Diego Rosa celebrated with his Astana team captain Vincenzo Nibali at the finish of Il Lombardia, happy for the Sicilian's and the team's success but also happy to have performed so well in such a tough Classic after a long hard season at the service of his team leaders.
Rosa worked for Nibali after the Muro di Sormano climb with 50km to go and then again on the steep slopes of the Civiglio. He closed down attacks, set a fast tempo and even softened up their rivals by making several jabbing attacks. Rosa presence in the front group meant Astana was the only team with two riders. He later slowed the chase of Nibali and finished fifth in Como, just beaten by Alejandro Valverde who was desperate to secure Movistar's victory in the WorldTour team ranking. His presence facilitated Nibali's victory significantly and was a huge personal success.
Rosa seemed fresher and perhaps even stronger than Nibali several times but he loyally respected the Astana team tactics and hierarchy.
"It perhaps seemed that I was the strongest but people couldn't feel the pain in my legs," he joked happily after the finish.
"It's true though, I felt good. I didn't get away when I attacked and that showed I wasn't the strongest but I'm happy with my race. I'm pretty young and this is my first-ever Lombardia up front in the thick of the action. It's a super tough race and very long, so it's great to win it and get a result myself. I've also ridden two Grand Tours this season, riding for the team. I came out of the Vuelta in great form and won my first race by taking Milano-Torino on Thursday. I've shown myself what I can do in the future."
Rosa struggled to turn professional in 2013 but was given a chance by Androni Giocattoli. He joined Astana this season and quickly became part of Fabio Aru's mainly Italian group of support riders. His impressive season means he is now far more than a domestique.
"Winning has boosted my moral. I'd heard a lot of people describe me as a good rider but not a winner, which means you’re just a domestique really. I don’t mind that but I've silenced a few people now. I also wanted to prove a point to the team. I wanted to show that they can trust me to do an important job if needed or even play my own cards.
"Today we were all riding for Vincenzo. I was strong but it was all for him and he proved he deserved it. If I'd gone away alone, then he would have helped me because we're teammates but the tactics were all for him and I'm happy he has won."
Nibali and Aru are rivals within the Astana team because they can both win Grand Tours. They have avoided each other this season by Aru targeting the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana, while Nibali focused on the Tour de France. All that could change in 2016 but Rosa is willing to work for both of them.
"They're different, two different captains, but I get on well with both of them and work well with both them," he said.
"I perhaps know Aru better because we've raced a lot together and we understand each other without thinking. But I talked to Nibali a lot during Lombardia and we got things right. They're both great team leaders. I'm happy riding for either of them."