Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) soloed to the first Monument victory of his career at the Giro di Lombardia to end a disappointing season on a high note.
The Shark was at the front of the bunch for much of the day and benefited from Astana’s strength in numbers when he shot off the head of the pelotion to crest the penultimate climb, the Civiglio, first.
And the Italian champion stretched out his advantage with a masterclass in aggressive descending as team-mate Diego Rosa chased down any moves behind him.
Daniel Moreno (Katusha) looked to be closing in on the Nibali as they hit the final climb, San Fermo della Battaglia, but Nibali’s produced another example of why he is considered one of the best descenders in the peloton to secure a solo victory ahead of Moreno, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) completing off the podium.
After a fast start to the day’s proceedings, a number of groups came together to form an 11-strong breakaway with all the wildcard teams represented except Colombia.
German veteran Stefan Schumacher (CCC Sprandi), Giro d’Italia stage winner Jan Polanc (Lampre-Merida) and Tour de France stage winner Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin) all featured in a group which was allowed to build an eight-minute advantage.
Astana then took charge and brought the group back to within two-and-a-half minutes by the time they reached the Madonna di Ghisallo ascent.
That climb prompted more attacks – former world champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep) among the most active, with three-team-mates for company, as the front group was reduced in size.
The Muro di Sormano, with its wall-like gradients, put paid to the original breakaway and Kwiatkowski, who will ride for Team Sky in 2016, came through at the front with only Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) for company.
Astana’s pace had decimated the peloton, meanwhile, and defending champion Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) was among the riders caught out as a result.
Still the Kazakh team drove the pace, and soon they had Kwiatkowski and Wellens in their sights – prompting a last ditch acceleration from the Pole on the Civiglio.
But Astana brought him back, and after Pinot, Rosa and Mikel Nieve (Team Sky) looked to break clear on the climb, it was Nibali who attacked over the summit.
Two hair-raising descents later, and it was the Shark of Messinah celebrating the first major one-day win of his career.
Meanwhile, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) came home in fourth, outsprinting Rosa and Nieve, to ensure Movistar top the UCI WorldTour team rankings for the third year running – by the slender margin of just five points from Katusha.
Giro di Lombardia 2015 – result
1) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana – 6.16.28hrs
2) Daniel Moreno (ESP) – Katusha +21”
3) Thibaut Pinot (FRA) – FDJ +32”
4) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +46”
5) Diego Rosa (ITA) – Astana – ST
6) Mikel Nieve (ESP) – Team Sky
7) Tony Gallopin (FRA) – Lotto-Soudal +56”
8) Johan Esteban Chaves (COL) – Orica-GreenEDGE – ST
9) Sergio Henao (COL) – Team Sky
10) Gianluca Brambilla (ITA) – Etixx-QuickStep +1.10