The adjectives to describe this guy have long since run out. That is probably because Tadej Pogačar leaves us all speechless pretty much every single time he wins. However, his third straight success at Il Lombardia, out of three participations – something that only Alfredo Binda and Fausto Coppi had ever been capable of pulling off – is perhaps even more meaningful than most of his victories to date.
Tadej was not in top form in this final part of the season. As a matter of fact, he had not won a single race since this year’s Tour de France, marked by two stage wins but also by a bitter second place in the GC. 4th at the Giro della Toscana, 3rd at the Coppa Sabatini, 2nd at the Giro dell’Emilia, 5th at the Tre Valli Varesine. Please, do not get us wrong! These are results that any decent rider would be pleased with, but not this guy. This guy is cut from a different cloth.
Today the Slovenian had to build his victory a little differently than usual. He is normally the one fuelling things up, the quintessential attacker, but today he was way more watchful, kept the team quiet and moved with more sagacity. The route was that of his first Il Lombardia two years ago, featuring the Passo di Ganda and the triumph in Bergamo.
Back in 2021 he had tackled the climb head-on, this time he stayed on the wheel and, for a moment, almost seemed to be struggling. He went so far as to give the impression of letting Adam Yates off the hook. It turned out he was just studying his rivals, first and foremost his compatriot Primoz Roglic, who defeated him on the San Luca climb in the Giro dell’Emilia just a few days ago. Thus, Tadej only revealed his cards on the final part of the Passo di Ganda. Alongside Alexander Vlasov, the Slovenian closed the gap with a few riders from an earlier breakaway, but did not quite manage to completely distance the strong chasing group, who caught up with him at the very summit of the climb.
Pogačar, however, still had a shot to fire, and ended up making his decisive move on the false-flat immediately after the KOM. After being allowed to slip away, he did not turn back and dug a margin that allowed him to hold off the slightly disorganised chase group all the way into Bergamo. He had won his previous two Il Lombardias in a two-man sprint (outsprinting Masnada in 2021 and Mas in 2022), but this year he decided to spoil himself and enjoy the warm embrace of Bergamo on his very own, almost a minute clear of his rivals. The hat-trick is served, stuff of legend!