2015 UCI WorldTour leader rides into battle one last time in Il Lombardia
The final race of the 2015 UCI WorldTour, Il Lombardia, takes place in Italy on Sunday.
With 615 points, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) is mathematically the winner of the 2015 UCI WorldTour, comfortably ahead of second-placed Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), on 474 points. However, Il Lombardia, the fifth and last Classic ‘Monument’, constitutes a hugely attractive target in itself, and victory for either of the two Spaniards would have some important consequences elsewhere in the UCI WorldTour rankings.
In the UCI WorldTour teams classification, Movistar Team currently lead Team Katusha by 1559 points to 1526, with Team Sky a distant third (1334 points). Victory for either Spaniard in Il Lombardia, therefore, could decisively tip the balance in the UCI WorldTour teams ranking in favour of the Spanish or the Russian squad.
It would be an understatement of sizable proportions to say that Rodriguez and Valverde have both shone in the 110-year-old Il Lombardia in the past. Rodriguez won in 2013 and 2012, the first Spanish rider ever to do so, whilst Valverde finished second in 2013 and last year behind Ireland’s Dan Martin (Team Cannondale-Garmin). But they are far from being the only favourites.
Apart from defending champion Dan Martin, Vincenzo Nibali and Mikel Landa (Astana Pro Team) are also clearly in excellent shape. Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), third last year, is another major contender, as is Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team) a double winner of the same race, in 2010 and 2009 and who placed seventh last year. Gilbert will have a key ally in team-mate Samuel Sánchez, who has finished on the podium of the Il Lombardia several times in the past - second in 2006, 2009 (behind Gilbert), and 2012 and third in 2007.
Redesigned route as hilly as ever
However, in a completely redesigned route - although many of the climbs are familiar, and it remains one of cycling’s hilliest one-day races - the 245 kilometre route of Il Lombardia 2015 could see some other top names come to the fore.
Starting in Bergamo and finishing in Como (rather than the other way round as in 2014), four climbs in the last 64 kilometres of racing favour the hilly Classics specialists and climbers. The Madonna del Ghisallo at km 181, with its famous cycling chapel at the top, ushers in what looks set to be a dramatic finale, whilst the Colma di Sormano at km 194, one of the toughest ascents in the area, could well create a small group of favourites. After a fast drop down through the finishing town of Como, this group could then battle it out on the Civiglio (km 228) and San Fermo della Battaglia (km 239.7) climbs, the latter short but punchy and with a challenging descent to the finish at Como’s Lungo Lario Trento street, a little over five kilometres further on.
Changes possible to UCI WorldTour rankings
The final outcome of the 2015 UCI WorldTour is once again in play, for even if Valverde is certain to win the WorldTour’s individual rankings, there could well be changes further down the ranking. Apart from Valverde and Rodriguez, those taking part in Il Lombardia who are well placed include Rui Costa (9th), Tom Dumoulin (Team Giant-Alpecin) in 14th, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) in 17th, Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale) 18th, and Bauke Mollema (Trek Factory Racing) in 20th position.
There is a similar scenario in the WorldTour nations ranking. With 1833 points, Spain is the outright leader and set to win for the fourth year running. However, Colombia in second, with 1069 points, third placed Great Britain with 1041 points and Italy in fourth with 1006, are all close enough together to make the battle for the podium positions one which will go down to the wire.
The final battles in the UCI WorldTour teams ranking are not just about the Team Katusha-Movistar Team duel for first place, either. BMC Racing Team in fifth with 1010 points and Astana Pro Team in sixth with 1006 points is too narrow a margin for either squad to be certain of their final classification. Orica GreenEdge with 825 points in 8th, and Lotto-Soudal in 9th with 802 points are in a similar situation. Il Lombardia, as ever, promises a dramatic and nail-biting end to the UCI WorldTour.