By Sam Millne
Tadej Pogačar joined an illustrious list of those to win the Tour de France and two monuments in the same year, with victory at Il Lombardia.
In a dramatic finish to the 2021 UCI World Tour, Pogačar took victory at Il Lombardia in cycling’s final monument of the year.
The two-time Tour de France champion upset the home crowd in Bergamo, Italy, beating local hero Fausto Masnada in a sprint to the line after over six hours of racing on 240 kilometres of road.
Pogačar’s win on Saturday was his second monument of the year and saw him join an illustrious list with just two other riders – Fausto Coppi and Eddy Merckx – to have won the Tour and two monuments in the same season.
The 23-year-old also took victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April.
The race began at the southern tip of Lake Como and, before too long, a group featuring Jans Bakelants broke away, with the gap stretching to six minutes at one point.
It took the peloton until the descent of the Zambla Alta, 55km from the finish, to catch the remnants of the initial group.
With a parcours well-suited to long-range attacks, Pogačar took advantage with about 35km to go on the slopes of the Passo di Ganda, putting half a minute into his rivals.
The chase group behind, featuring Pogačar’s compatriot Primož Roglič, couldn’t keep pace with the Slovenian so, knowing a potential home victory was slipping away, Masnada attacked a star-studded bunch of poursuivants and caught the leader.
From there, his Deceuninck–Quick-Step directeur sportif instructed the Italian not to work with Pogačar on the flat run-in to Masnada’s home city.
Both riders made attempts to shake the other off, but neither were successful and Pogačar was forced to lead Masnada out to the line.
To the disappointment of the crowds, UAE Team Emirates’ star held off his rival and crossed the line, arms aloft, a couple of bike lengths ahead of Masnada, who could only shake his head with a grimace.
Bury-born rider Adam Yates finished 51 seconds behind the winner and claimed third after sprinting quickest from a group featuring world champion Julian Alaphillipe, Alejandro Valverde and Roglič, amongst others.
On making history, Pogačar told Eurosport: “I don’t think about history but I’m really happy that I finished the season like that in one of the biggest one-day races in the world.”