Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) seemed to relish the terrible condition at the Tour of Lombardy as he won the final major race of the season with a dominant performance.
While Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) crashed and lost ground, and Michele Scarponi (Androni Giocattoli) did not have the legs to respond to his last attack, Gilbert looked strong and determined all the way to finish in Como.
"Today was a really, really hard day. It was cold and there was a lot of rain. It was a tough race but I always go pretty well with the wet and cold. I'm from Belgium, I'm used to it," he said with a smile in the post-race press conference.
"My team did a great job controlling things and I wanted to thank them by winning again. It’s different feeling winning alone, it's an even more special feeling."
The key to victory
Gilbert knew the new climb of the Colma di Sormano would be the key to race, especially the very technical descent that was covered in leaves.
"I studied the last 60km of the race with the team and I said the descent would be more decisive than the climb and would be the place to make the difference. I was right," he explained.
"It was the Ghisallo that decided the first selection and the cold and rain played a big factor.
Gilbert admitted he heard Nibali crash and accelerated to make sure the Italian did not get back up to him.
"I didn’t see him crash but I heard it. I thought it was him because I didn’t see him and then Lastras told me. I went hard so that he couldn't get back up to us. But that's all part of racing."
Gilbert has ended his season with a second consecutive Gran Piemonte and Tour of Lombardy double. It is his sixth victory of the 2010 season after also winning the Amstel Gold Race, a stage at the Tour of Belgium and two stages at the Vuelta.
He revealed he would like to win Paris-Roubaix one day but his next big goal is Liege-Bastogne-Liege on his home roads in the Wallonne region of Belgium.
"Liege-Bastogne-Liege is my home race and along with Lombardy it's the best race in the world for me, so I want to win it," he said.
"I lost it this year because the finale was very difficult but next year I'll be even more motivated.
"I'd also like to win Paris-Roubaix too one day but I need more years of experience first. The problem with Roubaix is that it can end your career with one crash. For now I prefer to focus on other races and do what I'm good at."
Gilbert modestly refuted a suggested that his victory at the Tour of Lombardy showed he had deserved to be world champion.
"I was on better form at the world championships than today," he said. "I tried to win the Worlds but there was a strong headwind that day and I was caught at three kilometres to go. I've no regrets though. When you give your best there's nothing you can do.
"I'm just very proud to have won this race."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.
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