The peloton at Il Lombardia in 2020.

Preview: What you need to know about Il Lombardia, the final Monument of the year

Tadej Pogačar, Primož Roglič, Julian Alaphilippe, and Remco Evenepoel are just a few of the stars set to contest the last Monument of 2021.

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Less than a week after Paris-Roubaix, the flattest Monument on the calendar, many of the peloton’s top climbers will have their chance to do battle in the final Monument of the 2021 season: Il Lombardia.

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), and Julian Alaphilippe and Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep) are among the many stars that will be in attendance on the scenic roads around Lake Como on Saturday. An updated course should provide them with a great stage to put on a show, one that will be the culmination of the series of one-day races that has seen big names racing in Italy over the course of the past week.

Here’s what you need to know about Il Lombardia, which will bring down the curtain on the men’s WorldTour calendar for 2021.

The Route

After four straight editions of the race that traveled from Bergamo to Como, this year’s event is reversing direction and will thus start in Como and finish in Bergamo for the first time since 2016. Along the way, the 239 km race will feature a total vertical gain of over 4,400. In other words, the climbers will like their chances as much as ever this year. That said, whoever wins this race will need to be capable at going downhill as well as uphill, considering all the descending on tap, and it’s possible that a sprint could come in handy too.

After the race leaves Como, riders will cover some gentle terrain before hitting the slopes of the iconic Madonna del Ghisallo. After a descent, the peloton will race on flat roads for a time before a short kick to Caprino Bergamasco, and then a much longer climb to Roncola. The ensuing descent crosses over the midpoint of the race and leads into a punchy climb Berbenno climb. From there, it’s another descent and a brief respite before a series of climbing challenges likely to decide race.

First up is a stair-step stretch of racing that first covers 11 km at 6.2% on its way to Dossena and then features a descent, a punchy upward kick, a brief downhill run, a gradual incline, and then a steep final push to Zambla Alta. From the top, there will still be 63.7 km of ground to cover en route to the finish, making it unlikely for a race-winning move to go here, but the collection of challenges is sure to whittle down the pack, at the very least.

After a descent comes the Passo di Ganda, which is likely to see big attacks fly. The ascent is 9.2 km in length and averages 7.3%, with a double digit section near the top, making it one of the hardest individual climbs that riders will have faced in a WorldTour one-day race all year long.

Descending skills will come in handy on the long downhill run that follows from there, and then riders will have to get up and over the very short but punchy Colle Aperto before the finish in Bergamo, which could potentially come down to a very select group if a solo attacker is unable to stay clear.

The Favorites

There will be no shortage of climbing stars on hand to contest the final Monument and final WorldTour race of the 2021 season, and the very biggest of those stars will be the top favorites to take the win and succeed last year’s winner Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) – who isn’t racing due to a collarbone fracture – as the Lombardia champ.

Primož Roglič wins Milano-Torino.

Primoz Roglič heads into Il Lombardia blazing hot coming off of wins at two major build-up races for Il Lombardia, last Saturday’s Giro dell’Emilia and Wednesday’s Milano-Torino. In both of those UCI Pro Series events, Roglič soloed clear of his rivals, getting away from afar in the latter. He certainly seems to be the class of the competition at the moment, he’s already a proven Monument winner, having taken Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2020, and he’s not bad in a sprint, should he need to rely on his speed. It’s hard to pick Roglič ahead of the whole field, per se, but he seems worthy of his short odds as the top favorite. Jumbo-Visma can be optimistic about its chances with climbing aces Jonas Vingegaard and George Bennett – who was second in 2020 – also on the roster as lieutenants or potential alternatives.

As strong as Roglič has looked lately, his Slovenian compatriot and rival Tadej Pogačar also looked great on his way to a podium finish at Tre Valli Varesine on Tuesday and then finished fourth at Milano-Torino. Interestingly enough, this will be Pogačar’s debut appearance at Il Lombardia, but then, he won the Tour in his first appearance there. He’s a Monument winner too, having taken the Liège title this year. Pogačar also has a great collection of teammates in the race. Marc Hirschi has had a quieter year than expected but at his best, he should be perfectly suited for Il Lombardia, and Diego Ulissi is also worth watching.

Speaking of strong teams, Deceuninck-QuickStep has an unmatched three of the oddsmakers’ top handful of favorites for the race on its roster. Remco Evenepoel put in one of the most impressive support rides in recent memory at Worlds, and he just won the Coppa Bernocchi. He may also draw some extra special motivation from the fact that it was at Il Lombardia where he crashed and suffered a fractured pelvis last season.

Remco Evenepoel on his way to victory at the Coppa Bernocchi.

In addition to Evenepoel, Deceuninck-QuickStep could also send João Almeida up the road hunting for a solo win. The Portuguese all-rounder was second at the Giro dell’Emilia and third at Milano-Torino. And as if that wasn’t enough firepower for Deceuninck-QuickStep, reigning world champ Julian Alaphilippe will be a threat to win in a variety of ways. With his unrivaled talent for getting up punchy climbs quickly, his elite soloing skills, and his fast finish the Frenchman will be a threat to improve on the runner-up performance he registered at this race in 2017.

Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers), who finished fourth at the Giro dell’Emilia and second at Milano-Torino, is another serious contender for the win, most likely via long-range strike. Gianni Moscon, clearly in form after his ride at Paris-Roubaix, is an alternative option for the Ineos Grenadiers.

Mike Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) is well-suited to the terrain at Il Lombardia and is racing at a high level right now, finishing third at the Giro dell’Emilia and fifth at Milano-Torino. Israel Start-Up Nation will also have 2014 winner Dan Martin in attendance. His sixth-place ride at the Giro dell’Emilia suggests that Martin could be in the mix for what will be the final start of his racing career.

Impressively, the only two-time winner of the race on the start list and the 2019 champ are both on Trek-Segafredo’s roster. Vincenzo Nibali, who stormed to victories in 2015 and 2017 has a rare combination of ascending and descending skills that make him a threat at Il Lombardia even in the latter years of his career, while Bauke Mollema is another excellent card to play with a surprising amount of punch.

Others to watch include Simon Yates (BikeExchange), Romain Bardet (DSM), David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), three-time runner-up Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech), and Rigoberto Urán and perhaps even his EF Education-Nippo teammate Neilson Powless.

All those big names and more will be in action for the final Monument of the season on Saturday. The race begins in earnest at 10:30 am local time with the WorldTour calendar set to conclude as the riders finish in Bergamo some six hours later.

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