Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) soloed to victory in the pouring rain to become the first Spaniard to win the Giro di Lombardia. He escaped on the day's final climb of the Salite di Ello - Villa Vergano, and was able to stay away from a strong chase group. Second place went to Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), with Sky's Rigoberto Uran taking third.
"This is the most important triumph of my whole career," said Rodriguez. "This for me was a perfect season: I won Fleche-Wallonne, and I took the second in the Giro d'Italia and third place in the Vuelta a Espana. After that I did my best to get ready for the world championships and Giro di Lombardia. In the former, my performance was so-so, but in the latter, it was a triumph.
"I was fighting for a double goal today, to win this prestigious competition and to take the lead in the UCI World Tour Ranking, and I managed both. So I'm really happy."
The weather played a major role in the race with heavy downpours creating havoc on a number of descents. Newly crowned world champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team) was among a string of riders to crash and subsequently quit the race.
For Rodirguez, the win was the perfect tonic for a season memorable as much for the races he's won as the ones that he has let slip through his fingers. At 33, Rodriguez, who let winning positions in the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana get away, is at the peak of his powers and despite a quiet showing at the Worlds, he ends this season not just with victories in Lombardi and La Flèche Wallonne but also with the world number one slot in the UCI's ranking.
Rodriguez laid the foundations for his win on the Colma di Sormano. With a group of 11 riders already up the road, the climb was the first major test for the peloton inside the final 100 kilometres.
Before that point, wind and rain had decimated the field, with less than 60 riders still in contention by the time they reached the Sormano.
Romain Bardet (AG2R), Emanuele Sella (Androni), Steve Morabito (BMC), Stefano Locatelli (Colnago), Johan Esteban Chaves (Colombia), Alberto Losada (Katusha), Cristiano Salerno (Liquigas), Tom Jelte Slagter (Rabobank), Nicki Sörensen (Saxobank) and Federico Rocchetti (Utensilnord Named) made up the early break but by Colma di Sormano, only Bardet and Losada were in contention.
In the bunch, Vinenzo Nibali, Alberto Contador and Rodriguez took turns in testing each other with stinging accelerations. Gilbert, was the major casualty, slipping from the lead group, with Dan Martin also struggling.
Losada, who had initially followed Bardet, sat up and waited for the main contenders at the top of the climb. On the descent, Gilbert, Ballan and Paolini were among those who crashed. The world champion quick to seek refuge in the BMC team car once he was on his feet.
Despite the severity of the climb, and the damage done by Rodriguez and Contador, there was a general regrouping on the descent. Bardet used the opportunity to more than double his 25-second advantage, as the peloton waited for the Ghisallo.
Losada had turned from Bardet's companion to his hunter, sitting on the front of the bunch as they reached the lower slopes of the climb. A brief counter attack led by Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) briefly threatened Losada's task but with less than 50 kilometres to go, it was Kevin De Weert (Omega Pharma Quick Step) who established any form of a significant gap, catching and passing Badret to put an end to the Frenchman's brave attack.
De Weert's efforts allowed Dario Cataldo an easier ride in the bunch but when the Belgian tumbled on the descent of the Ghisallo the race reverted to type as Losada continued to keep pace.
Nibali, Paolo Tiralongo and Laurens ten Dam also crashed but managed to regain contact just as Rui Costa attacked with a shade over 25 kilometres remaining. When Losada finally ran out of gas, Sky and Lampre chased as the final climb and its 15 percent slopes beckoned.
With Rui Costa contained, Katusha again went on the offensive with Alexandr Kolobnev creating a launch pad for Rodriguez's attack.
"Today I was feeling in great shape. In fact, I made my teammates work during all the crucial moments of the race. When I saw that all my rivals were tired and I felt so great, I realized I had a great chance to win," said Rodriguez. "The Villa Vergano uphill suited me a lot."
"I managed to make the difference, to tell the truth I thought that somebody would join me in that attack, but instead nobody could answer and that makes this victory even greater," the eventual winner said. "I think I was one of the favorite riders since the beginning."
By the start of the descent, Rodriuez had a mere seven seconds on Contador. Uran and Henao organised their chase. But on the treacherously wet roads to the finish, Rodriguez was able to gain time as the fractious chasers struggled to gain momentum.
Inside the final bend, Rodriguez had time to celebrate, capping a season in which he has mirrored the level of Bradley Wiggins' consistency in a parallel race programme.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team||6:36:27|
|2||Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi||0:00:09|
|3||Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling|
|4||Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) BMC Racing Team|
|5||Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Sky Procycling|
|6||Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Sharp|
|7||Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team|
|8||Oliver Zaugg (Swi) Radioshack-Nissan|
|9||Albert Contador Velasco (Spa) Team Saxo Bank / Tinkoff Bank|
|10||Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swe) Astana Pro Team|
|11||Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team|
|12||Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli|
|13||Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD||0:00:35|
|14||Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Katusha Team||0:00:57|
|15||Simon Clarke (Aus) Orica GreenEdge|
|16||Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin - Sharp||0:01:23|
|17||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team||0:01:25|
|18||Jean Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|19||Matteo Rabottini (Ita) Farnese Vini - Selle Italia|
|20||Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Acqua & Sapone|
|21||Fabio Andres Duarte Arevalo (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes|
|22||Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Vacansoleil-Dcm Pro Cycling Team|
|23||Miguel Angel Rubiano Chavez (Col) Androni Giocattoli|
|24||Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) Acqua & Sapone|
|25||Winner Anacona Gomez (Col) Lampre - ISD|
|26||Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale||0:01:30|
|27||Gorka Verdugo Marcotegui (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi|
|28||Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale||0:01:50|
|29||Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||0:02:10|
|30||Dario Cataldo (Ita) Omega Pharma-Quickstep||0:02:14|
|31||Jan Bakelandts (Bel) Radioshack-Nissan||0:02:26|
|32||Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi||0:02:38|
|33||Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana Pro Team||0:03:00|
|34||Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale||0:03:03|
|35||Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil-Dcm Pro Cycling Team|
|36||Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi||0:04:07|
|37||Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor) Sky Procycling|
|38||Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Movistar Team|
|39||Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team||0:04:09|
|40||Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre - ISD||0:05:06|
|41||Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre - ISD|
|42||Bruno Pires (Por) Team Saxo Bank / Tinkoff Bank||0:07:29|
|43||Nicki Sorensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank / Tinkoff Bank|
|44||Sergio Moreira Paulinho (Por) Team Saxo Bank / Tinkoff Bank|
|45||Chris Anker Sorensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank / Tinkoff Bank|
|46||Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Team Saxo Bank / Tinkoff Bank|
|47||Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil-Dcm Pro Cycling Team||0:10:14|
|48||Leonardo Giordani (Ita) Farnese Vini - Selle Italia|
|49||Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team|
|50||Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team|
|51||Alberto Losada Alguacil (Spa) Katusha Team||0:11:23|
|52||Gabriele Bosisio (Ita) Utensilnord Named||0:13:11|
|53||George Bennett (NZl) Radioshack-Nissan||0:20:03|
|54||Peio Bilbao (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi|