Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) out-sprints Enric Mas (Movistar) to Il Lombardia victory.

Two from two, Tadej Pogačar takes his second Il Lombardia victory in a two-up sprint

Because of course he did.

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Tadej Pogačar keeps his love affair with Il Lombardia alive with a second consecutive victory in only his second appearance at the Italian Monument.

With 253 km to contend with between Bergamo and Como, the peloton was happy to let the race enter a good old-fashioned formula from the start, allowing a ten-man breakaway to form in the first hour and get a head start on most of the day’s climbs. A fairly tranquil few hours followed, punctuated only by a number of nasty crashes, one of them sadly bringing Mikel Nieve’s farewell race to a premature end, with Domenico Pozzovivo – the peloton’s unluckiest man – also seeing his hopes (and his kit) shredded on a nervous descent.

Almost inevitably, the early breakaway was caught just outside the last 70 km, losing out on the chance to experience the Madonna del Ghisallo before the peloton. By the top of the iconic climb, UAE Team Emirates had firmly taken control of the race and proceeded to whittle down the bunch for the next 50km.

João Almeida was able to do some considerable damage, stripping Pogačar’s rivals of teammates and priming the Slovenian for launch on the brutal Civiglio climb (4 km at 10%) a few kilometres down the road. Bora-Hansgrohe tried to make a statement after the first passage of the finish line, but with a little over 20 km to go, their effort came to naught on the penultimate climb.

With the bunch on its knees on the steep gradients, Davide Formolo took over the front of the race and set a fierce pace, successfully forcing a split a few wheels behind. Sensing the moment had arrived, Pogačar punched with a searing acceleration which only Enric Mas and Mikel Landa could follow, thanks in part to good positioning – Jonas Vingegaard was one of those caught out as a struggling Rigoberto Uran swung out of the line and a slight split became a chasm.

Pogačar and Mas tried to take chunks out of each other in the remaining 19 km, Landa content to yo-yo at his own pace in answer to their repeated accelerations until near the top of the final ascent of the San Fermo della Battaglia. Conscious of his inferior sprint, Mas attempted to lose the defending champion in the last kilometre of the climb, but all it did was put Landa firmly in his place: third.

In the end, Pogačar led the pair into the finishing straight and seemed almost to toy with Mas as the Spaniard opened up his sprint. There was the smallest fraction of a second when Mas seemed to pull ahead, but the Slovenian looked across to assess his rival’s position before easing ahead and sitting up to celebrate victory.

Landa held on to take third 10 seconds later, and a little while after him, Alejandro Valverde led home the second chasing group, crossing the last finish line of his career in sixth place. His fellow retiree and former winner Vincenzo Nibali rolled in 24th after being dropped on the final climb, but the ‘Shark of Messina’ enjoyed the crowd’s adoration as he raced into Como for the last time.

Alejandro Valverde and Vincenzo Nibali were given a hero’s welcome at the start of Il Lombardia, the last race of their long careers.

Il Lombardia (1.UWT) Bergamo → Como

POGAČAR Tadej UAE Team Emirates
MAS Enric Movistar Team
LANDA Mikel Bahrain - Victorious
HIGUITA Sergio BORA - hansgrohe
RODRÍGUEZ Carlos INEOS Grenadiers
VALVERDE Alejandro Movistar Team
MOLLEMA Bauke Trek - Segafredo
MOLARD Rudy Groupama - FDJ
BARDET Romain Team DSM
YATES Adam INEOS Grenadiers

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