Yes, we're a tad tardy (in-laws in town) so you know by now that Joaquim Rodriguez of Katusha won Sunday. What you might not have noticed yet is that he won Monday too.
Il Lombardia does everything in pairs, it seems, so it was very much according to script that Rodriguez, the 2012 winner, got a gap on the Villa Vergano climb within 10km from the finish and left a shattered field in his wake en route to a rainy victory in Lecco. Three times now the Race Formerly Known as the Giro di Lombardia has finished in Lecco, with the Muro di Sormano and the Vergano climbs sandwiched around the formerly fascinating and still iconic Madonna del Ghisallo ascent, and three times Rodriguez has made thepodium. Yesterday was his second consecutive solo win, putting him in a lot of company. Here are some other double-winners of. the Giro di Lombardia:
- Philippe Gilbert (2009-10)
- Damiano Cunego (2007-08)
- Paolo Bettini (2005-06)
- Michele Bartoli (2002-03)
The good news is, nobody seems to win it three times, possibly because they move on to other things. So next year's edition might actually be exciting.
Which brings me to another topic: are we happy with Il Lombardia? The new name is bad enough, but I'm not sure I like the new route, three years in. Let's face it, climbers are a predictable lot if we let them be. Their greatness is achieved mostly in the grand tours, where they have to survive from day to day and, if pressed, make some strategic attacks on the most important stages.
But put them in a one-day race with a climb close to the finish and you can write your -post race story about a week ahead of time, just filling in the names later. Sure, there is racing, real racing. Thomas Voeckler gave them all pause for a while with an attack after the Sormano that saw him put as much as three minutes into the field. And yes, people set hard tempos for other people to not follow. Like I said, the names of the combatants is hardly pre-ordained (except apparently for J-Rod). The strategy itself, however, is a tad scripted.
Once upon a time, the race was won by Andrea Tafi, il gladiatore, a blood-and-guts classics rider better suited to Paris-Roubaix. Granted, it was 1996 and he was almost certainly on a program (Tafi was one of the riders named by the French Senate as having been positive for EPO in the 1998 Tour). So I'm not suggesting that Boonen could win here in the not-so-dopey era. But the old course did leave open a variety of possibilities. I guess you can argue this back and forth... but one thing we know, the old name was better.
Earlier this morning the Giro d'Italia unleashed its 2014 Corsa Rosa on a helpless group of riders and spectators, the latter of whom could be forgiven if their legs started going numb as they watched. In the above photo, Vincenzo Nibali points to some of the places on the map where he won't be seen next year, since I guarantee you he will focus on the Tour de France instead (not a guarantee). Vinny did the honors as the defending champion, but it was no coincidence that RCS found a guy whose knees weren't going to buckle.
The race contains no less than eight serious mountain finishes, along with presumably another handful of uphill closing KMs in the classic Giro style. Here are a few samples of what we're talking about:
An intermediate stage, of which there are several:
A few of the more serious ones:
Read em and weep. Seriously. I'm weeping a little right now, and I won't come within 9000 miles of riding them.
Rodriguez was among the people in attendance who talked of committing to the 2014 Giro. Usually when a guy finishes third in the Tour we assume he's headed back to the Tour, but in Rodriguez' case it's not so. His career is thus far defined by the elusiveness of a single grand tour win. His near-misses have only grown increasingly cruel over time... so the big story is whether he can get the monkey off his back.
This route is pretty much perfect for Purito. Just one long climb after another. There is a 46km time trial he'll have to contend with, but that will only be a problem if any of his competitors can ride against the watch. An absent Nibali and an aging Evans means that the door is open for the Spaniard. As far as we know, eight months in advance. Ah well, knowledge is overrated. I'm going to go ahead and make him my Mortal Lock for 2014. J-Rod will win the Giro. Put money down now, Jens.