Oct 06, 2013 – Spain’s Joaquin Rodriguez of the Katusha team won the 107th edition of the Tour of Lombardy one-day cycling classic to defend his title after an epic, rain-hit finale on Sunday.
Fellow Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) finished second with Poland’s Rafael Majka of Saxo Bank in third after 242 km of racing in testing conditions between Bergamo and Lecco on the shores of Lake Como.
Rodriguez, a runner-up to Portugal’s Rui Costa at last week’s world championships, made his decisive move on the steepest section of the fifth and final climb, powering ahead of a select group of frontrunners.
The Spanish climbing specialist went on to build a small lead on Valverde and Irishman Dan Martin and maintained his advantage over the closing kilometres to cross the finish line solo. Valverde, criticised by Rodriguez for failing to chase down Rui Costa during last week’s world championship finale, battled to close the gap but eventually crossed the line 17secs behind.
Majka finished in third, at 23secs, and ahead of Martin after the Garmin rider, who was seen trying to fix a problem with his bike in the final 500 metres, appeared to suffer a setback in the closing kilometers. Earlier in the race Italian Vincenzo Nibali’s bid to claim his maiden win in the ‘Race of the Falling Leaves’ – the popular name for Lombardy because it comes at the start of autumn – ended when he was involved in a multiple pile-up. The Giro d’Italia champion pulled out with an apparent knee injury, and not long after the battle to win one of the season’s five cycling ‘Monuments’ race moved up a gear.
Valverde’s Movistar team, including Colombian climber Nairo Quintana, were among those that helped set a searing pace on the steep Sormano climb, an effort which dropped several contenders off the back. Belgium’s former two-time winner Gilbert crested over 30secs down while Spain’s Alberto Contador was nearly a minute down on the frontrunners.
Although the main peloton had been trimmed to around 50, the technical descent leading to the Madonna di Ghisallo climb exacted a further toll. Valverde and Quintana sensed their rivals’ hesitation on the slippery roads and went on the attack but were soon joined by three other riders including Frenchman Thomas Voeckler.
Voeckler, of Europcar, launched a solo attack to build a lead of over two and a half minutes on a 39-strong chase group by the time he had punched his way to the top of the Ghisallo climb. But the Frenchman’s unlikely bid was soon brought to heel as several teams upped the pace, reducing his lead down to 90secs at the approach of the Villa Vergano climb. He was caught 11.5 km from the finish, as a number of climbing specialists moved to the front in anticipation of the crucial, final ramps. Rodriguez waited for the steepest section before making a decisive move that will help atone for his defeat last week when Costa pipped him at the finish line.