Three things to keep in mind ahead of Il Lombardia: words from rookie Skjelmose

The Dane will race the Monument for the first time. His debutant point of view is a unique way to introduce everyone to the Classic of the falling leaves.

“The Monuments always have a few common characteristics,” says Mattias Skjelmose. “A long and hard race, a stellar start list. What distinguishes Il Lombardia, are the long and hard climbs which make it a climbers’ classic par excellence.”


Mattias' climbers skills fit well for Il Lombardia (©SprintCycling)

Legs but, most of all, head

At this point in the season, legs matter, but not only that. Il Lombardia is where motivation can make all the difference. There are riders who arrive there after a long, successful season, and it can become the cherry on top; for others it’s a goal that comes after a having hit another big one in the summer, like Vingegaard, and with minimal race days in the legs; for others, it can be the last chance to make the season less bitter.

Fatigue is a common condition for many riders. I too feel the weight of the season, particularly after the long Australian trip for the World Championship. It is something that mentally can weigh heavily, especially when we look at the toughness of Il Lombardia. Therefore, I say again, motivation and the desire to do well can make the difference at the key moment of the race.

Tre Valli Varesine was his last race, couple of days ago (©SprintCycling)

The route

Racing in Italy is not always easy, it requires special attention, you have to be 100% focused most of the time. Sometimes you have to deal with hidden dangers on the asphalt, sometimes with narrow or twisty roads or complicated passages in small villages.

This requires one skill in particular, which will be crucial tomorrow: positioning. The first 120kms take place in the province of Bergamo and will be far from easy. From Ghisallo onwards the battle to be in the right place in the right moment will be essential. I believe that as early as this point the race can explode.

For some riders it may be an opportunity to play a surprise card. From the top of the climb there are about 65kms to go, an important distance. Of course it is a big risk, because until the first pass on San Fermo the road favors the chasers.

The real key point, the point where the big selection will be made will be Civiglio. Steep enough to make a real difference and the perfect springboard to maintain a gap until the end.

In Luxembourg, early in September, he took his pro win (©SprintCycling)

Tactics matter, a lot!

With such an explosive finish, I expect the favorites will wait for Civiglio to try to win the race. However, I think San Fermo can be a good opportunity for the second lines, for the co-leaders. For me, it is not just an expectation but also a hope. Being ahead in the second pass on San Fermo means have a hope for a result: the big guys can catch you, but it becomes difficult to drop you.

That’s why you can have good legs and great motivation, but still you need good tactics and a team that knows how to put them into practice. If a leader has teammates to ‘exploit’ in the last 40kms, he can remain more calm because it means having someone who can close attacks. Team UAE, in recent races, has been a good example of this way to race. Other teams can count on more resources to spring a surprise, such as Movistar with Valverde and Mas. Some teams are a big unknown, however, such as Jumbo-Visma: strong team, top leaders like Vingegaard, but with less feedback in the last period.