Our previous post regarding the five possible ways of winning Il Lombardia was about a tight sprint finish.
The action we will examine today – a two-up finish – may appear similar. On a closer look, however, it is actually quite different.
There’s no better way of doing this than by looking back at the last edition of Il Lombardia, the one finishing in Bergamo in 2021, in which Tadej Pogačar and Fausto Masnada went head to head.
That day, the race exploded at 37 kilometres out, along the Passo di Ganda, after Vincenzo Nibali had lit the fuse.
Pogačar was the fastest one to follow. After countering the Shark’s attack, he surged away alone, with 35 km to go, in his powerful and nimble outstanding pedalling style.
By the summit, the chase group with the last riders left in contention was over 30” behind, with Fausto Masnada pulling at the front, riding on home roads.
Eager to leave his mark on the finish line, in his hometown Bergamo, Masnada attacked halfway down the descent, dropping everyone else (including his captain Alaphilippe), working his way across to the Slovenian and making contact at 12 km out.
The two would go on to jostle for victory of the final monument classic of the year, in a memorable two-man finish.
However, it became immediately clear that there was a certain imbalance in the leading duo. Pogačar hung out front for all the remaining kilometres, while Masnada almost did no work, since Alaphilippe was in the chase group.
The Slovenian tried to clip off as the road rose up towards Bergamo Alta, but Masnada stayed on his wheel and even tried to counter-attack when the road flattened out. His breakaway partner, however, didn’t budge.
It ultimately came down to a two-up sprint.
Masnada entered the home straight in the most favourable position, locked in the wheel of his opponent, waiting for the right moment to attack.
Pogačar led down the finishing straight, looking back continuously to keep an eye on his opponent, as in a track sprint.
Masnada attacked at 200 metres out, but Pogačar rose from the saddle and responded straight away. The local man could do nothing but surrender to the superior prowess of the Slovenian, and settle for a beautiful and hard-fought second place.