The final race of the 2015 UCI WorldTour season, the Giro di Lombardia, will see the peloton face a fierce course in the pursuit of a winning end to an enthralling season.
Nicknamed the ‘Race of the Falling Leaves’, Il Lombardia is the season’s fifth and final Monument – after Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
And with a new course awaiting, Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) will look to replicate his victory of 12 months ago – with a stellar cast of riders fighting to deny the Birmingham-born Irishman that opportunity.
So what can we expect from the final race of the season? We’ve taken a closer look…
One of the oldest races in the professional cycling calendar, the 109th edition of the race could be among the toughest thanks to a newly-designed course, running in the opposite direction to last year’s race.
Chief among the changes is the return of the Muro di Sormano – the Wall – which was absent from last year’s race. An average gradient of 17 per cent is eye-watering enough for the 1.7km climb, but it ramps up nearer to 25 per cent at its steepest.
In the 1960s the climb was actually removed from the route after it was said to be too steep, with riders being pushed up by fans.
It returned in 2012 though, and now after its one-year absence it’s now closer to the finish line – 55km from the Como finale.
The Madonna del Ghisallo also features as ever, just before the Sormano, while the Civiglio could offer a platform for a late attack featuring as it does with less than 20km remaining.
The race’s final climb is San Fermo Della Battaglia, where anybody looking to go long will need to escape the attentions of the peloton before the rapid descent and fast finish five kilometres later.
Dan Martin rides out wearing dossard number one, but the Irishman is still on the recovery trail after crashing out of the Vuelta a Espana.
The Cannondale-Garmin rider, who will leave for Etixx-QuickStep at the end of the season, was 14th on his racing return at Milano-Torino, however, and rides with a point to prove after a season without a win.
A typical form finder for Il Lombardia, Milano-Torino was this year won by Diego Rosa (Astana) after an attack-filled finale, with the Kazakh team in great form – Fabio Aru was third, while Vincenzo Nibali won the semi-Classics Coppa Bernocchi and Tre Valli Varesine.
Nibali has a point to prove following his disqualification at the Vuelta a Espana and can count on the backing of a strong Astana team also featuring Rosa and Sky-bound Mikel Landa.
Movistar will be led by world number one Alejandro Valverde, while two-time former Lombardia winner Joaquim Rodriguez, runner-up at the Vuelta a Espana, is also among the pre-race favourites. Sergio Henao, Wout Poels, who finished fifth in Turin, and Leopold Konig are among Team Sky’s contenders.
British hopes, meanwhile, will be pinned on Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE), flying high after winning the Clasica San Sebastian in August and finishing second at the GP de Montreal.
The Bury-born 23-year-old, brother Simon and Johan Esteban Chaves lead the Australian team’s charge.
Finally, Rafal Majka – runner-up at Milano-Torino – stood on the Lombardia podium two years ago and will hope to go better this time out.
UCI WorldTour rankings
The final race of the UCI WorldTour season means the final chance to bag WorldTour points on both an individual level and for the teams.
The individual rankings will be topped by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) no matter what, but second-placed Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) will become only the second rider to top 500 points this year if he finishes in the top seven. Regardless of whether that happens, Rodriguez will finish second overall in the rankings with none of the riders within striking distance of Purito on the Lombardia start line.
However, the performance of both men will have a huge bearing on the team rankings, with just 33 points separating leaders Movistar and Katusha in the world rankings.
With the results of each team’s top five riders in the individual rankings contributing team ranking points, alongside the world team time trial result, both squads have plenty to fight for, with 100 points up for grabs for the winner.
Of the teams’ current top fives, Valverde, Jon Izaguirre and Andrey Amador ride for Movistar, while Rodriguez, Daniel Moreno and Ilnur Zakarin lead the Katusha charge.
Current UCI WorldTour rankings – individual
1) Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) – 615
2) Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) – 474
3) Nairo Quintana (Movistar) – 457
UCI WorldTour rankings – team
1) Movistar – 1559
2) Katusha – 1526
3) Team Sky – 1334