Il Lombardia preview: Alejandro Valverde favourite for victory
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 03/10/15 3:58pm
A selection of the world’s best climbers will descend on northern Italy on Sunday for the fifth and final one-day Monument classic of the season, Il Lombardia.
Set to be held for the 109th time, the "Race of the Falling Leaves" is one of the most prestigious events on the calendar and was won in 2014 by Ireland's Dan Martin.
Here is everything you need to know about this year's edition…
The 245km route contains six climbs, including four in the final 80km. The Colle Gallo and Colle Brianza come too early to have a direct impact on the outcome, but when the riders hit the legendary Madonna del Ghisallo at the side of Lake Como, the race should come to life.
The peloton may well stay as one over the Ghisallo, but it is almost certain to be blown to pieces by the brutally steep Muro Di Sormano, which race organisers say has a maximum gradient of 25-27 per cent.
A 13km descent down the other side should see the riders who fared best up the Sormano come together as an elite group who then go on to battle for victory over the final two climbs.
The ascent to Civiglio is the key climb and those with good legs will no doubt hope to escape here and then hold on over the climb to San Fermo Della Battaglia and subsequent descent to the finish in Como.
The past five editions have all ended with a solo winner, although Martin escaped to victory last year on a flat section just before the finish as the rest of the lead group prepared for a sprint.
WHEN IS IT?
Start time: 9.25am BST.
Estimated finish time: 4.15pm BST.
Age: 35. Team: Movistar. Sky Bet odds: 4/1.
The world's No 1-ranked rider has never won Il Lombardia but was second in each of the past two years and will be determined to fill what remains a glaring omission from his cycling CV this weekend. He is a punchy climber capable of winning with a solo attack, but he also has a fast finish should the race come down to a sprint.
Age: 30. Team: Astana. Sky Bet odds: 9/2.
Nibali has a poor record at Il Lombardia - a fifth place in 2010 being the only time he has threatened the podium - but he comes into this year's race in good form, having won two one-day races in Italy in the past few weeks and finished in the top five in another three. He will also be motivated by the knowledge that a win on Sunday would partly salvage what has been an otherwise poor season.
Age: 29. Team: Cannondale-Garmin. Sky Bet odds: 16/1.
Martin doesn't go into Il Lombardia with particularly outstanding form, but he will be buoyed by the fact that since the turn of the century, no fewer than five winners of the race have successfully defended their titles the following season. Martin is a punchy climber who specialises in hilly one-day classics.
Age: 25. Team: Astana. Sky Bet odds: 18/1.
Having won the Vuelta a Espana last month, Aru could have been forgiven for coasting his way through the remainder of the season, but a third-placed finish at Milano-Torino - Il Lombardia's main warm-up race - on Thursday showed he has retained his excellent form and should be a threat. A ferocious climber, Aru finished ninth last year to prove he has the attributes to challenge for victory.
Age: 24. Team: Lotto Soudal. Sky Bet odds: 18/1.
Wellens finished fourth in last year's race and comes into the 2015 edition in fine form, having won the GP de Montreal three weeks ago. He is one of the most exciting young talents in cycling and a big, breakthrough win doesn't appear too far away.
Age: 28. Team: Lampre-Merida. Sky Bet odds: 18/1.
Costa finished third last year and has decent form after finishing third in the GP de Montreal and then ninth in last Sunday's World Championship road race. He is a specialist in courses with late climbs and then descents to the finish.
Age: 33. Team: BMC Racing. Sky Bet odds: 20/1.
Like Rodriguez, Gilbert is a former back-to-back winner of Il Lombardia following triumphs in 2009 and 2010. He goes into the race on the back of a strong late-summer/early-autumn so far, having finished second at the Clasica San Sebastian and recorded top 10s in each of the GP de Quebec, GP de Montreal and last Sunday's World Championship road race.
Age: 26. Team: Tinkoff-Saxo. Sky Bet odds: 33/1.
Similar to Aru, Majka has managed to retain the form that propelled him to third overall at the Vuelta and proved as much by finishing second in Thursday's Milano-Torino. He doesn't have the electric accelerations of a rider like Rodriguez, but he should be one of the strongest climbers in the field.
Age: 22. Team: Orica-GreenEdge. Sky Bet odds: 40/1.
Although not one of the favourites, the big names in the peloton have seen enough of Yates this season to know that he is one young rider who they cannot afford to give an inch to. An excellent climber, he won the Clasica San Sebastian solo in August and then finished second to Wellens in a two-man sprint at the GP de Montreal, so he has both form and confidence in abundance.
Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge).
Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge).
2014: Dan Martin (Irl).
2013: Joaquim Rodriguez (Esp).
2012: Joaquim Rodriguez (Esp).
2011: Oliver Zaugg (Sui).
2010: Philippe Gilbert (Bel).
2009: Philippe Gilbert (Bel).
2008: Damiano Cunego (Ita).
2007: Damiano Cunego (Ita).
2006: Paolo Bettini (Ita).
2005: Paolo Bettini (Ita).