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Pogacissimo!

09/10/2021

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) has won the 115th Il Lombardia presented by Eolo, raced over a 239km route from Como to Bergamo

Tadej Pogačar has won the 115th Il Lombardia

It would take one of last week’s Nobel Prize experts in complex systems to explain how the coordination suddenly seeped out of the Alaphilippe-Bardet-Gaudu-Roglic-Valverde-Woods-A. Yates-group under the “10 km to go” banner. By then, Tadej Pogačar had wisely opted out of the group dynamics. With 36.5 km still to ride, he had headed off alone .

Of course, by this time of the season, as Primož Roglič said of his final sprint in Milano Torino on Thursday, you may feel OK but you never know what is going to happen. Your October legs, they call them. And it is true, the body is not a machine – or, if it is, we need to start thinking that machines have subjective consciousness, states of mind and dispositions of the soul that affect performance. That said, Tadej Pogačar has what footballers call a big match temperament.

As he said on the finish line, “In this second part of the season, I have been one day good, one day not – and today was a good day.”

He can say that again. Nibali and Sivakov had opened a small gap at the front of the race, and Tadej surged past, expecting company in his attack.

I thought, when I attacked, that someone would come with me, but I guess it had been so hard before that, everyone was just thinking about making it to the final. So I went solo.”

Adam Yates said later, “It was still quite early, but it was a good moment to go, obviously. If I’d had the legs, I would have gone with him. But I was suffering a bit by then, and I think a lot of guys were already on the limit.”

Roglič concurred: “If I could have gone with him, I would done, but I was already just hanging in there and waiting for the finish.”

Just past the top of the Passo Di Ganda, Fausto Masnada darted away from the chasing group and set off after the Slovenian. A local rider, Masnada was born in Bergamo on 6 November 1993, and started riding with Pedale Brembillese, a cycling team from Val Brembilla, at more or less the halfway point of today’s route. As a Team Colpack rider, he won the Under 23 or Piccolo Giro di Lombardia to boot, and today he was able to put his intimate familiarity with the very technical descent to good use. After 15 km of hard riding, he caught Pogačar, who reflected, “I knew that he would be coming back on the technical part of the descent because it’s my first time here. What I didn’t know was that he was not going to work with me. Luckily we had a big enough advantage by the final climb to hold off the chasers.”

By leaving Jumbo Visma as the only team with two riders in the chasing group, Masnada’s chase more or less handed Pogačar victory by obliging Jonas Vingegaard to do almost all the chasing singlehandedly. On the other hand, it secured second place for Deceuninck – Quick Step without the coin toss of a sprint involving Alaphilippe, Valverde and Roglič. On the evidence of Milano Torino, Alaphilippe still has the world champion’s hangover to go with the jersey.

Pogačar won the sprint from the front, and once again left us struggling to find words with which to describe him. As a winner of the Tour de France and Il Lombardia in the same season, he joins Coppi, Merckx and Hinault. As a winner of the Tour de France, Il Lombardia and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in the same season, he and Merckx are alone. And Tamau Pogi has don it aged 23 years and 18 days old. It’s quite a feat.

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