Joaquim Rodriguez solos to Giro di Lombardia victory to go top of world rankings

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) moved top of the UCI WorldTour rankings after a stunning solo attack saw him end the season in style by defending his Giro di Lombardia crown.

The Spaniard repeated his achievement of last year after a perfectly-timed attack on the final climb – the Villa Vergano – to ride solo into Lecco and replace Chris Froome (Team Sky) at the top of the world rankings.

There was a sense of deja-vu in Lecco as Joaquim Rodriguez soloed to victory in the rain (Pic: Stefano Sirotti)

Tour de France champion Froome was forced to withdraw from the race on Friday due to a back injury, and in his absence, Rodriguez made amends for his disappointment at missing out on the World Championship title by a bike length with a stunning victory.

Compatriot Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) rolled in second to secure his fourth podium finish of the one-day season and Pole Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff) finished third.

The Classic of the Falling Leaves saw a six-man break go clear early on but the group was reeled in before the summit of Colle Brianza.

Early casualties on the lumpy course included Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Leopard), while a crash on the narrow, twisting streets forced Giro d’Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) to abandon.

The fearsome climb of the ‘Sormano Wall’ saw more riders fall out of contention as Team Saxo-Tinkoff led a much-reduced bunch on the ascent.

It was to prove counter-productive however, as the effort was too much for Alberto Contador, whose disappointing year continued when he was dropped later in the race.

Valverde and his team-mate, the Colombian climber Nairo Quintana, led the race over the summit, earning themselves a small gap in a group which also contained Enrico Gasparotto (Astana), Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha) and Italian national champion Ivan Santaromita (BMC).

With the bunch never fully shaken off however, Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) took full advantage of Michael Rogers and Team Saxo-Tinkoff dropping the hammer at the front to bridge and pass the leaders with 60km remaining.

Thomas Voeckler, complete with his famous facial expressions, led solo for almost 50km (Pic: Stefano Sirotti)

The Frenchman, gurning as ever as he led alone, built a lead of almost three minutes but Katusha, with Rodriguez in tow, ensured the chasing group kept him at a manageable distance.

Voeckler was eventually caught with 11km remaining on the twisting ascent of Villa Vergano, after a fierce solo effort on the increasingly wet roads over the summit of the Ghisallo and down into Lecco.

Only 30 riders remained in the chasing group by this point and after a number of riders made unsuccessful attempts to attack off the front, Rodriguez picked his moment with 10km remaining.

With the rain falling – just as it had when Purito conquered the race last year – the Spaniard ploughed on alone with Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) unable to keep up at the front of the chasing group.

That chasing group became even more strung out and Valverde – third at the World Championships in Florence – Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) and Majka attempted to bridge.

Valverde then attacked the chasing group alone as his compatriot maintained his small lead but Rodriguez held off the counter-attacks to earn victory by 17 seconds.

Having seen his solo attack caught just yards from the line at the World Championships, the win also helped to bury Purito‘s tearful memories.

Further back, Irishman Martin ended a successful Monuments season with a fourth place despite crashing on one of the final corners, while Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) finished 13th and later announced his retirement from professional cycling.

David Zabriskie (Garmin-Sharp) – who announced his retirement before the race – was among the large group of riders who did not finish the punishing race.

Giro di Lombardia 2013 – result

1) Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha – in 6:10:18hrs
2) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +17″
3) Rafal Majka (POL) – Saxo-Tinkoff +23″
4) Daniel Martin (IRL) – Garmin-Sharp +45″
5) Enrico Gasparotto (ITA) – Astana – same time
6) Daniel Moreno (ESP) – Katusha +55″
7) Pieter Serry (BEL) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep – same time
8) Franco Pellizotti (ITA) – Androni Giocattoli
9) Ivan Santaromita (ITA) – BMC Racing
10) Robert Gesink (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling

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