Key Takeaways: Breaking Down Il LOMBARDIA’22
Race Breakdown: An in-depth breakdown on the impressively precise and calculated winning ride at the final major race of the 2022 season. Tadej Pogačar and his UAE Team Emirates had a plan and it worked perfectly. Is the Slovenian World No.1?
*** You can read the 2022 Il Lombardia ‘PEZ Race Report’ HERE. ***
The Season Ends With Fireworks In Como! | Il Lombardia 2022 Highlights
Tadej Pogačar won Il Lombardia, the final major race of the 2022 season, ahead of Enric Mas and Mikel Landa to take the 2022 season win total title and remind everyone of his extremely impressive versatility and that he is still one of the sport’s elite riders. Pogacar’s UAE team laid the groundwork for his win in the final section of the mountainous course above the glistening waters of Lake Como by setting an extremely hard pace for Pogacar to attack off of, which allowed him to distance nearly every major contender outside of Mas and Landa. While Mas dropped Landa with an attack on the course’s final climb, he wasn’t able to distance Pogacar and was easily out-sprinted by the Slovenian superstar who came over the line with a healthy gap to add yet another Monument victory to his palmarès.
Nibali and Valverde – Still competitive
Outside of Pogačar’s win, the day was notable for it being the final race of Alejandro Valverde and Vincenzo Nibali’s highly decorated careers. While the 37-year-old Nibali was distanced from the lead group on the penultimate climb and would come over the line in 24th place, the 42-year-old Valverde was able to fight his way to a 6th place finish and even appeared to have an outside shot at victory deep into the race.
All over for ‘Bala’
1) Tadej Pogačar +0
2) Enric Mas +0
3) Mikel Landa +10
4) Sergio Higuita +52
5) Carlos Rodríguez +52
6) Alejandro Valverde +1’24
7) Bauke Mollema +1’24
8) Rudy Molard +1’24
9) Romain Bardet +1’24
10) Adam Yates +1’26.
Pogačar maybe made it look easier than it was
65.6km: Jonas Vingegaard’s Jumbo-Visma leads the peloton onto the marquee Madonna del Ghisallo climb while Pogacar and his UAE team sit back.
61km: Towards the much steeper top of the climb, UAE finally shows its hand when Joao Almeida gets to the front to push the pace. Jumbo’s strength and numbers almost immediately evaporate.
19.2km: Heading into the penultimate climb, UAE’s last domestique returns to the front and sets an extremely hard pace.
19.1km: The high pace has an immediate field-splitting effect with just Pogacar, Landa, and Mas able to remain at the front. Vingegaard holds for longer than most but is dangling in between the lead group and the group behind with Alejandro Valverde and Adam Yates.
19km: In a moment eerily similar to the week before at Giro dell’Emilia, Pogacar attacks Mas after his team pulls off, but unlike last week, we can see that he is the stronger rider of the two, even as Mas is able to hold his wheel.
17.4km: Pogacar’s repeated attacks distance the group behind, with the pacemaking allowing him and Mas to create a 23-second gap over the Valverde chase group behind. Landa is the only rider able to mount resistance and is dangling just a few seconds back. In theory, the presence of Mas’ Movistar teammate, Valverde, being in the chase group means he can just sit on here.
15.1km: Pogacar and Mas stall a bit when they become in a bit of a stalemate, which allows Landa to reel them in on the descent. With such a strong sprint, Pogacar won’t mind the extra company and we can see that the poor organization in the chase group behind has allowed the gap to balloon out of 40-seconds.
6.1km: After riding together until the final climb, the lead group of three breaks up when Mas attacks towards the top of the final climb. He drops Landa, and while he looks incredibly strong, isn’t able to shake Pogacar. There was some controversy after the race about the camera moto blocking his attack, but if we look at Pogacar, he never really looks under pressure while marking Mas.
2.7km: As the two leaders barrel towards the finish line at a high speed, Enric Mas continues taking pulls on the front to keep the chase groups (including his teammate) off the back. This is either a massive mistake considering his chances in a sprint against Pogacar are next to zero or shows that he is willing to sacrifice his chances at winning to secure second place over the chasing Landa.
200m: Mas opens up his sprint extremely early in an attempt to catch Pogacar by surprise, but the Slovenian sees it coming and is able to get up to speed by the time Mas pulls even with him.
Finish: Mas sprints on the opposite side of the road as Pogacar, which means he isn’t able to take advantage of the slipstream and makes it a pure speed drag-race contest. Pogacar is so confident in his superior speed that he sits up well before the line to celebrate.
1) Tadej Pogačar won this race with an extremely clinical execution of a well-defined pre-race plan
- The most surprising/impressive thing about Pogacar’s second-consecutive Lombardia win is that while his win last year felt electric and surprising, this one felt clinical and somewhat routine.
- This shows that while his physical level has remained roughly the same since his breakout 2020 season, he is getting better and better each year in the tactical side of the sport.
- Somewhat oddly, despite him proving over and over again that he is one of the world’s fastest riders in sprints at the end of tough races, riders continue to work for him heading into reduced sprints (this has happened in both of his wins at Lombardia). If this continues, he will be able to continue to rack up more major one-day victories even without his peak form.
- Also, his proven ability to increase his in-race tactical reads means that heading into the 2023 season, Pogačar should still be considered the sport’s top GC contender if he can iron out the early-stage energy wasting he exhibited at the Tour de France earlier this season.
The UAE attack was well planned… and executed
2) Pogačar’s superior sprint gives him a massive strategic advantage and covers up flaws with his UAE team
- While UAE and Pogacar looked impressive by telegraphing their race-winning attack and then perfectly executing it, the fact that Pogačar can hold the wheels of the world’s best climbers (when fit) before out-sprinting them at the finish line makes their job incredibly easy compared to the teams of less-quick riders like Jonas Vingegaard, Enric Mas and Remco Evenepoel.
- The team might have looked unbeatable on Saturday at Lombardia, but they still haven’t proved they are able to replicate this dominance without Pogacar present. In fact, the team can go from looking like the world’s best-drilled team to an aimless collection of talent without him.
Pogačar – The World best?
3) The win allowed Pogačar to take the most 2022 season wins and confirms he is becoming one of the world’s best all-around riders
- The two-time Tour de France winner used the final major race of the 2022 season to remind us that while Remco Evenepoel might be the flavor of the month, the young Slovene is still one of the sport’s preeminent talents.
- Even in a season that many have considered highly disappointing (mainly due to a failure to win his third-consecutive Tour de France), he won both Strade Bianche and Il Lombardia en route to leading the WorldTour in victories with a somewhat staggering haul of 16 pro wins (this is almost unheard of for a GC rider).
- This is in addition to a 4th place in his debut at the Tour of Flanders and 2nd overall at the Tour de France. To put things into perspective, with his third career Monument victory (2x Lombardia, 1x Liege), he ties Eddy Merckx as the younger rider (24 years-old) to three Monument wins and has as many Monument wins as Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert combined.
We are seeing a new Enric Mas
4) Enric Mas’ one-day flaws were on full display in the finale
- The 27-year-old took career-best form and the confidence of dropping Pogačar just a week earlier into the race but then failed to mount a serious attack until just a few hundred meters remaining on the final climb and all but waved the white flag when he essentially rode for second place by sharing the pacemaking with Pogačar throughout the final five kilometers to keep a hard-chasing Mikel Landa off the back despite having no real chance against the much-faster Pogačar in the sprint.
- If Mas truly wanted to maximize his chances of winning, he needed to attack Pogacar early on both of the final two climbs instead of following wheels and waiting until the top of the final climb to launch his move.
- And once it came down to a sprint, Mas needed to fake his long move in an effort to trigger Pogacar’s sprint. This would have given Mas cover (via the slipstream) and allowed him to sit behind Pogacar and attempt to come around him towards the end of the long effort.
- In the end, he walked away with an impressive second place but also showed us why he has yet to win a one-day WorldTour race in his career.
Pogačar and Mas were well matched
5) Mas could have increased his chances against Pogacar by increasing the variables in the final few kilometers
- After failing to drop Pogacar, Mas still had a card to play for the win, which was to sit on Pogacar and allow Landa to catch back on before attacking the duo and hoping that the complicated dynamics behind would create enough of a buffer to ride clear for the win.
- Adding Landa to the mix is key since if Mas would have attempted to attack Pogacar on the run-in after the final climb, Pogacar would simply have just gone all-in to get even with him and then sat on before the sprint.
- But, if Landa was there, Pogacar might have been hesitant to give Landa a free ride back up to the attacking Mas and create just enough hesitation to give Mas a winning gap.
- The chances of this working are small and meant Mas was sacrificing a sure second-place finish, but it would have increased his chances of winning from around 0-1% to something around 10-15%, which is a not insignificant increase.
Mikel Landa knows how to surprise
6) Mikel Landa is still one of the most confusing riders in the peloton
- The enigmatic Basque rider pulled a highly unexpected third-place ride out of his hat at the tail-end of a disappointing three-season run that has netted only a single professional win.
- Even more impressively, there were moments inside the final twenty kilometers where if one were to squint hard enough, a scenario for a Landa win was possible.
- This strong ride shows us the 32-year-old is far from washed up but also that he is a step below the top-tier GC riders like Pogačar and Mas, who appeared able to drop him at will on the final two climbs.
- So, even though Landa will take a much-needed confidence boost into the offseason, with so many talented GC riders continuing to emerge, the path to a potential grand tour win seems more muddled than ever.
Jonas Vingegaard not 100%
7) Jumbo-Visma and Jonas Vingegaard are still missing their Tour de France mojo
- The Dutch superteam set down a marker way back at Paris-Nice in March by blowing up the peloton with their pace-making and continued their dominance through the Tour de France, but massive holes in their pace-setting have been exposed from the Vuelta through Lombardia.
- Even before Jonas Vingegaard’s lack of top form was found out, his Jumbo team was dominated by UAE’s team strength in this race and showed that their high-powered off-season acquisitions like Wilco Kelderman, Dylan van Baarle, Jan Tratnik, and Attila Valter are much needed.
- I wouldn’t recommend reading too much into the 2023 Tour de France based on the performances from Jumbo/Vingegaard and UAE/Pogacar, but the divergent rides won’t have gone unnoticed by the riders and teams involved and should give Pogacar confidence that he can top Vingegaard at next year’s Tour as he heads into the off-season.
Where were INEOS? Movistar were more dominant
8) Ineos has fallen back into their bad ‘Team Sky’– era habits
- The former superteam came into this race with a strong roster of outside contenders like Carlos Rodríguez, Adam Yates, and Dani Martínez, but continued their bad habit of attempting to race in a head-to-head battle with the much stronger UAE team.
- The problem with this ‘blunt force power’ strategy is that it only helps the strongest rider in the race, which in this case was Pogacar, and keeps Ineos’ multiple potential winners from turning the race into a tactical battle where they could catch out a rider like Pogačar.
- After an impressive guerrilla performance where they toppled the favorites at Paris-Roubaix, they reverted back to their old strategy of attempting to simply ride their stronger rivals off their wheels.
- If they want to continue winning major races in an era where they no longer have the sport’s most dominant riders, they will have to work this offseason to leave this bad habit behind.
Life is good for Tadej Pogačar
# Spencer Martin is the author of the cycling-analysis newsletter Beyond the Peloton that breaks down the nuances of each race and answers big picture questions surrounding team and rider performance. Sign up now to get full access to all the available content and race breakdowns. #