Third podium place for Euskaltel-Euskadi rider
After 107 years, the Giro di Lombardia speaks Spanish. Not only did Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) become the first Spaniard to win the hallowed classic in apocalyptic rain in Lecco, Italy, on Saturday afternoon, but his fellow countryman Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) won the sprint for second ahead of Colombia's Rigoberto Uran (Sky).
Indeed, when Rodriguez launched his race-winning move with a vicious acceleration on the final climb to Villa Vergano with 9km to go, the chase group that formed over the top was initially almost entirely Hispanophone, as Sanchez, Uran, Sergio Henao (Sky), Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) led the pursuit behind.
In spite of their shared tongue, however, they could not find a lingua franca when it came to forming a smooth chase behind the rampant Rodriguez. His advantage stretched out to 12 seconds with 4km to go, and while the second group on the road would swell with reinforcements in the finale, they would not see him again before the finish.
There were no recriminations among the chasers afterwards, however, simply acknowledgement that the strongest man had won the day. When Rodriguez jumped away on the final climb, Sanchez said, nobody could follow.
"'Purito' beat me and I can only congratulate him because he was the best," Sanchez said after coming down off the podium. "It was a really demanding and exciting race, and I can only imagine that it must have been a spectacle for the fans."
It would, had they been able to see television pictures of the final climb, but the weather conditions meant that Rodriguez's attack was not transmitted live. In any case, Sanchez was pleased to have returned to form after crashes at the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Tour de France had seemed to stop his season in its tracks.
"After overcoming two major injuries, I managed to get competitive for one of the best races on the calendar, where I faced some high quality opponents, and I finished on the podium," said Sanchez, who has now finished second at the Tour of Lombardy no fewer than three times, each occasion separated by three years.
After being Paolo Bettini's dauphin in 2006, he was outsprinted by Philippe Gilbert in Como in 2009, and he completed the hat-trick behind Rodriguez on Saturday. "Those three second places say a lot about my regularity throughout my career," said Sanchez, determined in his view that the glass was half-full.
The Spaniard is now set to travel to the Tour of Beijing, where he will bring the curtain down on his campaign. "It's the last race of the year and we're still trying to score UCI points," he said. "The route of the race isn't very hilly, but whenever I pin out a dossard, it's to try and win."
Third-placed Rigoberto Uran was among the favourites for victory at Lombardy after his fine win in Gran Piemonte during the week, and the Colombian was prominent throughout the race.
Uran was among those best able to match Rodriguez's pressing on the savagely steep Muro di Sormano, 85km from the finish, but, like Sanchez, he said that there was nothing to be done in the face of the ferocity of Rodriguez's attack in the finale.
"I'm happy with the podium because taking the win would have been very hard," said Uran. "We were waiting for 'Purito' to attack on the final climb, either him or Contador, but it was impossible to follow. The race was very hard, especially with all this rain. You were constantly having to pay attention."