Patient Jakob Fuglsang bests George Bennett at Lombardia

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George Bennett punched first, but Jakob Fuglsang’s counter proved the stronger blow as the Dane took victory at Il Lombardia, known for 2020 as The Race Now A Few Months Before The Leaves Fall.

Fuglsang sped away on the final climb of the day, taking home his second monument, his first win at Lombardia, to become the first Danish winner at the Italian classic. Bennett crossed the line 34 seconds back, followed by Fuglsang’s young Russian teammate Aleksandr Vlasov.

Trek-Segafredo squandered a numerical advantage and finished three riders just off the podium.

How it happened

The race split earlier than usual, led by a massive effort from Deceuninck-Quick Step’s Dries Devenyns into the Madonna del Ghisallo, working for Remco Evenepoel. By 50km to go the front group was down to just seven riders.

After Evenepoel’s terrifying crash, that became six.

Three of those were from Trek-Segafredo: Vincenzo Nibali, Bauke Mollema, and Giulio Ciccone. And two from Astana: Jakob Fuglsang and Alexandr Vlasov. Alone was Jumbo-Visma’s George Bennett.

Despite the numerical advantage, Trek pulled forward with all three of its riders. It would turn out to be a grave tactical error. At the base of the penultimate climb, to Civiglio, with 19km to go, Fuglsang blasted free. Bennett followed. None of the Trek riders could.

Vlasov made his way across to the duo, but on the steepest section of the climb began to tail off, the long race showing on his face. Shoulders rolling and heaving, he dug deep and returned by the top.

With 10km to go, the three retained a lead of 14 seconds. Bennett, despite being outnumbered, continued to take occasional pulls. Vlasov took on the brunt of the responsibility for keeping the Trek duo of Mollema and Ciccone at bay. Nibali chased alone, further behind.

The final climb kicks up at 8km, and Bennett took immediate advantage. Vlasov popped off at the first acceleration.

Bennett, at this point, had only one option: Get rid of Fuglsang, the superior sprinter. Fuglsang had the advantage of Vlasov behind, but, to his credit, didn’t play the “but I’ve got a teammate” card and sit on Bennett’s wheel. He continued to pull.

The leading duo seemed to have a pact – ride hard, may the best man win.

At 6.5km, the top of the climb approaching, Bennett tried again. But it was something of a bluff, hope more than demand, and Fuglsang’s quick counter pushed out a gap almost immediately. The Astana rider continued alone.

The gap from Fuglsang to Bennett by the top of the final climb was 19 seconds. It would never close.

Fuglsang put his hands in the air for his second career monument.

Lombardia results

1 – FUGLSANG Jakob (Astana Pro Team) in 5:32:54
2 – BENNETT George (Team Jumbo-Visma) at 0:31
3 – VLASOV Aleksandr (Astana Pro Team) at 0:51
4 – MOLLEMA Bauke (Trek – Segafredo) at 1:19
5 – CICCONE Giulio (Trek – Segafredo) at 1:40
6 – NIBALI Vincenzo (Trek – Segafredo) at 3:31
7 – SCHACHMANN Maximilian (BORA – hansgrohe) at 4:31
8 – ULISSI Diego (UAE-Team Emirates) at 5:20
9 – HERMANS Ben (Israel Start-Up Nation) at 6:00
10 – VAN DER POEL Mathieu (Alpecin-Fenix) at 6:28

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