Just a week after the men’s road championships road race in Florence, many of the same riders line-up for the Tour of Lombardy on Sunday, October 6.
Rui Costa (Movistar) will make his debut in the rainbow jersey of world champion, and one of his last appearances for Movistar before switching to Lampre-Merida next season.
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Last year’s winner, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) will no doubt be gunning to defend his title, particularly after narrowly losing out on the world title to Costa. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) heads the list of home nation hopes, another rider with a score to settle after the world championships.
British hopes in the race are headed up by Chris Froome (Sky), who failed to finish the worlds road race and will be hoping to end his season with a flourish – like his Irish Garmin-Sharp counterpart Daniel Martin.
Joaquim Rodriguez, 34, Katusha
Rodriguez was by many accounts the strongest rider at the world championships on Sunday, but in cycling the strongest rider does not always win, and some tactical failings – of which Alejandro Valverde has been especially blamed – meant that the calm and watchful Rui Costa outsprinted the tired and poorly positioned Spaniard for the win.
‘Purito’ could barely hold back the tears on the podium when receiving his silver medal that day, but he’ll be seeking to maintain his exceptional form and make amends with a second consecutive Tour of Lombardy win, following his victorious ride in last year’s torrential conditions.
Vincenzo Nibali, 28, Astana
The tifosi favourite has enjoyed a very successful year on home soil; in March he won the Tirreno-Adriatico, then the Giro del Trentino, and finally the biggest Italian race of them all, the Giro d’Italia. But ‘Nibbles’ has found one day races in his native country to be somewhat more of a challenge this year, as he failed to complete Milan-San Remo, and finished a heart-breaking fourth place in the world road race in Tuscany.
Lombardy could however be a different story for Nibali, containing as it does an inviting mixture of hilly terrain and home roads. Baring in mind his excellent form coming out of the Vuelta and the Worlds, this could be the year he finally breaks his monument duck.
Dan Martin, 27, Garmin
Despite recent bad luck with crashes, the Irishman is confident that he has the form to round off his career-best season on a high at the Tour of Lombardy. His fall at the world championships had looked as though it may prematurely end his season, but he was back on his bike at the Milan-Torino on Wednesday. Which is just as well, as the Lombardy parcours suits his characteristics to a T.
Rui Costa, 26, Movistar
The surprise world champion will don the infamous rainbow jersey for the first time in Lombardy. The Portuguese rider was on top form throughout September, and has a habit of converting potential runner-up finishes into wins.
He is unlikely, however, to line up as his team’s sole designated leader; Movistar also possess the cards of Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana, both of whom have been higher up the pecking order this year and will, unlike Lampre-bound Rui Costa, remain at the team next season.
Diego Ulissi, 24, Lampre
In the few Italian races that have not been won by Vincenzo Nibali this season, Diego Ulissi has arguably been the most successful rider. The Lampre rider won the Coppi d Bartali stage race in March, and just this week added the Milan-Turin classic to his ever growing palmares.
The Italian has a devastating turn of pace and can climb well, but has yet to challenge in the most prestigious classics, suggesting that distances over 250km has been too taxing for his young, 24-year-old legs. This weekend’s Tour of Lombardy could be remembered as the race he made that transition.
Philippe Gilbert, 31, BMC
As a two time winner of this race, Gilbert warrants a mention as a potential winner, but the Wallonian has for some time now looked a shadow of the rider who dominated the rest of the field so impressively in the 2009 and 2012 editions.
In his favour, Gilbert typically discovers his best form in the autumnal period of the season, and redeemed a similarly disappointing season in 2012 by winning the world championships. Can he do the same this year with victory in Lombardy?
Chris Froome, 28, Sky
Froome goes into the race as Britain’s top chance of a win, but, as at the world championships, is unlikely to be in the frame.
Despite his obvious talent, Britian’s second Tour de France winner has yet to conquer the nuances of one-day races, and Sunday is likely to function more as a learning experience for him, while his Colombian teammates Sergio Henao and Rigoberto Uran – who has an excellent past record at this race without yet winning it – compete for the win.