Preview. On the 7th of October the peloton takes on the final monument of the season. Il Lombardia, or the classic of the fallen leaves, is the final big race of the season and the most important one-day race guided towards the climbers.
Over 4600 meters of climbing throughout some long 239 kilometers. It's a tough tough race, and proving it's point as the most flexible monument as it brings in a completely different route this year compared to the classic, reversing the roles as Como takes up the start of the race, and the beautiful city of Bergamo receives the finale. The route starts off and goes through the Madonna del Ghisallo early on but it won't have a meaningful role this year, not climbing through it's traditional side.
Profile & Route Il Lombardia 2023
The real race starts a couple of hours in. They won't be decisive but the fatigue will start to be felt with two ascents coming in quick succession, they will summit with 138 and 110 kilometers to go respectively. They will be 7.5Km at 7.3% and 6.9Km at 5%.
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The attacking side of the race should start around here though. The climb to Passo della Crocetta will open things up, it summits with 77Km to go, isn't overly steep but is long and doesn't have a descent right after. Following this year's trend it's likely to see moves coming over the top of this climb, as teams will be looking to place riders in front and force a chase for the rivals. They can be dangerous, there will be a plateau before the hilltop at Zambia Alta which summits with 64Km to go and antecedes a very technical descent. Safe to say there's a lot of potential for the race to break apart, specially for those who aren't so confident in their descending ability.
Final startlist Il Lombardia 2023 with Pogacar, Roglic, Evenepoel, Mas, Landa and Carapaz, Adam and Simon Yates
That's because the main climb of the day doesn't really offer space to surprise. Slow ramp up, the Passo Di Ganda is a hard ascent, it steepens towards the summit so likely we'll have a very explosive showdown in it's final 2 kilometers, it summits with 32Km to the finish, a very reduced selection should be made up to this point as it's where the main attacks will come, but there's still a lot of racing to do.
Another very technical descent from Ganda will drop the riders in the valley that leads to Bergamo where there will be around 10 kilometers to reorganize everything and those who need to put on a chase. Interesting dynamics may be played out here, in the final 5 kilometers it will be again an attacked race surely. Hard to imagine gaps coming out of the Bergamo Alta ascent as it's tiny compared to what the riders have faced so far, but it's always possible. It's a very scenic finale, the riders will drop back down into the city center in for the final sprint, or a glorious solo celebration.
Sunny conditions, nice temperatures and a slight western breeze. A bit of a tailwind in the penultimate climbing combo, and some headwind in the Passo di Ganda - and afterwards. However, it should not be strong enough to make a meaningful difference.
"The legs and the head are tired" - Tadej Pogacar ends season with title defense attempt at Il Lombardia
*Preview will be updated once startlist is confirmed.
Tadej Pogacar - Pogacar comes into the last race of his season with an unusual streak without winning. Four Italian classics, he's featured in front in all but without the win. Second at the Giro dell'Emilia was the sign that he can win here however it's quite less likely than previous years. However he remains likely the biggest contender, because a route like this is unlikely to see him crack, and in a sprint he can virtually beat anyone who can also climb. UAE Team Emirates have in fact a very strong team, but regarding the long climbs it will be up to Adam Yates to match some of the best, and possibly play a tactical role if he goes over Ganda still close to the front - which UAE should try to do.
Primoz Roglic - Why? Because Pogacar faces a compatriot that can sprint just as well. Primoz Roglic has been having an incredible season, and his post-Vuelta form is on point. He outsprinted Pogacar at the Giro dell'Emilia which was a great sign for the leader Jumbo-Visma. The team is not going to have the same depth it had in other races, Roglic is not someone who can easily drop Pogacar in climbs like this, but he can certainly try to play with his sprint.
Remco Evenepoel - Soudal - Quick-Step also have a very strong in-form team, but like UAE, some of the riders are puncheurs and not those who can resist in these long ascents. Evenepoel comes in without racing, so it is hard to judge his current level. He does not have a good history with the race, but that motivates him towards vengeance. At his best level, a climb like Ganda is good for him, and over this year he's also shown the sprint to match the previous two. He holds a card however which is of a solo move, I would not be surprised to see him attack somewhere in the plateau between the Passo della Crocetta and Zambia Alta, and try to then hold gap with his aero skills. The team have a second card in Tre Valli Varesine winner Ilan van Wilder, I wouldn't say he can beat the other two, but he will have freedom and is a legitimate podium contender.
Away from Roglic and Pogacar, Remco Evenepoel prepares Il Lombardia with colossal training ride
Richard Carapaz - We're seeing the best level of Carapaz. For the first time since leaving INEOS, the Ecuadorian is having his best form, and just in time for the final big race of the year where he can strike. A disappointing season, but the leader of EF Education-EasyPost has looked very sharp in both Giro dell'Emilia and Tre Valli Varesine. He is a contender for the podium, perhaps the rider who stands the closest to the Slovenians climbing-wise this week.
BORA - hansgrohe - The German team has several weapons, but a bit uncertain expectations. Aleksandr Vlasov has been in good form, his third place at Tre Valli Varesine outsprinting Pogacar and Roglic are great signs for a podium bid. Jai Hindley and Lennard Kämna will be outsiders, although less reliable so will Sergio Higuita be, who finished fourth last edition.
Enric Mas - Mas had a superb late-season stint last year, he carried his Vuelta form perfectly into Italy and was the runner-up in Lombardia. He does not have the same legs right now, but is not too far away. On the climbs he's definitely fit enough to be in position for a top result. When it comes to the explosivity he will find problems against the Slovenians, which I do not see a solution, but like last year a spot on the podium is already quite an achievement for a pure climber in a monument.
"Marc was my first and only trainer" - Wout van Aert upset with coach's departure alongside Primoz Roglic to BORA - hansgrohe
Michael Woods - Israel have plenty of quality climbers and they are all deployed here. Michael Woods is a fan of more explosive terrain, but nevertheless after finishing fifth at the Giro dell'Emilia and sixth at Tre Valli Varesine, he will be considered a quality outsider. The Israeli team will also be able to Dylan Teuns, Stephen Williams and Domenico Pozzovivo who have the quality to ride for a Top10 on these roads.
Felix Gall & Ben O'Connor - The Australian should be the team leader, having shown decent form recently which can see him trying to burst through the barrier of the Top10. AG2R have Felix Gall however the Austrian hasn't recently shown his best legs. A strong climbing collective ensures that both can have good support depending on how early the race blows up.
Simon Yates - Third at the Giro dell'Emilia behind Roglic and Pogacar was the sign that Yates is ready. Gran Piemonte didn't go as expected, but I'm confident the Briton will find his legs of the Tour de France, and aim towards Il Lombardia with his best form. Uphill he can do all kinds of terrain, he certainly will be aiming for a place in the podium and he does have the legs for that.
Carlos Rodríguez - The 22-year old has showed was he's worth at the Tour de France, and he's bounced back to hit good form again. Winning the queen stage of the Tour of Britain in impressive fashion was a great result, recently he was Top10 at Tre Valli Varesine and should be towards the front here in Lombardia, with Pavel Sivakov as a second option for INEOS Grenadiers.
The race is hard, the win will not come from outside those riders but a few others have their chances at a Top10 - some of them would be quite happy with it. Bahrain - Victorious has Mikel Landa and Santiago Buitrago, Groupama - FDJ have Thibaut Pinot and Lenny Martínez, Cofidis have Ion Izagirre and Guilaume Martin, Team DSM-Firmenich have Romain Bardet and Max Poole; and alongside those we have a few riders who can climb very well such as Lorenzo Fortunato and Walter Calzoni who can surprise.
Wout van Aert: "I was looking for a good goal for the end of the season and the Gravel World Championship seemed the most interesting"
Prediction Il Lombardia 2023:
*** Tadej Pogacar, Primoz Roglic
** Richard Carapaz
* Remco Evenepoel, Ilan van Wilder, Enric Mas, Jai Hindley, Aleksandr Vlasov, Adam Yates, Michael Woods, Simon Yates, Carlos Rodríguez, Ben O'Connor
Pick: Tadej Pogacar
Preview written by Rúben Silva.