Como > Bergamo 238km
For many, the last race of the 2023 season, and what a season it’s been. We’ve had three fascinating grand tours, van der Poel blowing everyone away on the Poggio, Pogačar dropping the big boys on the Kwaremont, Van Aert puncturing at a terrible time in Roubaix, Pogačar crashing out of Liège and then Remco dominating, it’s been another tremendous year to be a cycling fan. There’s one more monument up for grabs, and a chance to see Pogačar, Roglič and Evenepoel go head-to-head, strap yourself in.
The race finishes in Bergamo this year, which means it’s the easier version of the race. The Giro came here back in May, Brandon McNulty taking a brilliant win against Healy and Frigo. It’s the same route as 2021, when Pogačar beat Masnada in a two-up sprint, with a group of 7 finishing 51s behind. It’s a hard race, but not the hardest, which makes it more interesting from a tactical point of view.
Pure sunshine, and temperatures around 20 degrees.
Passo della Crocetta is the start of the finale. Not the hardest climb in the world, but it seems much harder for most at this point of the season.
Passo di Ganda is the main event of the day, this is where the big riders will go for it. 9.3km at 6.8% but the final 2.5km averages 9.3%, which is where the big moves will come. From the crest there’s 31km to go.
A technical descent follows back down into Bergamo.
The final climb of the day comes after the riders head under the archway and into the old town, it’s a beautiful part of the race with some cobbles and then a little kicker. It’s very rare for the best riders to drop each other here, and from the top there’s just 3km to go.
Is the route hard enough to get gaps between the very best? Pogačar managed to do it back in 2021, but can anyone repeat that feat this year? Roglič is clearly riding at a very high level, he’s cruised through his last two races, and everyone expects Remco to be flying. We have three of the best riders in the world, I’m not sure the race is going to be hard enough to see splits between these three, but it all depends on the legs. At this point of the season there’s no guarantee they’ll respond in the right way, sometimes computer says no.
Say the front group after the Ganda is around 5-10 riders, a team with two will take the win, but will UAE go with this tactic? Then went all in for Pogačar in Emilia and Tre Valli and it didn’t work, they might look to go with two leaders in this race, it makes sense to me. A lot depends on the size of the break and the type of race we get in the opening 200km, they might have the chance to protect Yates, but he might have to work if we get a crazy race, just like in Tre Valli.
The key to having a selective race is to make it a full gas day, don’t sit in and wait for the Ganda. Every climb needs to be hit hard, forcing riders into using vital kilojoules, so that when the attacks come on the Ganda most can’t respond. If it’s too easy, you’ll see a group of favourites together for the final 30km, which makes it a lottery. Expect to see UAE, Jumbo-Visma and Soudal – QuickStep happy to help each other smash this race to pieces, hoping to make it a battle between the big three.
Tadej Pogačar – not quite at his very best, but the same happened in 2021 and he still won the race. Coming up against those who raced the Vuelta is hard, but his two wins here have come in the same circumstances. Pogačar is a master at pulling it out the bag at this time of the season, I wouldn’t worry too much about him losing out in Emilia and Tre Valli. UAE have been very strong in the recent Italian races; they’ll be one of the main animators and look to set up their main man. Despite not winning the yellow jersey, Pogi has enjoyed an incredible season, can he squeeze out one more win?
Primož Roglič – off to Bora next year, it’s an interesting move. Primož has ridden for Jumbo-Visma for eight seasons, in that time he’s been transformed from a raw rookie into one of the best cyclists in the world. A lot of this is obviously down to his natural ability, but do not underestimate the role played by the staff at the team, his rise to the top would not have been possible without them. His request to leave the team seems to have come about due to Vuelta, a race he clearly wanted to win. The thing is, I think the move is good one for both him and Jumbo, the time is right to go their separate ways. Roglič wants to win the yellow jersey, but Vingegaard is the main man, there’s no way he was going to be team leader next July. Jonas is only 26, he’s got many years ahead of him as leader of the team, if Roglič wants to win yellow he must leave the team. Anyway, enough of that, what about Lombardia? Roglič isn’t the best one-day racer in the world, he rarely wins. He did “win” in Liège back in 2020, but if Alaphilippe didn’t take out Hirschi and Pogačar it would have been a different outcome. The good news for Primož fans is that he’s clearly in amazing form helped by not having to go deep during the Vuelta, this is a good a chance he’ll get at winning another monument. The problem is the presence of both Remco and Pogi, both have a faster sprint than him.
Remco Evenepoel – what’s he got left? Last year, after winning the red jersey he blew everyone away at the worlds, will this year be the same? The Vuelta didn’t go according to plan, but he did manage to salvage it with two breakaway wins in the final eight stages. We all know that Remco is a brilliant one-day racer, he’s won San Sebastian on three occasions and has twice been the victor in Liège, I think everyone will be excited to see him going up against Pogačar. We were robbed of that battle due to Pogačar crashing out in Liège, it’s been a long time coming. Remco hasn’t raced since the Vuelta, so there is an unknown around his current form, but I expect him to be strong and fighting for the win.
Richard Carapaz – the form is eventually coming; he’ll be disappointed that the season is coming to an end. To win this race, he needs to be bold and not wait for the big guns to move.
Adam Yates – could benefit from being the second-best rider on the strongest team, but given how UAE have ridden in previous races, I think he’ll be used as a domestique.
Enric Mas – he’s been quietly going about his business in the last two races, I’ve seen enough to think he’ll be challenging for a top 5 result in this race. He was very close to winning last year, but the Bergamo finish makes it much harder for him.
Please, let us have an epic battle between Pogačar, Evenepoel and Roglič.
A third Lombardia title for Tadej Pogačar.