Il Lombardia is affectionately known as 'the race of the falling leaves', and there's not long to go until the trees are bare and riders are staring into a three-month, race-free abyss. For many, there's plenty of success that will sustain them through the colder months, but there are others at risk of carrying a lingering sense of disappointment and regret.
Il Lombardia, the final Monument of the season, takes place on Saturday and is preceded by a couple of autumn Italian Classics in Tre Valli Varesine and Milano-Torino, while Paris-Tours represents a final chance for the flatland Classics specialists and perhaps even the sprinters. Failing that, there's always the Tour of Guangxi from October 17-22.
Cyclingnews has picked out five high-profile riders who are still searching for the success expected of them in 2019, whether through under-performance, injury, or a combination of the two.
Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates)
Fernando Gaviria has won just four races in 2019. If he doesn't strike again this year, he'll be stuck on the same tally as in 2015, when he hadn't even properly turned pro. In the three intervening years, he racked up 30 victories as he rose to become the hottest property in sprinting.
After winning four stages on his Grand Tour debut at the 2017 Giro d'Italia, followed by two and a stint in the yellow jersey at the Tour de France in 2018, Gaviria's momentum has stalled somewhat in 2019. He won a stage of the Giro d'Italia, but only by virtue of a controversial disqualification for former teammate Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep). His only other triumphs came right at the start of the season: two at the Vuelta a San Juan and one at the UAE Tour.
Gaviria's season has been complicated by a knee injury sustained in a crash while racing on the track in April, forcing him to abandon the Giro on stage 7 and then miss the Tour de France. He rode the Vuelta a Espana, but his best stage finish was third and he pulled out of the subsequent World Championships saying he felt "empty".
Gaviria has been back racing this week, placing fourth at the Munsterland Giro and 15th at the GP Bruno Beghelli, and will head to the Tour of Guangxi later this month. The Chinese WorldTour race has proved fruitful in the past, with Gaviria having won four stages in 2017. It's hardly the most prestigious of races, but a sprinter in a dry spell just needs a '1' by the side of their name, wherever it comes from.
Niki Terpstra (Total Direct Energie)
Niki Terpstra signed a lucrative contract with French second-division team Total Direct Energie on the back of a storming spring Classics campaign in 2018. Since joining, however, he has been unable to replicate those preformances. That is, of course, overwhelmingly due to injury, with the Dutchman's campaign suffering two big disruptions: the first a concussion in the crash that took him out of the Tour of Flanders, the second a broken scapula as he abandoned the Tour de France.
Either side of those injuries, Terpstra has managed some notable results. Chief among them was third place at Le Samyn and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, but he has not yet won for his new employers. Having made a target of the World Championships ever since his Tour de France exit – where he finished 20th in Yorkshire as Mathieu van der Poel led the line for the Dutch – Terpstra is in decent shape.
In Paris-Bourges and Paris-Tours, he has two opportunities to grab a home-soil victory for his team. Paris-Tours is particularly well-suited to the former Paris-Roubaix champion's skill-set since the introduction of off-road sectors last year, when he finished second behind Soren Kragh Andersen.
Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale)
Another rider who has been derailed by injury this year is Pierre Latour, and it has been a particularly disappointing one given the breakthrough success of his 2018 season. Granted, the talented Frenchman has made breakthroughs every year since turning pro in 2015, but 13th and the white jersey at the Tour de France – while working for Romain Bardet – along with third at Catalunya and top 10s at Romandie and the Dauphiné, as well as the French time trial title, represented a big step forward.
However, the 25-year-old suffered two broken wrists in a training crash ahead of the UAE Tour in February and spent more than three months away from racing. He was unable to regain form in time to ride the Tour de France, but completed the Vuelta a Espana, coming close to a stage win at Los Machucos. After riding the time trial at the World Championships, Latour finds himself in Italy searching for success in the autumn Classics. He finished seventh at the Giro dell'Emilia with an aggressive display, but crashed out of the GP Bruno Beghelli.
Next up is Tre Valli Varesine on Tuesday, followed by Il Lombardia on Saturday. Despite the run of stage race success, Latour is a capable one-day racer and Il Lombardia represents a genuine opportunity; he was 10th on his debut there in 2016.
Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates)
With second place at the Tour of the Basque Country, and top 10s at the Critérium du Dauphiné, UAE Tour, and Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, Dan Martin's season hasn't been a complete write-off. However, when it came to his principal objectives, he fell well short. In the Ardennes Classics he was hampered by illness, abandoning both Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
At the Tour de France, he was a shadow of the rider that finished in the top 10 in the three previous editions and had eyes for a spot on the podium. He placed 18th in Paris, having made little impact on the race, and hinted at problems with team preparation, saying: "I know, but I can't say."
Norwegian television station TV2 later reported issues with a new brand of energy drink.
Martin has subsequently raced the Clasica San Sebastian, Deutschland Tour, the GPs de Montreal and Quebec, the World Championships road race, and the Giro dell'Emilia – 18th place at the latter being his best result of his final phase of the season. Martin will race Tre Valli Varseine on Tuesday ahead of Il Lombardia on Saturday, both of which he has won in the past. While his Tour de France GC attempts have taken prominence in the past couple of years, Martin is a hilly Classics rider of extremely high calibre, with a heightened focus on that department said to be on the cards when he joins Israel Cycling Academy next year.
Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data)
It has been another season to forget for Mark Cavendish, whose career has been derailed in recent years by Epstein Barr Virus. The British sprinter announced in May that his blood values showed he was below the threshold for the virus, but he is still winless in 2019. He had said he was in good form ahead of the Tour de France but never got a chance to ride after he was controversially left out of Dimension Data's squad.
Since then, he has put together a decent amount of race days (23) but also a string of DNFs – although he did finish last month's Tour of Britain. Still, finishing races shouldn't be seen as a sign of success for a rider of Cavendish's calibre and palmares. He's set to line up at Paris-Tours this weekend, and that could be the end of the 2019 road season given his plans to race on the track in October and November. His mind may already be on 2020, but he's facing the very real prospect of something he has never experienced: a winless season.
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