The penultimate climb in the 113th running of Il Lombardia proved to be decisive because that’s when Dutchman Bauke Mollema decided to attack.
The racing had already been back and forth with plenty of attempted breakaways, but Mollema jumped the field on the ascent to the Civilglio, the next-to-last hill in the race … and he got away.
Just 18 km remained in this lengthy, 243 km route and Mollema was able to increase his lead over the crest and then on the descent. Behind him, France’s Pierre Latour kept attacking, trying to reach Mollema, but he was caught by Jakob Fuglsang (DEN). Adam Yates (GBR) then tried to go, but was passed by La Vuelta winner Primoz Roglic (SLO). That fizzled and Michael Woods (CAN) tried next, but by this time there were only 5 km left and Spain’s Alejandro Valverde took one final run after Mollema, but he was gone.
“I can’t believe I’ve won a Monument,” said Mollema. “I wasn’t the favorite so maybe the other riders underestimated me a bit. I found the right moment to attack. I just went full gas in the last ten kilometers. It’s unreal!”
Valverde and Colombia’s Tour de France winner Egan Bernal were in the final sprint for second, with Valverde crossing first, Fuglsang fourth and Woods fifth.
It’s the biggest ever for the 32-year-old Mollema, who had previously won a Tour de France stage in 2017 and a La Vuelta stage way back in 2013. It was his ninth start at Il Lombardia and only his second finish in the top 10!
He said afterwards, “I knew the downhill well, so I just time trialed until the finish. The last climb wasn’t super hard. I knew it. At one point I looked down and I saw Roglic was still pretty far away, so I was confident. With 1 or 2 km to go, I was sure that I was gonna win. I had a good rhythm and they weren’t closing on me. Winning a Monument is a great way to finish the season, it’s nice that I had time to celebrate, my parents were here, it’s been a special moment.”
Mollema is the first Dutch winner of this race since 1981, and Valverde, at 39, is the oldest medalist ever. The World Tour season will finish next week at the Tour of Guangxi in China. Summaries:
UCI World Tour/Il Lombardia
Bergamo to Como (ITA) ~ 12 October 2019
(Full results here)
Final Standings (243 km): 1. Bauke Mollema (NED), 5:52:59; 2. Alejandro Valverde (ESP), 5:53:15; 3. Egan Bernal (COL), 5:53:15; 4. Jakob Fuglsang (DEN), 5:53:15; 5. Michael Woods (CAN), 5:53:33; 6. Jack Haig (SUS), 5:53:33; 7. Primoz Roglic (SLO), 5:53:33; 8. Emanuel Buchmann (GER), 5:53:49; 9. Pierre Latour (FRA), 5:53:49; 10. Rudy Molard (FRA), 5:53:49.