Il Lombardia: Fuglsang betters Bennett to take victory

Danish rider picks up second monument after Liège-Bastogne-Liège victory in 2019; Evenepoel hospitalized but conscious after dramatic crash.

Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) went clear on the final climb of the day to win Il Lombardia Saturday.

The Dane attacked after withstanding a series of accelerations from George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) on the Battaglia climb to ride away from the Kiwi. Bennett had ridden the final 40 kilometers of the race outnumbered by multiple Astana and Trek-Segafredo riders in a lead group of six.

Aleksandr Vlasvov (Astana) rounded out the podium to take third.

“I felt good but I knew that George [Bennett] was also in good shape, especially after his win at Gran Piemonte on Wednesday,” Fuglsang said after the race. “Luckily there was Vlasov who helped me a lot: he rode like a champion today. After the Civiglio I thought I was going to sprint with George, then on the final climb, I tried and when I saw that I was alone, I continued to push until the finish line.”

The victory marks the Dane’s second monument after also winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège last year.

Red-hot favorite Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) did not finish after dramatically crashing on the descent of the steep Sormano climb with 40km to go, hitting a wall and toppling down a long drop on the other side. The young Belgian is conscious and was taken away in an ambulance.

The race typically known as “the race of the falling leaves” due to its October slot in the typical WorldTour calendar played out under hot midsummer sun, with the first hour of racing covering nearly 50 kilometers as the pace rocketed.

A large escape bunch went away but was inevitably hoovered up by the front group with around 70km to go, as the often-selective Muro di Sormano approached.

Sure enough, the super-steep slopes of the Sormano split the lead bunch of 50 into several groups, with Bennett, Vlasov, Fuglsang, Evenepoel, Vincenzo Nibali, Bauke Mollema, Giulio Ciccone (all Trek-Segafredo), Michael Woods (EF Pro Cycling), Richard Carapaz (Ineos) and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) all coming to the fore.

Trek-Segafredo dominated the final group, though failed to make it count. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images.

Nibali piled on the pressure at the front of the bunch through the treacherous descent of the Sormano, leaving several riders trailing off the back.

Evenepoel had stayed in contact with the flying Sicilian along with a handful of others. Eager to keep pushing the pace and make a selection, the young Belgian misjudged his line, slamming into and over a roadside wall and down a long drop the other side.

Going into the lakeside road heading toward the final duo of the Civiglio and Battaglia climbs, Trek-Segafredo packed the lead group with Nibali, Ciccone and Mollema, while Astana had Vlasvov and Fulgsang still in contact, leaving Bennett as the lone isolated rider of the sextet.

Fuglsang attacked to split down the bunch of six on the approach to the Civiglio, with Bennett first to respond and Vlasov following. Behind them, the three Trek-Segafredo riders failed to respond, with Nibali looking off the pace.

With Bennett outnumbered, Fuglsang dragged the leaders over the Civiglio, with the lead trio holding a 30-second gap over Ciccone and Mollema going into the descent, while Nibali was laboring one minute behind them.

With Vlasov now beginning to struggle and Bennett not wanting to do any work against the Astana teammates, the chasing Trek-Segafredo pair began to gain ground in the short section of flat approaching the final Battaglia ascent.

With the gap to the chasers falling, the lead trio began to work together in the hopes of holding on for a sprint finish and guaranteed podium position.

Sensing he would lose out against fast-finisher Fuglsang if it did come down to a sprint, Bennett attacked at the base of the short Battaglia climb. The Dane stayed in contact, though Vlasov was left a few seconds back.

Having withstood a flurry of subsequent attacks from Bennett, Fuglsang launched clear toward the top of the Battaglia. After being isolated against multiple Trek-Segafredo and Astana riders for the final hour of the race, the Kiwi was unable to respond to Fuglsang’s move.

Fuglsang went clear over the summit of the Battaglia and rode into the flat final 1500 meters with a 25-second gap. Though Bennett looked cracked, he held out for second place, 31 seconds behind the Dane. Astana took their second slot on the podium with Vlasov in third.

Deceuninck-Quick-Step provided an update on Evenepoel’s condition soon after the race, saying “he is at the Como hospital, where he is conscious and his condition is being assessed by the medical team. We hope to have more news soon.”