Tadej Pogačar is chasing history at Il Lombardia, aiming to win the last Monument Classic of the 2023 season for a third consecutive time.
After his complex wrist fracture at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and then a gruelling Tour de France where he suffered a second defeat to Jonas Vingegaard, Pogačar wants to show he is back to his best, end his season on a high, and help UAE Team Emirates secure the number one spot in the UCI team rankings.
“Il Lombardia always motivates me. It has a special place in my heart,” Pogačar told Cyclingnews and La Gazzetta dello Sport in an exclusive interview on the eve of the race.
He appeared relaxed as ever but ready for a final hard day in the saddle.
“There are other big races but Il Lombardia is special. It’s a monument too, it’s long and super hard, you really need to be the best to win,” he explained. “To try to win a third consecutive time will be tough but it’d be special.
“I’d love to finish the season on a high with victory at Il Lombardia.”
Plenty of riders have won back-to-back editions of Il Lombardia but only Alfredo Binda won three between 1925 and 1927 and Fausto Coppi won four times between 1946 and 1949. A hat trick of Classics is much more difficult in the modern era, with Moreno Argentin the last to win three editions of Liège-Bastogne-Liège between 1985 and 1987.
Pogačar won in 2021 in Bergamo and in Como in 2022, as the race route alternates between the Lombardy cities and includes different climbs.
The famous Madonna del Ghisallo climb, with the cyclist chapel and shrine at the top, is the first of seven major climbs during this year’s 238km race.
The penultimate Passo di Ganda will surely be the decisive climb, just as it was in 2021. Pogačar attacked alone on the 9.2km, 7.1% climb. He was joined by Bergamo local Fausto Masnada but then beat him in the sprint to the line after they rode through the shouting tifosi on the Colle Aperto last climb up to Bergamo Alto. This year the Colle Aperto will also host the Curva Pinot as the French rider’s fans give him a rousing farewell.
“The memories of my first Il Lombardia win came back nicely when we did the recon ride,” Pogačar explained.
“I can remember the first time I won and crossed the finish line in Bergamo, I was overjoyed, it was out of this world to win it.
“Nibali attacked on the Ganda climb, I followed and then there was nobody else on my wheel, so it was a great opportunity to go solo, then Masnada came across. It was a pretty cool win.”