By Jonny Long published
Tadej Pogačar won his second Monument with victory at Il Lombardia, going solo with 35km still remaining, Fausto Masnada chasing back up before the Slovenian beat the Deceuninck - Quick-Step rider in a two-up sprint.
Nearly a minute later the chase group containing the likes of Primož Roglič, Alejandro Valverde, Adam Yates and Julian Alaphilippe came to the line, with Yates outsprinting Roglič for the final step on the podium.
The UAE Team Emirates leader joins Fausto Coppi, Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault in a select group of riders who have won the Tour de France and Lombardia in the same season, Pogačar having also picked up his first Monument victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège in the spring earlier this year.
How it happened
Andreas Stokbro was the third Qhubeka-NextHash rider to launch off the front soon after the start, following accelerations from Mauro Schmid and Victor Campenaerts, the latter not willing to give up just yet as more attacks went but no break formed over the opening 25km.
On the Madonna del Ghisallo a group finally began to go clear: Jan Bakelants (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Chris Hamilton (DSM) and Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Trek-Segafredo) involved in the eight-man move.
Campenaerts' refusal to quit was rewarded when he made it across along with Tim Wellens to make it 10 escaped riders, the gap going out to three minutes after the descent.
Israel Start-Up Nation took up pace-setting duties while Ag2r Citroën’s Jaakko Hanninen had a nasty crash that put him out of the race.
With 150km to go the gap was up above five minutes, the race settled for the moment, before Mikel Landa was dropped along with other riders on the Roncola climb, another Ag2r rider in Benoît Cosnefroy then crashing and looking dazed as he sat by the side of the road.
Wellens then decided to test the mettle of the breakaway, hitting out as the gap went down to around the four-minute mark.
The third climb of the day, the Berbenno, saw the peloton split into two groups, Campenaerts attacking from the breakaway as they neared the summit.
100km to go and another minute lopped off the breakaway’s advantage, Deceuninck - Quick-Step working for both Julian Alaphilippe and Remco Evenepoel.
Onto the Dossena and there was an uptick in pace in the peloton, Eddie Dunbar hitting out, softening things up for Ineos team-mate Pavel Sivakov who went over the top, Deceuninck - Quick-Step, UAE and Jumbo-Visma trying to mark moves, Fausto Masnada and George Bennett alert, before Neilson Powless also moved across, Marc Hirschi trying to bring things back.
After the Swiss rider stemmed that move Tao Geoghegan Hart hit out, the break’s gap below two minutes as the break started to fracture. Dries Devenyns and Sam Oomen were set to work for Deceuninck - Quick-Step and Jumbo-Visma as the remains of the breakaway continued to toil up the climb.
Neilson Powless then put in a duo of attacks, sweeping up Wellens and Campenaerts, Masnada chasing as Simon Yates dropped off.
Sivakov soon went once more, dragging Hirschi, Masnada, Bardet, and Vingegaard clear.
The likes of Hamilton, Bakelants and Ghebreigzabhier were still out front, barely, Deceuninck - Quick-Step bombing it down the descent of the Zamba Alta to bring the escapees back to within 15 seconds, Alexey Lutsenko and Davide Formolo both crashing.
Soon, with 55km to go, the breakaway was brought back in, EOLO-Kometa’s Lorenzo Rota then hitting out during the subsequent lull in action.
Onto the Passo di Ganda Tiesj Benoot began forcing the issue for Romain Bardet as Aleksandr Vlasov and Rigoberto Úran were dropped. Remco Evenepoel was the next to be distanced, a surprise to see one of the pre-race favourites gone this early, Thibaut Pinot also dispensed with, as Vincenzo Nibali attacked, reeled in by Rafal Majka.
The Italian wasn’t done just yet, though, with Sivakov and Tadej Pogačar following this time, as well as Bardet.
Pogačar then hit out from this newly formed quartet, going solo up the gradient, the rest falling back to the peloton from where Masnada accelerated, going off in pursuit of the Tour de France champion.
Soon, he had half a minute, as Adam Yates drew out Alaphilippe and Roglič with a little dig, bringing Masnada to heel, Roglič now looking shaky as he drifted towards the back of the group.
Masnada, Alaphilippe, Yates, Bardet, Vingegaard, Roglič, Gaudu, Valverde, Woods were the nine left in the group of favourites.
It was the world champion to launch next, set up by Masnada, although Alaphilippe’s move didn’t really stick, Pogačar still half a minute ahead over the summit, the Slovenian taking risks as he gave it everything on the descent.
Masnada then went again, sailing off the front in pursuit of the Tour de France champion, Vingegaard chasing behind as Alaphilippe could just sit on.
With 16km to go Masnada finally made contact, an impressive feat to close that gap solo, and the Italian got onto Pogačar's wheel where he stayed over the remaining kilometres.
Behind, the chase did close to within half a minute, and it looked like it would be Pogačar versus a strong group of the other pre-race favourites, but then they stalled, unable to work together, the gap fanning back out. Yates coming through to take his turn before finding himself with a gap, but he was soon brought back by the others.
Into the final kilometre and all Pogačar could do was check behind him and wait for Masnada's sprint, hoping he had the faster finish after 239km in the saddle. When Masnada finally launched in the last few hundred metres it barely troubled Pogačar, who responded and had time to sit up and celebrate as he crossed the finish line.
Il Lombardia 2021: Como to Bergamo (239km)
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, in 6-01-39
2. Fausto Masnada (Ita) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, at same time
3. Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 51 seconds
4. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at same time
5. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar
6. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck - Quick-Step
7. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
8. Romain Bardet (Fra) DSM
9. Michael Woods (Can) Israel Start-Up Nation, all at same time
10. Sergio Higuita (Col) EF Education-Nippo, at 2-25
Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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