Bauke Mollema says that his rivals underestimating him may have helped him secure his first Monument, after taking Il Lombardia following an 18km solo ride to the finish line.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Pierre Latour (Ag2r La Mondiale) had launched big attacks to soften the group of favourites before Mollema slipped off the front and quickly opened up an advantage.
“I knew I had to go because when the guys were attacking on the Civiglio they were more explosive than me,” Mollema said after his win. “So when they slowed down I knew it was my moment to go and I can always keep going.”
The 32-year-old had one final climb to negotiate, the San Fermo della Battaglia, managing to maintain his advantage as the other riders behind failed to get organised in their pursuit of the Dutchman.
“When I had 20 seconds I knew I had a chance, I know the downhill really well and I knew they weren’t going faster than me over there. And then the last 10km was just full gas all the time,” Mollema said.
In his post-race interview, Mollema was also asked whether he was allowed to go up the road in the closing kilometres because his rivals underestimated him. He replied: “Maybe, I wasn’t one of the biggest favourites for this race, I felt really good in the last few weeks and I was waiting for my moment and luckily it was today.”
Valverde sealed his third second place in Il Lombardia (as well as his third second place in Italy this week) 16 seconds after Mollema crossed the line, beating Egan Bernal (Ineos) in the sprint with Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) fourth.
The 2019 Tour de France winner secured his first ever Monument podium and Bernal was content with this result, having already won Gran Piemonte two days previously.
“In the morning I was thinking about just doing my best but being on the podium is something really big for me,” Bernal said. “This is my first Monument podium so I’m really happy with my performance.”
When asked whether he had any regrets at having come close to sealing what could have been a first Monument victory, Bernal replied: “Mollema was really strong, when he went on the climb he made a big gap and in the end he was the strongest.
“I would like to win a Monument one day but it’s difficult to stay in the front. I will improve more and I’m just 22 years old so this [result today] is something big for me.”