Fabian Cancellara was one of the big favourites for the world championships after impressing at the Vuelta a Espana. Yet the ten climbs up to Fiesole and especially the last one, when Rodriguez, Valverde, Nibali and Rui Costa went on the attack proved too much for the Swiss rider.
Cancellara finished tenth in the results, 34 seconds behind Rui Costa (Portugal), and in the same time as fellow big-game favourites Peter Sagan (Slovakia) and Philippe Gilbert (Belgium).
At the start in Lucca, Cancellara had waited alone, focused and straight-faced, at the back of the peloton as the riders lined up. He seemed to be praying for it to be his day but yet again, his world title dreams were shattered on the final climb when he was unable to stay with the strongest riders.
"Maybe I'm not a climber. The real climbers were up front," he told Cyclingnews as he rode away from the confusion of the finish area.
"I did what I could but if you don’t have what's needed, there's nothing you can do. I was just missing that little bit to stay with them on the final section of the climb. At the end of the day, it was the climb that decided the race."
White line dangers
Cancellara had looked strong for much of the 272km race. He was well protected and supported by his Swiss teammates and well placed near the front of the peloton to avoid any crashes.
His Classics bike skills no doubt came in useful in the terrible conditions and the hours of racing in the rain but he was surprisingly critical of the conditions.
"It was a strange world championships. It was also very dangerous, there were too many white lines on the roads," he said.
"It's great that they resurfaced 150km of roads but it was too much. All those things also played a factor today," he said before riding away to the Swiss team bus.