The Moment The Race Was Won: Il Lombardia

Joaquim Rodriguez Lombardia Lecco

They say there are too many repeats on TV these days and Sunday’s Il Lombardia had an air of déjà vu as Joaquim Rodriguez attacked in the same place on the Villa Vergnano climb as last year to win solo. This was the moment the race was won.

But as repeats go this was still worth watching thanks to a cameo role from Thomas Voeckler and the ongoing rivalry between Rodriguez and Alejandro Valverde whilst a cast of new names like Dan Martin, Rafał Majka made the race happen.

Ill Lombardia
The race got off to a traditional start with a new world champion in white, an early breakaway and Andy Schleck abandoning. But Schleck wasn’t the only one out. Chris Froome was a withdrawal the previous day with back pain, lombalgia instead of lombardia. Michał Kwiatkowski was a non-starter with illness and Peter Sagan quit the race early too. Meanwhile Vincenzo Nibali crashed out with 90km to go when several fell at a pinch point in town. He was limping and this time the only vehicular assistance he got was from an ambulance as he left the race.

Muro di Sore Legs
The Sormano climb achieved the first big selection of the day. It’s a fearsome climb with the Muro or “wall” section that has been decorated with official graffiti as part of an architectural project to promote the climb but it comes early in the race and the flat sections after can allow for things to regroup. But Saxo-Tinkoff had a plan and Nicolas Roche was set to work. Then came Movistar with Nairo Quintana, his upright dancing style giving the impression of someone riding an invisible Stairmaster machine.

Nairo Quintana Muro Sormano Lombardia

Many were dropped by the pace including Rigoberto Uran and Rui Costa. But a long descent followed, it had more hairpins than a Broadway dressing room and allowed several who’d exited the stage to get back in the show. Amongst them Thomas Voeckler, the new world champion Rui Costa and old world champion Philippe Gilbert, now in his ordinary red jersey but an improvement as this time last year he crashed out.

Le Voeckler Show
Following the descent a few riders were off the front and Thomas Voeckler sprang out of the bunch to chase them. He caught the group and promptly attacked them to go solo with 60km to go. It was, well, pure Voeckler: madness but entertaining. It was good to watch but he was enjoying himself too, pulling out time on the way to Bellagio and then up and over the Ghisallo climb with a lead of three minutes.

Thomas Voeckler Lombardie Giro Ghisallo Colle

If there’s a fault with the race route it is the flat section between the descent off the Ghisallo and the start of the climb to Villa Vergano, 17km of flat roads. But this year the chase was on and Voeckler was trying to fend off 40-strong group behind. He’s no slouch – remember he’s won a time trial this year – but as the rain began to fall so did his lead. Think of a duck gliding across a pond, it looks elegant and streamlined but its feet are paddling furiously underwater. Stylistically Voeckler is the opposite, his legs turn so smooth but his upper body resembles a boxer as he ducks and dives. Only by now Voeckler’s legs were betraying him and you could see the usual fluency was gone. Behind Movistar, Saxo and Katusha had men to spare for the chase.

Ello and Goodbye
The proper name of the Villa Vergano climb is the Salita di Ello but it was on this climb that Joaquim Rodriguez said goodbye to everyone. Ag2r’s Mickaël Cherel set the pace but it was another Frenchman Thibaut Pinot who put in the first attack. He’s still 23 and showed the rain and slippery roads were no problem. But he was reeled in and Domenico Pozzovivo attacked. His move was sharp but the other climbers were able to follow. He kept up the pace but then Rodriguez accelerated. It was so obvious that he’d go but nobody could match his move. Alejandro Valverde, Rafał Majka and Dan Martin could only watch and within no time Purito had ten seconds, it sounds small but on the twisting roads he was getting out of sight.

Joaquim Rodriguez Ello Vergnano Lombardia

Valverde started the descent with Martin and Majka for company but distanced them. But up ahead Rodriguez was away and perhaps more determined to thwart Valverde than to win the race, the frosty body language on the podium would later testify to this.
Purito Lombardy
So it was that Rodriguez rode solo into Lecco and won the race with Valverde behind and the relief on Rodriguez’s face was obvious. As they approached the finish Martin slipped and leaving Majka to freewheel to the final podium spot. But these two should be back to contest the race in the future, along with Pinot and OPQS’s 24 year-old Pieter Serry.

Rafal Majka Saxo Lombardia Lombardy

History Repeating
Talking of repeats, Rodriguez wins again after his 2012 win. Here’s the list of recent winners via Wikipedia.

2002 Italy Michele Bartoli (ITA) Fassa Bortolo
2003 Italy Michele Bartoli (ITA) Fassa Bortolo
2004 Italy Damiano Cunego (ITA) Saeco Macchine per Caffè
2005 Italy Paolo Bettini (ITA) Quick Step-Innergetic
2006 Italy Paolo Bettini (ITA) Quick Step-Innergetic
2007 Italy Damiano Cunego (ITA) Lampre-Fondital
2008 Italy Damiano Cunego (ITA) Lampre
2009 Belgium Philippe Gilbert (BEL) Silence-Lotto
2010 Belgium Philippe Gilbert (BEL) Omega Pharma-Lotto
2011 Switzerland Oliver Zaugg (SUI) Leopard Trek
2012 Spain Joaquim Rodríguez (ESP) Team Katusha
2013 Spain Joaquim Rodríguez (ESP) Team Katusha

Il Sorpasso
If you care it means Rodriguez surpasses ahead of Chris Froome in the UCI World Tour rankings with only the Tour of Beijing remaining.

The Verdict
The TV production was lacking although still an improvement on last year’s washout. But it’s hanks to Thomas Voeckler for putting on a show for 50km, his solo lead was brave stuff and for a moment you could imagine him winning. It created the suspense on the flat section of the race when otherwise there might have been none.

Joaquim Rodriguez’s move was so obvious there could have been a hazard sign on the road warning of a Rodriguez attack but when it happened nobody could follow. Nobody could chase him down on the finish either so there’s no doubting the winner and it’s saved his season. After podium places in the Tour de France, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Volta a Catalunya today saw his biggest win of the year.

30 thoughts on “The Moment The Race Was Won: Il Lombardia”

  1. From my point of view, the inclusion of Villa Vergano ‘muro’ in the last kilometres, specially after such a long flat section, has ruined this race. Il Lombardia should finish in Como, like years before, or somewhere near the Ghisallo descent, to honour the mythical climb of this Monument and make the race less predictable.

    • I’m with you Vern!
      I was cheering for T. Blanc on the climb but later, when he continued with those “sticky” handups from the car, not even bothering to put the stuff in his pocket, I started hoping the chasers would catch him.
      BRAVO to Purito, with tears last week (but with a silver medal) and joy this week. I was very happy NOT to see the Green Bullet come home first…same with last week. Inner Ring – what was wrong with the TV coverage? I started watching with about 10 kms to go before the Ghisallo climb and other than the RAI TV switch to F1, which only caused me to click over to another pirate video feed, found nothing to complain about.

    • I know what you mean but Lecco has paid to host the finish. So if they didn’t have this climb then the finish would be a sprint from a group of 40 or more.

      The route keeps changing and the current version isn’t ideal. But it leaves no doubt as to the best rider on the day.

      • But they could at least put 3 or 4 kms more after the Villa Vergano, to allow for chasing. Or, better, use one of the less steep climbs east of Lecco as last climb.

  2. Anyone know why Rodriguez changed helmets during the race? You can see him in the background up the Sormano climb wearing the bowl helmet, whereas in the other pictures he is wearing the standard one.

  3. Nice report. I especially liked the traditional Abandony and the anti-duck. Nice win for Purito too.

    Do you know how long the contract with Lecco runs?

  4. Interesting to notice that the 2 strongest riders at the end of the season have been competing at top level since the Dauphiné (and also competed well in the early season). So much for “form peaks” and cycling à la Ferrari/Armstrong. Humble tip for riders: keep your mind focused on racing for the whole season, rest the necessary minimum, and go on to win as often as you can. It’s all in the mind.

  5. You’re in excellent form @Inrng… 🙂

    – They say there are too many repeats on TV these days (and Sunday’s Il Lombardia had an air of déjà vu)
    – The race got off to a traditional start with… Andy Schleck abandoning.
    – Chris Froome was a withdrawal the previous day with back pain, lombalgia instead of lombardia.
    – Vincenzo Nibali…the only vehicular assistance he got was from an ambulance as he left the race
    – Muro di Sore Legs
    – Quintana… his upright dancing style giving the impression of someone riding an invisible Stairmaster machine

    … thank you for all the smiles and fantastic analysis/comment over the whole season 🙂 Brilliant.

    • You forgot the best line: “it had more hairpins than a Broadway dressing room and allowed several who’d exited the stage to get back in the show”

  6. Chapeau to Tommy Voeckler, it must be a wonderful feeling to ride over the Ghisallo solo. He seems to rub lots of folks the wrong way, but I like his style. He animates lots of races and every now and again, one of his crazy attacks sticks. Did anyone else notice him flicking his elbow for someone to come around once he was cooked from his long break, as if to say, “enough, I’m done”?

    • Ditto that. I know that his antics can get tiresome but he’s good value to watch and like with that flicked elbow I think it showed that he can laugh at himself which is always a good sign. I loved the fact that when he caught the lead group he just blasted past them. He’s predictably unpredictable if you know what I mean and in this day and age of carefully controlled measures and power readouts etc I think racing needs people like him.

      • Some people say that Voeckler acts like a clown sometimes, but without doubt he is a great fighter. Who can forget the Tour of 2011 where he fought tooth and nails for the yellow jersey ?

  7. Hi there and thanks for another excellent report!

    A question comes to mind, has probably been discussed before: why does the winner of the World Championship race (a one day race) get to wear a distinctive shirt the whole next year, but not the leader of the UCI World Tour rankings – which is a feat much harder to achieve? Or am I missing something?

    Thanks a lot!

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