The Dutch climber solos to victory in Il Lombardia
Bauke Mollema may not be one of the biggest names in the WorldTour but come to the end of any long and hard race, and you will almost always find him in the front with the favorites. This consistency paid off Sunday with his first win in a Monument, the first in his 16 years as a professional, and certainly one of his best, as he soloed to victory in the 113th edition of Il Lombardia.
Mollema attacked during a brief lull on the second-to-last ascent with 18 kilometers to go, taking a 20-second advantage over the Civiglio climb. He increased his lead through the descent as the big favorites eyed each other. The lack of cooperation behind allowed the Dutch climber to take a 45-second lead into the final uphill, and it would prove enough for Mollema to take one of the most significant victories of his career.
“I was not one of the favorites for this race, but I have been feeling good the last two weeks, and just waiting for my moment, and luckily it was today,” said Mollema. “It’s very special to win a Monument, this is my first, I have never been close in my 16 years, and 11th year in Lombardy, and now to win? Yeah, it’s really special.”
Mollema’s race-winning move came off the back of his aggressive Trek-Segafredo teammates, who, like all week, took the race in-hand.
Toms Skujins joined the early breakaway of the 243-kilometer race and was the last rider standing from the escape group when the bunch finally caught up to him on the steep gradient of the Sormano climb. Giulio Ciccone then countered, pushing the pace to the top and creating the first crucial selection.
“It was planned to be aggressive today again,” explained Mollema. “The whole week in the Italian classics we were riding well already and didn’t win, but we were always in front in Emilia, Beghelli, Tre Valli and also Milan-Torino, so the motivation was really good in the team. We have a lot of good climbers for this race, and today it finally paid off.”
All the favorites were together coming into the Civiglio climb, and Mollema made his move just after Alejandro Valverde’s attack was caught back.
“It all came down to the Civiglio, and luckily I felt good,” continued Mollema. “I knew I had to go because when they were attacking, they were more explosive than me, so when they slowed down, I knew it was my moment to go. I was surprised that I got 20 seconds after one kilometer already; I think they were looking at each other in the back.
“And when I still had 20 seconds over the top, I knew I had a good chance to stay away to the end. I knew the downhill really well and knew they were not going faster than me there. The last 10k was just full gas all the time.”
On the final uphill, the pre-race favorites went all-in to try and catch Mollema, clawing back to within 20 seconds again, but their lack of solidarity eventually spelled their fate. Mollema held his advantage over the final kilometers to finally, after 11 tries, realize a win in Lombardy.
To win this race is unbelievable. I have felt good the whole week, and the team also has been riding well. Winning the Tour de France was also very special, but winning a Monument – yeah, I can’t believe it. It’s amazing.