Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogacar end the cycling season with a one-day rerun of their Tour de France battle when they meet in Il Lombardia on Saturday. Pogacar, who won last year when the race ran from Como-Bergamo, is attempting to complete a double in Como by winning the 157 mile race in both directions.
“Last year I won the race. It’s hard to do better but I’m really motivated to do the same,” he said.
“The course is very hard, almost like a mountain stage of the Tour de France,” said the Slovenian on Friday, who enjoyed great success in the French mountains until he cracked trying to keep up with Jonas Vingegaard on Col du Granon in this year’s Tour.
The Dane took the Tour de France lead and kept it to end Pogacar’s two-year reign as champion. Asked if Il Lombardia offered a chance for revenge, a smiling Pogacar answered: “Maybe”.
“We’ll see tomorrow. I don’t think it’s only Jonas that is one of the favourites here, we have a big field of competitors here.”
Asked again about his relations with the Dane, Pogacar answered: “Vingegaard? I don’t have his phone number. I don’t think he uses social media. I have not been in contact with Jonas. We saw him yesterday on recon… we saw each other, but that’s all.”
Vingegaard has said the Tour of Lombardy is “one of the main objectives of the season”. While Pogacar has already won two ‘Monuments’, as the five biggest one-day races are known, Vingegaard’s best result is 14th in Il Lombardia last year. Vingegaard largely disappeared from cycling after winning the Tour.
“When you win the Tour de France, it’s a kind of mental explosion that happens to you,” he said. “It’s very difficult to talk to the media and the fans every day.”
Pogacar, meanwhile, continued to fire on all cylinders.
“Last year I was thinking it’s hard to have a better season but I think this year was one of the best seasons I have ever had,” said the 24-year-old.
His victory on Tuesday in the Tre Valli Varesine was his 15th of the season, the same as the Vuelta winner and world champion Remco Evenepoel, the main absentee on Saturday. The Belgian has a good excuse: he is getting married. The late-season race is often the last appearance of those heading into retirement. On Saturday it is the turn of 42-year-old Spaniard Alejandro Valverde and 37-year-old Italian Vincenzo Nibali to ride off into the sunset by Lake Como in the ‘race of the falling leaves’.
Valverde, who served a two-year doping ban, racked up 133 professional wins including the Vuelta in 2009 and world championships in 2018 while Nibali is one of only seven cyclists who have won all three Grand Tours in their career. The Italian won the Vuelta in 2010, the Tour de Franca in 2014 and the Giro d’Italia in 2013 and 2016.
“They had fantastic careers. It will be sad to see them leave,” said Pogacar.
“Never say never, but I don’t see myself riding professional for so long, I don’t think so. You need a really strong mentality to keep racing at that high level when you’re over 40.”
RBA/AFP Photos: Sprint Cycling Agency