Joaquim Rodríguez escapes over final climb to win back to back in il Lombardia
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Sunday, October 06, 2013

Joaquim Rodríguez escapes over final climb to win back to back in il Lombardia

by Ben Atkins at 11:27 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results, Giro di Lombardia
 
Purito puts Worlds disappointment behind him on another rainy day in northern Italy

joaquim rodriguez

Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) managed to put some of his World championship disappointment behind him as he escaped on the final climb of the 2013 edition of il Lombardia to take his second straight victory in the Race of the Falling Leaves. The Catalan rider managed to open an eight second gap over a group of fellow race favourites, and managed to widen this to 17 seconds by the time he reached the lakeside finish in Lecco at the foot of the descent that followed.

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) led the chase from behind, escaping from a three-man group of pursuers, but was unable to do anything to close down Rodríguez and had to be content with second place.

Behind Valverde, Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) were the remains of the chase group, but Majka was able to take an uncontested third place, six seconds behind the Movistar rider, as Martin crashed in the final technical set of corners on the approach to the finish.

“Honestly I think this was a spectacular victory,” said Rodríguez. “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 repeat my 2012 victory.”

The wet 242km race was subject to numerous attacks, but the most threatening was to come from Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) after the former French champion escaped on the descent of the Colma di Sormano with 60km to go, and opened up a three minute lead over the Madonna del Ghisallo.

Having spent so much time in the lead, however, Voeckler was visibly tiring on the flat approach to the final Villa Vergano climb, and was finally swept up with just 11.5km to go. Just over a kilometre later, as the front group hit the steepest slopes of up to 15%, Rodríguez made his move. Alone over the top the Spanish rider was able to hold onto, and widen his slim lead on the descent that followed to take his second straight win in the race.

Victory in the race also secured Rodríguez 100 points in the International Cycling Union (UCI) WorldTour, which meant that he took over the lead in the season-long classification from Tour de France winner Chris Froome (Team Sky). With just the Tour of Beijing to come, the Katusha rider was set to win the competition for a third time.

“I felt in a great shape, so I attacked in the same place where I attacked last year,” the Spanish rider explained. “I was the favourite 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 WorldTour Individual Ranking, a special classification I really care about. I think in 2013 I wasn't as lucky as in 2012; there was always something that prevented me to be in top shape in every event I took part, so I didn't take as many victories as in the last season. But the leadership of the UCI World Tour Individual Ranking proves I took some great results anyways and once again I was the most regular rider.

“I want to thank my teammates,” Rodríguez added. “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 neutralise it. Obviously it would have been even a more special triumph if I wore the rainbow jersey of the World Champion, but in cycling, and sports in general, you need to ride every loss out and look ahead. This victory helps me to forget the disappointment I felt after Florence and start again in 2014 with great motivations to go on and take more prestigious results.”

Rain falls on Lombardia for the second straight year as a small break eventually gets away

A wet start in Bergamo saw the peloton stay together for the first 45km, until Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale), Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge) and Fabio Felline (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela) escaped. They were soon joined by Carlos Quintero (Colombia) and Maurits Lammertink (Vacansoleil-DCM), but the quintet was only allowed to get a maximum of 3’10” ahead of the peloton.

Albasini and Felline were dropped on the climb to the Valico di Valcava, leaving just De Marchi, Quintero and Lammertink in the lead but, after 100km, they were just 1’40” ahead. A counterattack of 18 riders on the Colle Brianza then managed to bridge across to the three remaining leaders.

A crash with 92km to go saw a number of riders come down, with pre-race Italian favourite Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) forced to abandon into an ambulance.

The lead group was whittled down to just Diego Rosa (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela), Francesco Gavazzi (Astana), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Leopard) and Bjorn Thurau (Europcar) as they approached the Colma di Sormano.

The group was quickly caught as they approached the steepest “Muro” part of the climb, however, as Movistar and Saxo-Tinkoff pushed the pace on the maximum 25% gradients. Movistar’s Nairo Quintana then attacked over the top, followed by Domenico Pozzovivo, but it was Quintana’s teammate Valverde that managed to join the Colombian on the steep descent.

Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) joined the two Movistar riders and the three of them continued to distance the rest of the field, as several riders came down on the wet, twisting roads behind them. Italian champion Ivan Santaromita (BMC Racing) and Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha) managed to chase across, taking the group’s number up to five as they descended to the foot of the climb to the Madonna del Ghisallo.

Thomas Voeckler makes a long-distance solo break for glory

The gap grew to almost a minute but, as it began to close again with 62km to go, Voeckler counterattacked from behind. The Frenchman caught them two kilometres later, then immediately set off alone.

Marcel Wyss (IAM Cycling) tried to bridge the gap on the approach to Bellagio, but the Swiss rider came down on a damp bend before he could make it across to the Frenchman and - having problems with his rear wheel afterwards - was swept up by the chasing group.

Voeckler was 1’32” clear as the Ghisallo climb began with 54.5km to go, and quickly pulled this gap open to more than two minutes as nobody was willing to start the chase in the group behind.

With 53km to go it was up to 2’20” before Katusha began to chase Voeckler down. This pace soon put paid to the chances of three-time winner Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida), as he was dropped, and the Italian was followed out the back two kilometres later by Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff).

Rain falling more heavily as Voeckler traversed the flat midsection of the climb, but his lead was still rising. It was quoted as 2’55” through Civenna with 48km to go, and still 2’49” as the Frenchman passed the iconic chapel at the top two kilometres later.

Voeckler’s descending skills saw the former French champion open his lead to more than three minutes on the way down the other side. The 35-strong group behind had several teams represented, but few had more than two or three riders, and so the chase lacked cohesion.

With Katusha having used so much energy on the way up the climb, it fell to Movistar and Saxo-Tinkoff to help the Russian team chase down Voeckler. There was a small crash in the group, as Wyss came down once again, with Pozzovivo also among the fallers.

With 25km to go, Voeckler was 2’25” clear, but his lead was just 1’02” with 15km to go, as World champion Rui Costa (Movistar) pulled off the front and was dropped. Voeckler’s Europcar teammate Cyril Gautier was trying to disrupt the chase at the head of the bunch, but the gap continued to fall.

Voekler tires as Purito gets ready to strike

Voeckler was just 30 seconds clear as he began the climb to Villa Vergano with 12.6km to go, as Movistar’s Giovanni Visconti led the chase. Gautier was still there, on the former Italian champion’s wheel, which was preventing others from coming up to help Visconti, but several riders began to swarm around the front of the group, with BMC Racing taking up the chase.

With 11.5km to go Frenchman Mikael Cherel (AG2R La Mondiale) pulled the peloton past his compatriot, but had Quintana and Valverde right behind him as he led the bunch towards the steepest part of the climb.

Several big favourites were lurking near the front, however, including Martin, Ivan Basso (Cannondale), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr), Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Rodríguez.

As Cherel pulled over Pinot attacked, but was quickly pounced up by Pozzovivo, who rode by. Basso led the others up to him, but only a small group was able to follow the two-time Giro d’Italia winner.

With 500 metres to climb Rodríguez jumped clear, and was alone and clear over the top.Majka, Martin and Valverde were chasing as the descent began, as the group shattered behind them.

Valverde led the chase, closing the gap to Rodríguez to eight seconds with seven kilometres left, but the Katusha rider was not giving up and managed to pull a few seconds back again in the kilometre that followed. Valverde pulled away from the others as he tried to claw back his compatriot, but Rodríguez was still sprinting down the wet roads on the way into Lecco.

Under the flamme rouge Rodríguez was still several seconds clear of Valverde, with the other two a considerable distance behind the Spanish rider. Tiptoeing around the final corners, the Catalan rider sat up to salute the crowd as he took his second straight straight Lombardia victory.

Valverde cruised in 17 seconds later, while Majka was able to take third place unopposed, after 23 seconds, after Martin came down on the final slippery corners.

Result
1. Joaquim Rodríguez (Spa) Katusha Team
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team @ 17s
3. Rafal Majka (Pol) Team Saxo-Tinkoff @ 23s
4. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp @ 45s
5. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana Pro Team
6. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha Team @ 55s
7. Pieter Serry (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
8. Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela
9. Ivan Santaromita (Ita) BMC Racing Team
10. Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling

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