Il Lombardia 2020 – Five talking points

Featured image courtesy of Tim de Weale/getty images

The 114th edition of Il Lombardia certainly provided drama, a race that usually takes place in October but this time in August. A historic day in Lombardy as Jakob Fuglsang takes the win as he prepares for the Giro d’Italia in October.

While we’re happy for Jakob Fuglsang and those who rode well, there is however a tinge of frustration, disappointment and concern in the following piece. One rider horrifically crashed into a wall falling off a bridge and another flew into a car! 

The five talking points below.

1 – Fuglsang goes into the record books

There’s something to smile about for Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang, a rider who’s in top form and preparing himself for the Giro. He now enters the history books as the first Danish rider to win Il Lombardia and joins an elite list alongside John Degenkolb, Alexander Kristoff, Dan Martin, Peter Sagan and Niki Terpstra to have won two career Monuments in the current peloton. 

35-years of age it is fair to say that Jakob Fuglsang is one of the greats. Two overall wins at the Dauphiné, last year’s winner at Liège–Bastogne–Liège and now another Monument to his name in Lombardy. The way he attacked on the Civiglio, rode alongside teammate Aleksandr Vlasov, held off a chasing Trek-Segafredo pair of Ciccone and Mollema as well as putting George Bennett in difficulty on the final climb – that was a legendary ride by the Dane.

Numerous stages have been won at Grand Tours and although he’s had some unlucky times at the Tour de France, Jakob Fuglsang has a terrific opportunity at the Giro this year. Could he possibly win it? Perhaps too early to say but you never know in cycling. 

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2 – George Bennett should be pleased with his second place

Jumbo-Visma are the form team in world cycling right now but sometimes you can’t win everything. In George Bennett, the team should be proud of how well he’s riding right now. After winning Gran Piedmonte in midweek, perhaps was one step too far today as he simply didn’t have the legs to keep up with Fuglsang on the final climb but nevertheless the Kiwi becomes the first man from his country to finish on the Il Lombardia podium.

In fact Jumbo-Visma in their current livery should be happy that Bennett’s second place is also the first time in a long while that they’ve come close to a podium place. Dutchman Michael Boogerd was the last man in 2004 to finish second when Jumbo-Visma were then known as Rabobank.

George Bennett looks set to ride the Tour de France next especially after Steven Kruijswijk suffered from a dislocated shoulder at the Dauphiné today. Bennett is in top form, he’s been a crucial domestique for the team at the Tour de l’Ain, a superb win at Gran Piedmonte and now second in Lombardy – he heads to the Tour full of confidence for sure.

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3 – Trek-Segafredo left frustrated?

Defending champion Bauke Mollema, Giro stage winner Giulio Ciccone and the ‘shark of Messina’ Vincenzo Nibali will look back on today’s race not so much as a disappointment but still some extra mileage into the legs. Nibali was dropped on the Civiglio but Mollema himself alongside Ciccone tried everything they could to claw back the three leading riders. 

Jakob Fuglsang, George Bennett and Aleksandr Vlasov could have so easily been caught if they started to look at each other but it just wasn’t to be for the Trek trio – Mollema and Ciccone even suffering from a mechanical in the finale.

Bauke Mollema should be heading to the Tour next to support Richie Porte, Giulio Ciccone could be doing the same and for Vincenzo Nibali, like Fuglsang, he’ll be heading off to October’s Giro.

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4 – Max Schachmann crashing into a car

Words cannot describe how awful it was to see Max Schachmann colliding with a car that should never have entered the road. We’ve seen so many accidents for riders in training so we don’t need it to happen on an actual race!

Young riders have died in accidents and big questions need to be asked of the race organisers RCS sport – how on earth did the car enter the road?

We’ve seen rider safety put into question after Fabio Jakobsen’s crash at the Tour de Pologne and now more questions of those in charge after Schachmann’s collision with a car that shouldn’t have been on the road.

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5 – Hoping and praying for Remco Evenepoel

Since the start of the year we’ve been saying how brilliant Remco Evenepoel has been. First overall at the Volta ao Algarve, the Vuelta San Juan, Vuelta a Burgos and an incredible solo attack to win the Tour de Pologne – what a fantastic young talent we have on our hands.

We know how dangerous cycling can be and unfortunately you never know what can happen on 231 km’s of road in Lombardy. Remco Evenepoel crashing on a descent by crashing into a wall and falling down a bridge – our hearts we’re in our mouths.

We certainly wish the young man a speedy recovery but why did RAI (the Italian host broadcaster) decide to show numerous replays of the crash and show us pictures of Evenepoel on the stretcher?

It’s never nice to see. We can see the crash once but we don’t need endless repeats of him crashing and falling off the bridge! 

A tough time for Deceuninck-Quick Step after Fabio Jakobsen suffering from a terrible crash in Poland last week and we also sincerely hope that Remco Evenepoel will return sooner rather than later. His Monument debut and sadly for all the wrong reasons he’ll never forget it.

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Don’t forget to check out our latest pieces on the Dauphiné as it reaches its conclusion. The Tour de France is also not far away too!

Il Lombardia 2020 – Preview

Featured image courtesy of gettyimages

Normally it would be a Autumn day on the shores of Lake Como that we’d see the Tour of Lombardy come to its conclusion. The ‘race of the falling leaves’ with its twisting turns, its famous ascents and sketchy descents is always the final Monument of the year – until 2020 came. Coronavirus means a mix up and sad as it is that Il Lombardia cannot take place in its usual slot, at least we’ve got racing going ahead.

Because the calendar serves itself a different purpose as riders prepare for all three Grand Tours jumbled up out of order, this year’s Il Lombardia has a new role to play. Riders expected to take on the Giro d’Italia this year start the race, so hopefully it’ll give us a flavour of what to expect come October 3rd.

The Route

Il Lombardia 2020 Route

In the past, it’s always been the case that Il Lombardia decides to alternate between Bergamo and Como. In the past few editions, a finish on the shores of Lake Como seems to be the set in stone finale with the Civiglio and San Fermo della Battaglia climbs making an interesting conclusion.

The overall route amounts to 231 km, the Madonna dell Ghisallo and the Muro di Sormano are the two famous climbs everyone in world cycling should know about. The Sormano is the toughest with narrow roads and a 27% gradient. To win Il Lombardia you need good climbing legs and a nerve to descend the fastest downhills. After the San Fermo della Battaglia comes a 5.3 km descent into Como, where anything could happen!

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So who are the contenders to take the 114th Il Lombardia? Picking a winner for the ‘Race of the falling leaves’ is like trying to find the prettiest leaf on the side of the road – you just cannot call who will win!

Defending champion Bauke Mollema starts for a Trek-Segafredo team that always includes a former two-times winner in Vincenzo Nibali. An Italian sponsor for the team, expect Mollema and Nibali to try and put on a show for this one!

The big name on everyone’s lips right now is a young Belgian who has won all four of the races he has ridden so far in 2020. Since resuming from shutdown, Remco Evenepoel has won Vuelta a Burgos and the Tour de Pologne, even showing support for fellow teammate Fabio Jakobsen after his awful crash by holding his number in the air – a very classy moment by the young man!

There’s no doubt that Evenepoel with all the talent that he has is a favourite this weekend but also a favourite for this year’s Giro d’Italia. This will be the first opportunity to see how Evenepoel and Nibali fare up against each other – one rider making his Monument debut the other with bags of experience. Despite a lack of experience, no knowledge of Il Lombardia or a significant age gap between the two riders – surely we should expect Evenepoel to perform well this weekend. If he wins the race, it’ll definately he his best career win to date, 20 years old don’t forget!

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One the same roads at the Giro last year we saw how Primož Roglič had a nightmare on the descent of the Civiglio up against Vincenzo Nibali, so could he do the same and add pressure to Evenepoel on the descents? The ‘shark of Messina’ could probably ride the roads of Il Lombardia with his eyes shut as he’s accustomed to winning this race before – 2015 and 2017. With young talent on the scene, lack of experience could hamper their chances and there’s every chance an old head could win this year’s race.

Fourth overall at Paris-Nice before cycling’s temporary shutdown, Nibali goes into Il Lombardia as a contender alongside defending champion Bauke Mollema. The Dutchman does seem to riding consistently in recent weeks at the Route d’Occitanie (where he finished fifth overall) and the Tour de l’Ain (finishing sixth overall). Mollema is due to ride at the Tour de France in support of Richie Porte, so he could ride in support of Nibali this weekend instead of going for it himself. Trek have their options too as last year’s stage winner and KOM jersey at the Giro, Giulio Ciccone also starts.

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Is Mathieu van der Poel a contender this weekend? He has yet to win a race this season but in all fairness he only has nine days of racing in the legs so far this year. Third place at Gran Piedmonte this week could be an indicator that he’s starting to find his mojo again. Just like Remco Evenepoel, we maybe put too much pressure on young shoulders, both making their Monument debuts. For Mathieu van der Poel, he’ll expect himself to perform but from a fans point of view perhaps we don’t expect too much just yet.

We should expect Jumbo-Visma’s George Bennett to go well this Saturday though. The Kiwi could put a stop to all the talk of youth by winning Il Lombardia and show an experienced head and surprise us all. An excellent ride to take Gran Piedmonte this week, Bennett is also expected to be in Jumbo-Visma’s Tour de France squad later this month and they’d be pretty stupid if they didn’t include him. He’s in form, he’s got the ability, he has the experience – wouldn’t it be something for George Bennett to add another one-day race to his palmarès.

One rider to keep an eye on is the winner of last year’s Giro – Richard Carapaz. 27-years-old, lots more to come, riding now for Ineos after transferring from Movistar, the big question for Carapaz is what form will he bring before the Giro starts in October? The Ecuadorian won a stage but crashed the following day at the Tour de Pologne, so the question mark is how’s the recovery going? He’s never ridden a Monument since starting out as a pro four years ago, so maybe not a contender but Richard Carapaz is one to watch.

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Astana arrive in Lombardy with two names to watch out for. Jakob Fuglsang continues his preparation for the Giro after finishing fifth at Strade Bianche and second overall in Poland last week. Similar to Vincenzo Nibali could the 35-year-old show his experience of riding Monuments and take the race to the young contenders? Fuglsang has Liège–Bastogne–Liège in the bag from last year – could he add a second Monument?

In Fuglsang Astana have experience but they also have a second option up their sleeve in Russia Aleksandr Vlasov. Third overall at the Route d’Occitanie, victory at the Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge and fourth at the Gran Piemonte in the last two weeks – Vlasov looks a good talent. Only 24-years-of-age, he’s another rider with youth on his side and alongside Fuglsang they could be a threat this Saturday.

Other names to keep a watch for include Italian Diego Ulissi who was left in the wake of George Bennett at Gran Piedmonte on Wednesday. A few more metres and Ulissi might have taken the win to catch Bennett at the line so could he carry that frustration and make amends in Como?

Canada’s Michael Woods continues to recover from a broken femur he suffered at Paris-Nice pre shutdown and in current Tour of Flanders champion Alberto Bettiol, EF Pro Cycling have their cards to play.

You’d also have to include BORA-Hansgrohe’s German road champion Maximilian Schachmann as a favourite for the win too. He finished third at Strade Bianche, he’s won Paris-Nice and on a good day he can seriously climb. Schachmann starts as an outside bet to win Il Lombardia.

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Lots of contenders, loads to talk about, Il Lombardia usually takes place in October. 2020 is a year like no other and as the second Monument instead of the fifth, who will claim victory this weekend?