The 2023 Il Lombardia will be held between Como and Bergamo on a similar route to the 2021 edition when Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) won for the first time, with the Slovenian expected to clash with Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) in the Bergamo hills.
This year’s ‘Race of the falling leaves’ will be held on Saturday, October 7 and remember Bergamo’s greatest ever rider Felice Gimondi, who died in 2019.
It will also bring the curtain down on Thibaut Pinot’s career, with the Frenchman expected to make an emotional farewell and perhaps a final show of panache in the end-of-season Italian Classic. Hundreds of the ‘Ultra Pinot’ fans are expected to travel to Italy for his final major race. He won the 2018 Il Lombardia when it finished in Como.
The 238 km route again includes a series of hard climbs in the Lombardy hills, with the climb up to Bergamo Alto ending just three kilometres from the finish. The riders who emerge on the final climbs will descend at speed to Bergamo Basso, with the descent launching into the finish straight on Viale Roma.
Il Lombardia starts in Como, overlooking the lake and then heads to Cantù and climbs up to the Madonna del Ghisallo, before passing the cyclist’s chapel and museum after just 38 km.
The riders descend to Bellagio and turn towards Lecco and then Bergamo to climb the Roncola, Berbenno, the Passo della Crocetta, Zambla Alta and then the Passo di Ganda after 206 km of hard racing. The descent includes 19 hairpins and a flat ride to Bergamo before the Colle Aperto climb up to Bergamo Alto, with a 200-metre section of cobbled roads.
Pogačar attacked alone on the Passo di Ganda in 2021, surprising his major rivals. He was joined by local resident Fausto Masnada on the descent but then beat him in the sprint in Bergamo. Adam Yates outsprinted Roglič, Alejandro Valverde, Julian Alaphilippe, David Gaudu, Romain Bardet and Michael Woods for third place after the disorganised chase group came home 51 seconds down on Pogačar.
During the official race presentation, Damiano Cunego, Il Lombardia winner in 2004, 2007 and 2008, tipped Pogačar to win again and complete a rare hat trick of victories only previously achieved by Alfredo Binda and Fausto Coppi, who won four consecutive times between 1946 and 1949.
Vincenzo Nibali won Il Lombardia in 2015 and 2017 and ended his career at the race in 2022. He picked Evenepoel as his favourite. The Belgian rode aggressively at the Vuelta a España but crashed out of the 2020 Il Lombardia and fractured his pelvis after losing control of his bike on the descent of the Muro di Sormano.
25 teams of seven riders will take on Il Lombardia, with the 18 WorldTour teams joined by Eolo-Kometa, Green Project-Bardiani-CSF-Faizane, Israel-Premier Tech, Lotto Dstny, Q36.5, TotalEnergies and Tudor Pro Cycling.
“We have designed a tough and selective route, with over 4400 metres of altitude gain, pretty similar to the 2021 edition in which Tadej Pogačar won for the first time,” race director Mauro Vegni said when the route was presented in Milan on Tuesday.
“He will be one of the stars at the race and he will be looking to make it a hat-trick but that will be made difficult by the presence of prominent rivals such as Giro d’Italia winner Primož Roglič and former World Champion Remco Evenepoel.
“We are also pleased that a great champion and former winner of the race like Thibaut Pinot has chosen Il Lombardia to say goodbye to the fans.”
Cyclingnews will have full live coverage of Il Lombardia, with special news, features and interviews before and after the last big race of the 2023 men’s season.