Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) has won the Tour of Lombardy and displaced Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) at the top of the UCI WorldTour rankings to finish the year as world number one.
The 33-year-old Spaniard capped his most successful season with victory in one of the hardest editions of Il Lombardia in half-a-century, following the reintroduction of the ‘Muro di Sormano’ climb, one that peaked at 25 per cent.
Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) finished second, and Team Sky’s Rigoberto Uran third at the end of a grueling 250km race in unrelentingly wet conditions.
Rodriguez, who had already won La Fleche Wallonne this season, before finishing second overall in the Giro d’Italia and third in the Vuelta a Espana, described 2012 as his ‘perfect season’ and victory in the ‘Race of the Falling Leaves’ – the first for a Spaniard- as the most important of his career.
“Today I was feeling in great shape: in fact I made my teammates work during all the crucial moments of the race. When I saw that all my rivals were tired and I felt so great, I realized I had a great chance to win.
“Villa Vergano uphill suited me a lot: I managed to make the difference, to tell the truth I thought that somebody could join me in that attack, but instead nobody could answer and that makes this victory even greater.
“I think I was one of the favorite riders since the beginning: I was fighting for a double goal, to win this prestigious competition and to take the lead of UCI World Tour Ranking, and I managed to, so I’m really happy”.
Rodriguez attacked in foul conditions on the Salita Di Ello with 13.5km to go, but held off an elite chasing group that included Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) and Team Sky’s illustrious Columbian duo of Rigoberto Uran and Sergio Henao. Defending champion, Oliver Zaugg (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek), joined the chasing group with an impressive effort.
With the final kilometre to go, the chasing group swelled, with the likes of Vinenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) joining the party, but they were unable to erode Purito’s advantage.
Rodriguez raced alone into Lecco through driving rain and soaking streets to emerge from the murk illuminated by the glare of pursuing motorbikes. The Spaniard hurled his water bottle into the air as he crossed the line before embracing team members and receiving the congratulations of his rivals.
Tour of Lombardy – result
1) Joaquin Rodriguez (SPA) – Katusha – 6.36.27
2) Samuel Sanchez (SPA) – Euskaltel-Euskadi +9”
3) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Team Sky
4) Mauro Santambrogio (ITA) – BMC Racing
5) Sergio Henao (COL) – Team Sky
6) Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) – Garmin-Sharp
7) Bauke Mollema (NED) – Rabobank
8) Oliver Zaugg (SWI) – Radioshack-Nissan-Trek
9) Albert Contador (SPA) – Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank
10) Fredrik Kessiakoff (SWE) – Astana