For the second year running and fourth time in his career, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) has been confirmed as the winner of the UCI WorldTour’s individual classification, with Movistar Team repeating their 2013 and 2014 triumph in the teams ranking and Spain, once again, classified as the WorldTour’s top nation.
Mathematically, Valverde’s overall advantage was such he could not be beaten in the WorldTour prior to Sunday’s last round, Il Lombardia, which was taken with a spectacular solo triumph by Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Pro Team). But Valverde nonetheless added to his already considerable points total by placing fourth in the Italian Monument Classic behind Dani Moreno (Team Katusha) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), yet another indication of the Spaniard’s considerable consistency throughout the season. In the UCI WorldTour alone, Valverde has taken three stages and second overall in the Volta a Catalunya, won the Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, finished second in the Amstel Gold Race, third in the Tour de France, third in the Clasica San Sebastian, seventh and a stage win in La Vuelta and ninth in the Criterium du Dauphine. Now 35 and a professional since 2002, there is clearly no stopping Valverde yet.
Meanwhile the 245 kilometre, very hilly Il Lombardia Monument was captured by Nibali after his Astana Pro Teamdominated the entire race, right down to the Italian’s own courageous, race-winning, solo downhill attack off the second last climb of the Civiglio.
Having shredded the field on the ultra-steep Muro di Sormano climb, Astana’s Diego Rosa and Mikel Landa chased down the final two breakaways from an earlier move, Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep) and Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) by the foot of the Civiliglio. A fascinating game of cat and mouse ensued in the lead group of seven riders, where Nibali and Rosa traded attacks with the other favourites. But the stalemate was finally broken when Nibali stormed away on the fast, technical descent.
Having garnered 25 seconds on the chase group at the foot of the descent, Nibali then concentrated on further opening up his advantage. A counter-move by Moreno on the San Fermo della Battaglia came within 11 seconds of the Italian, but on the fast, final drop into Como, it was clear that Nibali would stay away for victory. In the process, Nibali has become the first Italian winner of a ‘Monument’ since Damiano Cunego took Il Lombardia in 2008.
“My team worked so hard on the ascents and keeping in the breaks I couldn’t let them down, I had to go for the win” a delighted Nibali said afterwards. “I tried it twice on the Civiglio but the other teams wouldn’t let me go and I realised I’d have to try something different. Then on the descent it worked out.”
“I got this victory, but it wouldn’t have happened without all that hard work by my squad beforehand. It was not easy, but we did not give up, and it all paid off in the end.”
In the UCI WorldTour individual ranking, Valverde ends the season with 675 points, over 200 points clear of Joaquim Rodriguez (Team Katusha) in second place with 474 points, whilst Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) in third with 457 points.
Overall there were few significant changes, although Pinot has soared at the last minute into the top ten thanks to his podium finish in Il Lombardia, moving from 17th into tenth place overall with 319 points.
In the WorldTour teams ranking, Movistar Team maintained their slender advantage over Katusha to claim the win for a third straight year. The Spanish squad ended the season with 1619 points, 13 more than Team Katusha’s total of 1606. Team Sky completed the 2015 UCI WorldTour teams classification podium, in third place with 1,378 points. The only change in the entire ranking post Il Lombardia was for Astana, whose first and fifth place in Il Lombardia (the latter with Diego Rosa) puts them into fifth place in the teams ranking, one spot ahead of BMC Racing Team, who drop to sixth.
The biggest changes have come in the UCI WorldTour nations ranking. Spain’s overall domination was clear even before Sunday’s race, with a post Il Lombardia final total of 1945 points. But thanks to their collective performance in “The Race of the Falling Leaves,” as Il Lombardia is knonw, Italy have shot upwards from fourth into second place with 1106 points, with Colombia narrowly beaten into third, with 1099 points and Great Britain settling for fourth with 1041 points. France, too, have made a last-minute gain, moving up a spot into sixth place with 881 points, ahead of The Netherlands with 848 points. As for Australia, the first leaders of the classification back in January, they finally finished eighth, with 777 points.
The 2015 UCI WorldTour thus draws to a close, but the 2016 season is fast approaching, too. Check back next January 19th – a little over three months away – when the curtain goes up on the UCI WorldTour at the Santos Tour Down Under, for another spectacular season of top-level racing.