Pogačar’s is hoping to become the first man to complete an Il Lombardia triple since Fausto Coppi in the late 1940s.
The two Tuscany one-day races kick off a block of racing in Italy in the final week of the 2023 road race season. The Slovenian is the top favourite for Wednesday’s race, which has been held since 1923 and won in the past by names including Gino Bartali, Francesco Moser and Vincenzo Nibali.
He heads up a UAE Team Emirates selection including the soon-to-depart George Bennett, teenager Jan Christen, and the ever-reliable Davide Formolo.
The race climbs the Monte Sera climb that divides Pisa and Lucca twice during the 191km, with a small group usually emerging and fighting for victory in a sprint finish in Pontedera, the home of he Vespa scooter.
Pogačar hasn’t turned the pedals in a race since taking bronze at the Glasgow Worlds road race and finishing 21st in the time trial back in mid-August.
He said that the break from competition was “necessary” while adding that he’s eager to get back to it in Pontedera.
“I had a good break since the World Championships,” Pogačar said ahead of the race, which is also named in memory of former Italian national coach Alfredo Martini.
“I think it was necessary and I’m feeling quite refreshed and eager again to tackle this final period in Italy. It’s one of my favourite times of year and there is always a great atmosphere around in the build-up to Lombardia.”
Pogačar will face off against several other major names at the race, which tackles two ascents of the infamous Dr. Luigi Cecchini’s training climb, the Monte Sera (9.3km at 6.6%).
Among those lining up to start are Richard Carapaz (EF Education-EasyPost) who returns to racing for the first time since the Tour de France, Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan), Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Louis Meintjes (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), and Ineos Grenadiers pair Dani Martínez and Magnus Sheffield, who arrived in Tuscany directly from the races in Canada.
Pogačar, who has beaten Fausto Masnada and Enric Mas in two-up sprints at the final Monument of the season, will stay local on Thursday for the nearby Coppa Sabatini in Peccioli before returning to Italy, Bologna and the climb of San Luca for the Giro dell’Emilia on September 30.
Another hilly one-dayer, the Tre Valli Varesine north of…