Il Lombardia | October 7 | Italy
For a rider like Vincenzo Nibali, who is one of the best climbers in the world but can’t sprint to save his life, winning one-day Classics is tough going. Unlike a rider such as four-time Liège-bastogne-liège winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who can afford to ride conservatively safe in the knowledge that he can wait for a sprint, the Bahrain-merida man is obliged to be more imaginative in his approach, and contrive a way to reach the finish alone and ahead of the rest of the race.
His Achilles heel was exposed in 2012 when, despite having targeted the Spring Classics and having great form, Nibali was outsprinted at Milan-san Remo, and caught in the final kilometre at Liège-bastogne-liège.
Nibali appears to have found his niche in Il Lombardia, a home race that he won for the second time in his career last weekend. Compared to other one-day Classics in general, and the other four Monuments (considered to be cycling’s most prestigious) in particular, this one is tailored towards his talents — especially the route that was used this year, which was the same as the one used during his previous triumph here in 2015.
The severity of the early climbing was enough to root out any heavier fast finishers who might have been able to survive to the finish on an easier parcours. The positioning of the finale’s hardest climb, the Civiglio, at around 20km from the line, also played into Nibali’s penchant for long-range attacks, and, just as in 2015, he used it as a launchpad for his race-winning move. His notoriously brazen descending ability was also put to use on the following technical downhill, on which he dropped his only breakaway companion Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), subsequently soloing to a classy victory that he made look easy.
The result means Nibali now has two Monument wins to go with his four Grand Tours, among them the holy grail of the Tour de France as well as two Giro victories. Now he’s mastered Il Lombardia, arguably no other active rider can claim to have such a versatile and impressive palmarès, and to have built it with such panache and showmanship.