LECCO, Italy (VN) — Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha) capped off his season in the midst of a storm along the Lake Como shores. His solo attack to win the Giro di Lombardia was greeted with thunderclaps, shoves and general chaos.
Rodríguez rolled into Lecco, the first Spaniard ever to win in 106 editions, nine seconds ahead of Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Rigoberto Urán (Sky). The hammering rain would have been enough to set the tone and underline his hard-fought win, but finish-line chaos added to the Italian flavor.
“Watch out!” Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) yelled at one rival team helper. “Oh!” Rodríguez dodged the soigneurs’ bags and journalists running for cover, and took shelter in a tent near the podium.
“I’ve been racing for many years, it doesn’t’ bother me, but I don’t like it,” he said of the rain. “It’s a risk for all of us. The risk of crashing is spread evenly. However, I can handle it.”
Hesjedal, the Giro d’Italia winner, zipped down off the final Villa Vergano climb with an eight-man group in pursuit of Rodríguez. They saw him shoot clear on the upside and were unable to cooperate in the conditions to bring him back.
Hesjedal continued the 2km to the team bus, already thinking ahead to Sunday’s 2013 Giro presentation and his last race in the Tour of Beijing. Franco Pellizotti (Androni) was still in the finish-line zone, hitting back at a Saxo Bank team helper after being knocked aside by his backpack.
Rodriguez, now sheltered, continued answering questions while changing into dry clothes.
“Are you coming back to the Giro?” one journalist asked.
“I love this country,” he said. “I need to see what the route looks like tomorrow, but from what I’ve already seen, it looks good.”
Rodríguez narrowly lost the Giro this year to Hesjedal, seeing the pink jersey slip away in the final time trial in Milan. Earlier this month, he also lost his grip on the Vuelta a España. He won three stages, but failed to stop Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) in his comeback parade.
After the podium presentation on the lake and anti-doping, he arrived in the pressroom to answer more questions.
An Italian journalist asked, “What are you going to work on this winter so you can come back and win a grand tour?”
“It’s the time trial, it’s always the time trial,” he said. “I go well, but you can’t lose that time. I’ve done a lot of great work up to this point, but I’m going have to work even more on it, returning to the San Sebastián wind tunnel. That’s my goal. Many times, I’m already there in the mountains, maybe even the strongest at times, but we all know my problem is time trialing.”
Rodríguez has one more year left in his contract with team Katusha, but he is not happy and said that he will leave at the end of next season if everything stays status quo. Before he could leave to join his teammates, a group of journalists and special guests edged their way forward for autographs. It should not be done in the pressroom, but given the earlier chaos, it seemed only appropriate.
He left the room, the king of Lombardia and leader of the WorldTour. With his win, he leapfrogged Bradley Wiggins (Sky) to take the overall lead. Neither will contest the final event in Beijing, so Rodríguez will take the title.