Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) used his incredible descending skills and knowledge of the course to escape from his rivals to take the biggest single-day race win of his career in Il Lombardia, Italy, on Sunday.
The Italian road race champion attacked on the descent of the Civiglio, and utilised every centimetre of the twisting road to open up a gap that his rivals were powerless to close.
It marks a successful end to a season that – up until today – Nibali would probably have preferred to forget: off-form in the Tour de France in July, and disqualified from the Vuelta a España in August.
Spaniard Daniel Moreno (Katusha) made up for the last-minute withdrawal of injured team leader Joaquim Rodriguez to finish second behind Nibali, with Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) in third.
WorldTour winner and pre-race favourite Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) finished in fourth place.
The early stages of the six-hour race were played out with an 11-man escape group out front. This split apart on the ascent of the Ghisallo with 75km to go, which also saw the chasing peloton start to fragment for the first time.
Former world champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep) was the first rider to launch a move on the steep climb of Muro di Sormano, a move which saw the peloton finally crumble into bits. Defending Lombardia champion Daniel Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) was one of those dropped.
Astana were active throughout the day, working hard to chase down the break and then to keep Nibali at the forefront of the action. The team’s Diego Rosa – who won Milano-Torino on Thursday – was particularly active, and finished in fifth place himself.
The Astana-led chase group caught Kwiatkowski on the Civiglio climb with 19km to go. Rosa attacked first, followed by Sky’s Sergio Henao but they were soon brought back. Pinot then attacked, followed again by Rosa and Mikel Nieve (Sky).
After they were reeled in, Nibali those his moment to launch what would turn out to be the race-winning move. Going clear over the top of the Civiglio and waving good bye to his rivals, who would not see him again as he swept down the hill.
Moreno and Pinot were the most active in the chase, and Moreno almost caught Nibali before the final descent of San Fermo della Battaglia, but he couldn’t quite make the junction and that was game over as Nibali once again stretched his advantage on the final descent to the finish in Como.
Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) was Britain’s top finisher, in 18th place. Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) finished in 56th place, with British national champion Peter Kennaugh (Team Sky) in 72nd.
After winning the final WorldTour race of the 2015 calendar and capping off Astana’s late-season purple patch that includes Fabio Aru’s Vuelta a España victory, Nibali will now take part in the Abu Dhabi Tour, starting on Thursday.
Il Lombardia 2015: Bergamo to Como, 245km
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana in 6-16-28
2. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha at 21 secs
3. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ at 32 secs
4. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 46 secs
5. Diego Rosa (Ita) Astana at same time
6. Mikel Nieve (Spa) Team Sky at same time
7. Tony Gallopin (Ned) Lotto-Soudal at 56 secs
8. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-GreenEdge
9. Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky at same time
10. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Etixx-QuickStep at 1-10
18. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-GreenEdge at 4-25
56. Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-GreenEdge at 11-58
72. Peter Kennaugh (GBr) Team Sky at 15-01