikel Landa, Matteo Jorgenson and other strong riders going down. Before the climb Nick Schultz sitting in the peloton spent 4,483 kilojoules for 4:53h. The intensity was not that high for a monument one day race, averaging 13.50 kj/kg/h, but the legs were surely still fatigued after climbing for almost 5 hours.
Pogačar’s teammate Adam Yates attacked early on Ganda, making the pace harder and forcing Jumbo-Visma to spend their energy with Atilla Valter in pursuit. Evenepoel did not look good and was distanced quickly like in the 2021 edition.
Pogačar and Roglič both were looking at each other, while Michael Woods, Chris Harper, Adam Yates, Richard Carapaz, Aleksandr Vlasov, Simon Yates and Andrea Bagioli made the split and got a gap on the big contenders. Pogačar later bridged to the first group and dropped Roglič who was struggling. Despite Pogačar attacking, and being joined by a very strong Aleksandr Vlasov, Roglič was able to claw back the lead duo with Simon Yates and Carlos Rodriguez close to this wheel. At the crest of Passo di Ganda the best climbers were together before Pogačar attacked on the descent.
Pogačar, Vlasov, Roglič, S. Yates and Bagioli climbed Passo di Ganda in 23 minutes and 8 seconds, setting a new climbing record. In 2021 Pogačar did Passo di Ganda in 23:14 min, while the second group did it in 23:44 min. Compared to other 2023 races, the ᵉW/Kg were not high. 6.33 – 6.34 ᵉW/Kg for the riders in the first group is not anything special for 2023 standards, but it comes at the end of nearly 9 months of full gas racing for many of these riders.
Pogačar demonstrated his improved descending skills off Passo di Ganda compared to 2021, opening a significant gap over his chasers. On the flat before Colle Aperto the UAE superstar benefited from group 2 syndrome, with his rivals unable to work well together. Despite cramps in the legs he won his third Il Lombardia in a row in convincing fashion. Bagioli won the bunch sprint behind getting his biggest result in World Tour races, while Roglič in his final race in Jumbo-Visma finished 3rd, beating his future teammate Vlasov.
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