Il Lombardia: A dialogue between Nibali and Mollema

As former winners of the Classic of the falling leaves, the two Trek-Segafredo leaders’ words are the best way to introduce the last Monument of 2021

For some, Il Lombardia is the last chance. For others, it’s a final note of a successful season. And still for others, those who already know how to win it, it’s like a homecoming.

Tomorrow Vincenzo Nibali and Bauke Mollema will be the leaders of Trek-Segafredo in the last Monument of the season. At their side: Gianluca Brambilla, Toms Skujins, Niklas Eg, Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier and rookie Antonio Tiberi. For everyone, it will be the last race of 2021 and for the Shark, the last race with the Trek-Segafredo jersey.

But before the fall out, there’s one important event to ride and to try to win, as Vincenzo did in 2015 and 2017, and Bauke in 2019. For both, Il Lombardia has left a deep impression.
So, who better to offer a deep look into Il Lomabardia?

It was the most important victory of my career. I said it without hesitation just after the race, and I still think so.
- Bauke Mollema

Bauke Mollema wins the 2019 Il Lombardia.

It's the race that most has impressed me since I became a pro rider. In so many years of career, it's the only one I've really tried not to miss.
- Vincenzo Nibali


Bauke: “I remember the whole day of my victory very well, but the most vivid is when I attacked on the Civiglio. The history of Lombardia is marked by attacks like that. It has a course that presents a sort of springboard to the finish line and it’s not uncommon to see solo winners. In my case it was that climb, just over 20kms from the finish line. I seized the moment in one of the few calm moments in a really hectic finale.”

Vincenzo: “For me too, the Civiglio climb is key, because my victories were built there, once in descent and the other climbing. However, for the recent history of Il Lombardia, it would be reductive focusing only on that part. The climbs of Ghisallo and Sormano were two important steps. They were far from the finish line, but you feel them in the legs after climbing, regardless if the pace was hard or not. Il Lombardia should be observed as a series of key moments.”



Bauke: “In 2019 I wasn’t one of the top favorites and I used this status in my favor. When I attacked, for a handful of seconds the big names looked at each other. That was decisive in allowing me to make the gap. Being an outsider in the finale of a Classic can often be a big advantage if you have the legs to make a difference. Tomorrow, if there will be an attack by Roglic, Evenepoel or Pogacar, just to name three favorites, the others will follow immediately. The only chance they have is dropping the opponents.”

Vincenzo: “In the last years media have always included me among the favorites. Racing and winning as a favorite is complicated because you have everyone’s eyes on you. You can’t play the surprise hit. In 2015 I won by attacking on the descent after trying on the climb when no one gave me a meter. You can do very little tactics in these cases, and it often becomes a head-to-head among a few favorites.”

Giulio Ciccone and Vincenzo Nibali during the 2020 Il Lombardia 2020.


Bauke: “Having the lucidity in the finale is essential, as well as the preparation on the eve of the race. Watching videos of previous years was a great help in my case. Many times everything happened in a few kilometers and two climbs; you need to be ready. If you go solo, you need to know how to manage energy and time. Then, there is a sort of climax point, where you have to go all-in. For me it was the GPM of San Fermo della Battaglia, the last climb. I reached the top alone, that was my goal. Then, it was a time trial to the line.”

Vincenzo: “My tactic comes from experience. Il Lombardia is an unforgiving race; it wears you out. Year after year I have learned to manage myself. Since I’ve been a professional, the route has always been very similar, and it has allowed me to refine my knowledge of the climbs. For sure tomorrow there will be more uncertainty and unpredictability, but my approach will not change.”



Bauke: “Brilliant condition, but also enough endurance. Il Lombardia is a 240kms race with an elevation gain of over 4,000 meters. It’s very demanding. Your body has to absorb the efforts required by the race and to give you what you need in the finale, to allow you to seize the moment. You have to be a very good climber, because it’s on the climbs that you make the difference.”

Vincenzo: “I agree with Bauke, distance is an important variable for an end-of-season race. For my characteristics, I can only be happy that it’s so hard. It’s not a race you can improvise, and you need a proper approach. Those who went strong at the Vuelta, for example, may have an advantage if they are able to keep a constant level of condition. Roglic’s performance in this week, for example, is a clear example of this.”

Vincenzo Nibali and Bauke Mollema during the 2020 race.


Bauke: “Il Lombardia comes at the end of the season and this counts. There are riders who have the Vuelta in their legs and others, like me, who prepared it with a less intense schedule. Both approaches can be good. For the rest, it’s down to motivation. In some cases, this has even more impact and can help riders not feel the fatigue of an entire season. It’s different from the spring classics, where almost the entire group is motivated by the desire to do well but still have a season to race. For several riders, Il Lombardia is the last chance of the season.”

Vincenzo: “For me, the feeling I have for this race is enough as a motivation. I’ve raced it so many times and almost every time it was a goal of my season’s finale. I like the course, its climbs and since I live in Lugano, it has become almost my home race. The fact that we’re talking about a Monument makes it a target for many big names. Motivation is definitely a decisive element in a rider’s approach.”



Bauke: “The route with the arrival in Como had a linear development, less tactical. Civiglio and San Fermo is where you expect fireworks. The finish in Bergamo is less known and this can make the race more tactical. The last 30kms, after the GPM of Passo di Ganda, are basically flat and downhill, but before the course is very demanding. We’ll see how the group and the top favorites, with their respective teams, intend to ride.”

Vincenzo: “We’ve only seen the finish in Bergamo twice in the last ten years, 2014 and 2016, and they were among the very few times I didn’t race Il Lombardia. This time, I studied it on paper. There are different climbs, longer. No doubt that will be a hard day, but the finish will be all to be deciphered.”