Rodriguez Takes Second Straight Giro di Lombardia
Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) has won his second consecutive Giro di Lombardia. The Spaniard powered away from the leaders’ group on the day’s last climb to win the rugged, 242-km Race of the Falling Leaves in 6:10:18. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) took second at 0:17, and Rafal Majka (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) finished third six seconds later.
At the start in Bergamo, rain greeted the riders. The peloton stayed together until 45 km, when Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale), Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge), Fabio Felline (Androni Giacattoli-Venezuela), Carlos Quintero (Colombia), and Maurits Lammertink (Vacansoleil-DCM) got clear. The peloton kept the five on a short leash, and the lead maxed out at 3:10.
On the Valico di Valcava, Albasini and Felline were dropped. At 100 km, the bunch had closed to within 1:40 of the break. Eighteen riders bridged up to De Marchi, Quintero, and Lammertink on the Colle Brianza. With 92 km left, a crash took down a number of riders, the most prominent of whom was Giro d’Italia champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). Nibali, a prerace favorite, abandoned and went to a hospital in an ambulance.
On the run to the Colma di Sormano, the lead group was down to Diego Rosa (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela), Francesco Gavazzi (Astana), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Leopard), and Bjorn Thurau (Europcar). Movistar and Saxo Bank-Tinkoff led the charge onto the climb and reeled in the break. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) attacked, and Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Valverde followed the Colombian, with Valverde making contact on the descent. Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) joined the two Movistar men, as did Ivan Santaromita (BMC) and Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha).
Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) attacked out of the peloton, caught the break, and made a bid for a solo victory. At the base of the Madonna del Ghisallo, with 54.5 km to go, the Frenchman led the peloton by 1:32. One and a half km later, Voeckler’s advantage had risen to 2:20. On the descent, Voeckler had pushed his lead up to more than three minutes.
Behind, Katusha led the pursuit. The Russian squad’s pacemaking dropped Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida) and Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff). On the descent, Movistar and Saxo Bank-Tinkoff joined Katusha at the front. A crash occurred, and Marcel Wyss (BMC), who had crashed earlier, and Pozzovivo were among those who hit the deck.
With 25 km left, Voeckler led the peloton by 2:25, but the pursuit had cut the Europcar man’s lead to 1:02 10 km later. Cyril Gautier, Voeckler’s teammate, attempted to block, but the pursuit was relentless. World road race champion Rui Costa (Movistar) was dropped.
With 12.6 km left, at the base of the ascent to Villa Vergano, Voeckler led the bunch by 0:30. Movistar led the chase. BMC took over from the Spanish squad. With 11.5 km remaining, Mikael Cherel (Ag2r-La Mondiale) led the bunch past Voeckler. The lead group consisted of Ivan Basso (Cannondale), Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp), Van Avermaet, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr), Majka, and Rodriguez. Pinot attacked, but Pozzovivo countered and dropped the Frenchman. Basso led the rest of the group to the Italian. Five hundred m from the summit, Rodriguez attacked.
Martin, Majka, and Valverde chased, with the Spaniard leading the pursuit. With seven km left, Valverde had narrowed the gap to 0:08, but Rodriguez snatched back seconds in the following km. The Movistar man dropped his companions and set out after the Katusha rider.
He need not have bothered. Fired by his disappointment in the world road race championship, Rodriguez held the pursuit at bay. He thrust his arms aloft and smiled as he crossed the finish line in Lecco. Behind, Martin crashed on the race’s last turn, which allowed Majka to take third place unopposed.
The Giro di Lombardia’s history was part of what motivated Rodriguez to repeat as champion. “Honestly, I think this was a spectacular victory,” the Spaniard said. “‘Il Lombardia’ is one of the most important competitions of the season, a Monument Classic race, so I was very motivated and I wanted to encore the 2012 victory. I felt in great shape, so I attacked in the same place where I attacked last year. I was the favorite rider. I think everybody knew that was my strategy and waited for my action, but anyway nobody could follow me, so this incredible solo victory makes me really proud, also because now I’m first in the UCI World Tour Individual Ranking, a special classification I really care about. The leadership of the UCI World Tour Individual Ranking proves I took some great results anyway, and once again I was the most consistent rider. I want to thank my teammates. They worked all day in order to keep the race under control. The attempt by Thomas Voeckler was particularly dangerous because he had a good gap, but they did huge work leading the chase in order to neutralize it.”
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