Live pictures started just in time for the Muro di Sormano. A small group including Romain Bardet (AG2R), Alberto Losada (Katusha), Cristiano Salerno (Liquigas) and Steve Morabito (BMC) were up front with their lead being whittled down by the peloton on the Colma di Sormano climb.
Once the riders got to the brutal Muro di Sormano, everything split apart. Soon to be ex-Euskaltel rider put in a dig off the front of the peloton but was soon reeled in as an elite group comprising of Contador, Nibali, Mollema, Uran, Henao, Rodriguez upped the pace and split the peloton.
The group hadn’t caught Bardet by the top, but had put around 21 seconds into race favourite Gilbert. The steep descent is known for its technicality, and that there were numerous crashes was not surprising. We saw a broken fork and bent wheel scattered in the road, with Ballan and Paolini stood at either side, clearly having gone down. What we didn’t see however, was Gilbert climbing into the BMC car, abandoning his first outing in the rainbow jersey having been caught up in the same crash.
Damiano Caruso of Liquigas also fell at some point during the descent, while Katusha’s Daniel Moreno took a tumble on a steep corner before getting back to his feet and setting off. Later on, we also saw a motorcycle on the ground. At the bottom of the descent, Bardet was alone out in front, with Losada between him and the peloton, who had begun to knock off the pace and regroup.
Both the pace and action slowed as the riders rode towards the penultimate climb, the Madonna del Ghisallo. Omega Pharma-QuickStep’s Kevin De Weert was out front, his lead fluctuating between 30 seconds and a minute. There was no action over the top, and with 20 kilometres of flat until the final climb of the Villa Vergano, there was to be none for a while longer.
With around 30km remaining, Laurens Ten Dam, Vincenzo Nibali and Paolo Tiralongo took a tumble negotiating a corner, with Kevin De Weert falling out front. All got back on their bikes and carried on, with Nibali was over fifty seconds behind the peloton. He rejoined shortly after though. Rui Costa attacked at around the same time, being caught with 14km to go, as the peloton approached the Villa Vergano.
Gorka Verdugo and Marco Marcato (resplendent in Vacansoleil’s special Bianchi Celeste kit) were the first attackers on the hill, with Kolobnev joining them with 1km left of the climb. We didn’t see a whole lot of the climb due to the storm, with heavy rain at the finish.
It was a question of who had the biggest nerve on the descent, as Contador (Saxo Bank), Uran & Henao (Sky), Quintana (Movistar) and Santambrogio (BMC) chased him down the soaked descent. The gap wasn’t very big, standing at around the ten second mark.
Defending champion Zaugg (RadioShack) surprisingly joined them with 6km to go, with Kessiakoff (Astana), Sánchez (Euskaltel) and others joining closer to the finish as the group suddenly swelled. As the chase group neared the final kilometre, Sánchez, Uran and Santambrogio attacked, giving us and idea of who would be making up the final podium places as Rodriguez neared the finish alone.
Even though his advantage was only seven seconds at the bottom of the descent, Rodríguez managed to keep his lead on the flat, taking advantage of the confused and disorganised chase. He crossed the line alone in the downpour, throwing his bottle in the air with joy.
A well-deserved victory for a riders who is so often the bridesmaid, and rarely the bride. This being his first ever victory on a non-summit finish, and the first ever Spanish winner of the race of the falling leaves.
With this win he also takes the WorldTour rankings for the second time (having won before in 2010). The top twelve of the race can be seen below, as well as the top five in the WorldTour ranking.
Giro di Lombardia 2012
1. Joaquím Rodríguez (KAT) 6h36:27
2. Samuel Sánchez (EUS) +00:09
3. Rigoberto Uran (SKY)
4. Mauro Santambrogio (BMC)
5. Sergio Henao (SKY)
6. Ryder Hesjedal (GRM)
7. Bauke Mollema (RAB)
8. Oliver Zaugg (RSH)
9. Alberto Contador (SAX)
10. Frederik Kessiakoff (AST)
11. Nairo Quintana (MOV)
12. Franco Pelizzotti (ASA)
WorldTour Ranking 2012
1. Joaquím Rodríguez (KAT) 692 pts
2. Bradley Wiggins (SKY) 601 pts
3. Tom Boonen (OPQ) 410 pts
4. Vincenzo Nibali (LIQ) 400 pts
5. Alejandro Valverde (MOV) 394 pts