Bauke Mollema (NED) won his first Monument Classic as he rode solo to victory in Il Lombardia, the final Monument of the season. The 32-year-old’s win came through a well-timed attack on the Civiglio climb with 18.5km of the 243km route remaining. He fended off the return of former UCI World Champion Alejandro Valverde (ESP) and Tour de France winner Egan Bernal (COL) who finished second and third, respectively.
“Once I had 20 seconds lead, I was surprised that the gap went up pretty fast, said the Dutch Trek-Segafredo rider. They were watching each other at the back. I was pretty sure that I’d still be first atop Civiglio. I didn’t know what was happening behind, but as I heard that I still had a 20-second lead, I had a good chance to win. I knew the downhill well, so I just time trialed until the finish.
“The last climb [San Fermo della Battaglia] wasn’t super hard. I knew it. At one point I looked down and I saw Roglic was still pretty far away, so I was confident. With 1 or 2km to go, I was sure that I was gonna win. I had a good rhythm and they weren’t closing on me. Winning a Monument is a great way to finish the season; it’s nice that I had time to celebrate, my parents were here, it’s been a special moment.”
After only 10km of racing, a breakaway of eight riders was formed with the Italian pair Fausto Masnada (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) and Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Hansgrohe), both Giro d’Italia stage winners this year, Deceuninck-Quick Step rider Rémi Cavagna (FRA) who imposed himself in a stage of La Vuelta Ciclista a España, and another three Italian riders: Astana Pro Team’s Davide Ballerini, Enrico Barbin (Bardiani-CSF) and Marco Marcato (UAE Team Emirates), plus Toms Skujins (LAT and Trek-Segafredo), Petr Rikunov (RUS and Gazprom-Rusvelo). The Jumbo-Visma team supporting the hot favourite Primoz Roglic (SLO) set the pace of the peloton and didn’t allow the gap to extend to any more than five minutes.
Masnada came across to Skujins and Cavagna who had gone clear on the climb to the Madonna del Ghisallo and the Italian crested in first position with 73km to go to claim the symbolic Todisco prize. Bob Jungels (LUX and Deceuninck-Quick Step) attacked from the peloton and a different race started up the wall of Sormano with its summit was 53km from the end. Offensives were launched successively by Rafal Majka (POL and Bora-Hansgrohe), Ivan Sosa (COL and Team Ineos), Michael Woods (CAN and EF Education First), Pierre Latour (FRA and AG2R La Mondiale) who rode away solo for a short while, then Jakob Fuglsang (DEN and Astana Pro Team), Giulio Ciccone (ITA and Trek-Segafredo), Ruben Fernandez (ESP and Movistar Team), Sepp Kuss (USA and Team Jumbo-Visma) and David Gaudu (FRA and Groupama-FDJ).
Ciccone tried his luck in preparation for his team-mate Mollema to take his opportunity, but Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) managed to go clear, only to be chased down by Roglic’s team-mates. It was a peloton of around 40 riders who caught them and looked to play for the win on the 4.2km ascent to Civiglio. Following several attacks, Mollema chose a flatter section to go solo. “Possibly they underestimated me, as I wasn’t the favourite”, the Dutchman admitted. Neither Roglic nor Valverde managed to make it up for their mistake in having let him go.
“I’m happy with the second place because it always means something to make the podium at Il Lombardia, said Valverde. It’s a bittersweet second place though, as we didn’t get much organised behind him. One of us attacked, then another one. I had the legs to do a little bit better. I could have won but unfortunately it didn’t happen.”
Third placed Bernal added: “To be honest, I didn’t think this morning that I would have made the podium. It’s something really big for me. Il Lombardia is my first Monument with a podium place. I’m happy with this and I’m happy with the form I finish the season with. Mollema was very strong when he went on the climb. He got a gap and we were riding very hard behind him. Roglic attacked but at the end of the day, Mollema was the strongest because he managed to keep his advantage. I’d like to win a Monument like this one day but it’s difficult for me to stay at the front of such a hard race. I’m still only 22 years old and I’ll do my best to improve my cycling and my results in the coming years.”
Mollema took the fourth Dutch victory in the history of Il Lombardia after Jo de Roo in 1962 and 1963, and the last Netherlands winner, Hennie Kuiper, who was also 32 years old when he was victorious in 1981.