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Pogačar wins Lombardia again; last race for Valverde, Nibali

Eroica - 16th Strade Bianche 2022 - Men's Elite

SIENA, ITALY - MARCH 05: Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia and UAE Team Emirates celebrates winning during the Eroica - 16th Strade Bianche 2022 - Men’s Elite a 184km one day race from Siena to Siena - Piazza del Campo 321m / #StradeBianche / #WorldTour / on March 05, 2022 in Siena, Italy. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

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COMO, Italy - Two-time Tour de France champion Tadej Pogačar edged Enric Mas to successfully defend his title at Il Lombardia, which marked the final race of Grand Tour champions Alejandro Valverde and Vincenzo Nibali.

Pogačar, the Slovenian who rides for UAE Team Emirates, outsprinted Mas at the end of the 253-kilometer (157-mile) route from Bergamo to Como to claim victory in the final one-day classic of the season.

Nothing could separate the duo on the highly demanding route that featured nine climbs. But Pogačar won the sprint to the line for his 16th victory of the season and 46th in his career.

“It’s really amazing to come back and repeat the victory. I tried to attack on the Civiglio climb but Mas was clearly on the same level as me. I was still confident that I would beat him in the sprint,” said Pogačar, who finished second in the Tour this year after winning the previous two.

“At Giro dell’Emilia, I was still suffering from the trip back from Australia, but I have felt better and better since. This victory makes it an almost perfect 2022 season for me.”

Mikel Landa was third, 10 seconds behind Pogačar and Mas. Only Sergio Higuita and Carlos Rodríguez were also within a minute of the top two.

The 42-year-old Valverde of Spain, who won the Spanish Vuelta in 2009, was sixth. Italian cyclist Nibali was 24th, more than two minutes behind Pogačar.

The 37-year-old Nibali, who is one of only seven cyclists to have won all three Grand Tours, was loudly cheered throughout the race.

“I enjoyed the race and the fans, unfortunately the legs only went so far,” said Nibali, who announced his upcoming retirement at the Giro d’Italia this year.

“It has been a long, emotional road that started at the Giro d’Italia but I managed to unload some of the emotion during the year. I really thank everyone who greeted me and thanked me along the route.”