Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) won the two-up sprint to take victory at Il Lombardia after going on the attack 35 km out.
For the first time since 2016, the 2021 edition of Il Lombardia finished in Bergamo after getting underway in Como 239 km earlier. With more than 4,400 m of climbing throughout the race, it was well-suited to the more aggressive climber types.
There was fighting from the start, but the breakaway of the day wasn’t established until the lower slopes of the Madonna del Ghisallo about 30 km into the race. Ten riders went up the road including Jan Bakelants (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Victor Campanaerts (Qhubeka-NextHash), Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) and Chris Hamilton (Team DSM).
The breakaway enjoyed a maximum advantage of around 6:30, but they were back within three minutes by 85 km to go. Now on the Dossena climb, the attacks began in the peloton, with the Ineos Grenadiers and Neilson Powless (EF Education-Nippo) particularly active. The flurry of accelerations brought the gap to the six breakaway survivors down to half a minute as the riders passed over Zambla Alta, the highest point in the race. By the bottom of the descent, the Deceuninck-led peloton had closed the gap, bringing the favourites to the pointy end with 55 km to go.
A few attacks from local riders interrupted the peloton’s breather on the valley roads, but the real action didn’t resume until the last big climb, the Passo di Gamba. Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) landed the first punch about halfway up – as Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep) dropped out the back – and among the counter attacks was Pogačar, who significantly increased the pace when he came to the front.
Within a couple of kilometres, Pogačar had gone solo, and by the top of the climb, his gap was 35 seconds to a small chase group containing most of the pre-race favourites. The Tour de France champion took a few risks on the fast descent but maintained a fair gap, as local rider Fausto Masnada (Deceuninck-QuickStep) accelerated out of the chasing group, even after working for his teammate Julian Alaphilippe.
Masnada caught Pogačar 16 km from the finish and sat on the Slovenian’s wheel, as per team orders, as the gap grew to the chasers who couldn’t get themselves organised. The pair had an advantage of around a minute as they entered the last 3 km, Masnada managing to hold onto the superior climber’s wheel on the punchy Colle Aperto.
Masnada tried an attack on home roads, but he could not shake Pogačar. The Slovenian was forced to lead down the finishing straight, but it proved no disadvantage for Pogačar who kept Masnada at bay to take his second Monument victory in 2021. Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) joined Pogačar and Masnada on the podium in third.
Il Lombardia (1.UWT) Como → Bergamo