Primož Roglič and Egan Bernal the clear favourites
There are two clear danger-men heading into the final Monument of the year, both with memorable wins in the build-up.
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) remains the bookies’ favourite for Il Lombardia, running hot after winning the Vuelta a España and following up with one-day victories in the Giro dell’Emilia and Tre Valli Varesine.
The Slovenian enters the race as the most-watched rider, alongside Egan Bernal (Team Ineos), who looks to be peaking in perfect time having just won Gran Piemonte in emphatic style.
While this pair may be the strongest riders in the race, their obvious form means they will be closely marked and will have to play tactical a master class if they want to escape their rivals.
Adam Yates the wildcard
After a disappointing year focussing on general classification, Adam Yates is perfectly place to secure the biggest victory of his career in Il Lombardia.
After taking a stage and the overall at the CRO Race earlier this month, Yates has ridden only one of the Italian one-day races in the lead-up to the Monument.
A third-place finish in Milano-Torino was an encouraging result for the Brit, without drawing too much attention to his form.
Yates has an explosive finish that has seen him beat Alejandro Valverde on a sharp climb, which will serve him well if he finds himself in a small group of talent heading for the finish.
Another wildcard to watch is Michael Woods (EF Education First), who powered away from Valverde and Yates in Milano-Torino to take victory.
However, the Canadian’s relentless attacking performance in that race was lacking in tactical prowess and his rivals are unlikely to let him win on strength alone when the stakes are higher on Saturday.
Dangerous Deceuninck – Quick-Step
Quick-Step haven’t reached the top-step of Il Lombardia since 2006 when Paolo Bettini beat Samuel Sánchez, and have only come close once since then with Julian Alaphilippe second in 2017.
While Alaphilippe is skipping the race this year after a phenomenal but exhausting 2019 season, Quick-Step are still in with a strong chance at victory posting four potential winners.
First among them is Philippe Gilbert, back-to-back winner in 2009 and 2010.
The Belgian is in outstanding form and will be keen to prove it after crashing out of the World Championship road race. With two stage wins in the Vuelta, the 37-year-old will be looking to repeat his previous success.
Quick-step can also look to Spanish climber Enric Mas, who has had a comparatively quiet 2019 season. But after a quiet racing schedule in the late season and a tenth-place finish in Milano-Torino, Mas should be rested heading into the race, but how will his motivation hold? After a long year and a move to Movistar for 2020 on the way, Quick-Step may not opt to back his chances.
Luxembourger Bob Jungels is another serious threat for Il Lombardia, however this year may not be for him.
The 27-year-old has had a mixed 2019, winning Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne but then trying his had at general classification in the Giro, where he didn’t reach previous heights.
Jungels, the Luxembourg time trial and road race champion, didn’t finish the World Championship road race (along with dozens of others) or Milano-Torino, so his legs may be suffering.
The final hopeful is James Knox, the rising British star.
Knox has gone from strength to strength this season, finishing in the top-10 of WorldTour stages races and finishing 11th in his first (completed) Grand Tour at the Vuelta.
The 23-year-old has only raced Milano-Torino since the Vuelta, which he didn’t finish, so his form may be in question.
The Movistar trident returns
There has been plenty of mirth in recent seasons about Movistar’s determination to carry three leaders through Grand Tours, and it looks like they may try it once more in a Monument.
According to the provisional start list, Movistar will take Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde to Il Lombardia for once last hurrah before Quintana and Landa depart for other teams next season.
Valverde has to be their chosen rider for Il Lombardia as clearly the most in-form rider and one whose attributes are perfectly suited to the climber’s Monument.
However, Valverde has never won the race before, perhaps a surprise considering his palmarès. With second-place finishes in Gran Premio Bruno Beghelli and Milano-Torino, Valverde looks well placed to tick this one off.
Former winners chasing former glory
There are a handful of former winners lining up at Il Lombardia who will be looking for repeats, although last year’s winner Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) will be absent after picking up an injury at the Tour de France.
Aside from Gilbert, 2016 winner Esteban Chaves will be riding, although most likely in support of Adam Yates.
Chaves has been returning from a long illness and still isn’t back to his best, although he finished the World Championship road race in awful conditions and finished 14th in Giro dell’Emilia, which suggest he may at least be able to provide strong support for his Mitchelton-Scott leader.
Vincenzo Nibali is also expected to race, having won in 2017 and 2015.
The Bahrain-Merida rider has been quiet in the late season, with just nine race days since the Tour and opting to skip the Worlds, however that may have left him rested for a strong tilt at Lombardia after finishing second last year.
Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) will also be back, hoping to repeat his victory from 2014.
The double Monument winner has been consistent throughout the year but hasn’t seen the top step since the Tour last year – maybe this is his chance to change that.