Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) finished on the podium in a major one-day race for a fifth time this season at Il Lombardia but could only accept defeat after being unable to go with Spanish rival Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) when he attacked and powered alone to the finish.
Valverde finished 17 seconds behind Rodriguez for second place and stood next to him on the podium as the Spanish national anthem rang out across Lake Como. The two shook hands, easing the tension between them after the tactical disaster at last week's world road race championships where their mistakes allowed Portugal's Rui Costa to win the world title.
"Purito deserved to win. First and second: I think he's happy. I'm happy too," Valverde conceded.
"I didn’t have a bad moment. There was someone who was stronger than me today. I'm happy with how I raced today and with my season. Purito won it last year and knows the route really well. He knew when to make his move. Thanks to this win he's won the WorldTour so and doesn't need to go to China…"
"There was a lot of polemics on the outside, by the public, but inside between us, we both know we're riders and that things happen in an instant in a race and that after 270km, racing is very hard. If I'd chased down Costa, perhaps we'd have won the world title but my legs weren’t good. Things happen quickly in races. Purito knows that too."
Five major podium places
Il Lombardia marked the end of Valverde's season. He competed for 81 days, starting at the Trofeo Mallorca in early February, before targeting the Ardennes Classics the Tour de France, the Vuelta a Espana and the world road race championships.
"The season is over and I'm happy," he said with a smile.
"I was on the podium in almost ever big race except for the Tour de France, where if what happened, hadn't happened, I could have perhaps been on the podium."
A 2014 Giro contender?
Valverde will stay in Italy for the presentation of the 2014 Giro d'Italia route on Monday. He hinted that he might ride but kept his cards close to his chest.
The Giro's a good race and I've heard that the route might suit me. I'd like to ride it one year but lets see what the route looks like first," he said.