Daniel Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) had trained at altitude in Andorra and refused to end his season after separating his shoulder on stage 8 of the Vuelta a Espana in the hopes of again doing well in Il Lombardia. However his lack of racing in the last five weeks, this year's tougher race route and Astana's aggression put an end to his hopes for a second consecutive victory.
The aggressive Irishman won with a late surge in Bergamo 12 months ago and wanted to end his time at Cannondale-Garmin as best as possible before looking forward to a new chapter in his career with Etixx-QuickStep. He had tried to be upbeat and optimistic before the start but Vincenzo Nibali's solo attack and eventual solo victory confirmed the difficulty of this year's Il Lombardia.
Martin was unable to make the key selection that formed over the top of the Muro di Sormano with 50km to go. Riders of the calibre of Philippe Gilbert (BMC), Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) and Frank Schleck (Trek Factory Racing) were also unable to make the 25-rider selection that powered clear under the impetus of the Astana team and an audacious attack by Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep) and Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal).
Martin could easily have climbed off and headed to the team bus early but instead completed the final climb of San Fermo della Battaglia overlooking Como and crossed the line in 52nd place, 9:36 down on Nibali.
"I had to finish today for the Cannondale-Garmin team," Martin told Cyclingnews after taking a final post-race drink from the team's soigneur.
"Even after what happened in the last few weeks with my shoulder problem, they believed in me and supported me. The guys did a great job for me in the race but I Iacked that little bit on the Sormano climb.
"It was hard. The lights went out on the Sormano. I half expected it, to be honest, because going into that fifth hour of racing is always tough. It was a strange feeling because I just couldn't go. I could ride steady all day but not go with the front guys. But that's the way it is and congratulations to Vincenzo."
Il Lombardia brings down the curtain on Martin's 10 years with the Cannondale-Garmin team. He joined Jonathan Vaughters' team as a stagiaire in 2007 and has won 14 races in the team's various argyle team kits, including the 2013 Liege-Bastogne-Liege, last year's Il Lombardia and stages at the Vuelta a Espana and Tour de France.
However modern cycling has little time for emotions and Martin admitted there are no plans for any formal goodbye celebrations immediately after Il Lombardia.
"We might get a sneaky beer in the airport but after getting home we'll kind of go our separate ways and that's it," he said, with a hint of emotion.