It was a case of deja vu for Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) on Sunday in Lecco, Italy as the 34-year-old Spaniard won his second Il Lombardia in as many years thanks to a solo attack on the Villa Vergano climb. It was a carbon copy of his 2012 win, also in the rain, and brought some solace to Rodriguez for last Sunday's heartbreaking second place result in the elite men's road race world championship.
In addition to adding a second Monument to his palmares, Rodriguez also took over the lead in the WorldTour standings from Chris Froome (Sky) with only one race, the Tour of Beijing, left to contest.
As was the case in the world championships Rodriguez found himself alone in the lead in the closing kilometres with a small chase group hot on his heels, but this time the Spaniard was able to hold off their pursuit to claim a hard-fought victory.
"It was a good win for me, in a beautiful race" said Rodriguez. "I'm just enjoying the moment. I always try to look forward.
"This week hasn't been easy because the world championships are the world championships. But I have family and friends who helped me focus on this race, and I've come out of it the winner. It was important to prove to myself that I could recover well after the world championships and focus on the next race. This win helps me move towards 2014 knowing that this is my level."
Rodriguez's tactics worked to perfection in the 242km Italian Monument, as his team helped neutralise a dangerous attack by Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and set up their captain for a race-winning move.
"I thought he'd make it, it was a good attack," Rodriguez said of Voeckler. "But my team was exceptional. We set the pace at the front of the bunch and reeled him in.
"I knew that if I wanted to win, I had to attack there," Rodriguez said of his escape on the Villa Vergano ascent. "It's October, the race is 242 km long, it was raining and cold, it was even faster than last year, and you could feel the group was tired. I knew I had to make one decisive attack. I attacked at the right moment although, on the descent, I never trusted the curves in the rain, so the final descent was stressful. It is great to win, and it's never easy."
Having concluded his 2013 season on a particularly high note, Rodriguez spoke of his desire to return to Italy for the 2014 Giro d'Italia. The Spaniard is a perennial Grand Tour podium finisher, and after a close second place finish to Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin) in the 2012 Giro Rodriguez is hoping for another solid result.
"For me, the Giro is the most beautiful of the three Grand Tours" said Rodriguez. "I always have good form after the Classics. Last year I rode well at the Giro, and I think I can do well there again. This week I have felt a great deal of support from Italian cycling fans, and I think they deserve to see me start the Giro in 2014."
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