It was a race of miserable attrition that saw the riders race 3/4 of the day in pouring rain. As the race entered the circuits in Florence and Italy stepped on the gas, it was carnage at the back as riders struggled on the descents and DNFed in droves. After the initial slaughter on the first laps that saw most of the peloton step off and head for the showers the race calmed for a few laps awaiting the finale. Riders like Cadel Evans, Dan Martin, Chris Froome, Tejay van Garderen, Michal Kwiatkowski, Nairo Quintana and Nicholas Roche were all out before the real race had even begun.
Out front on the attack from the early kilometers was a group with Jan Barta, Bartosz Huzarski, Rafa Chtioui, Matthias Brändle and Yonder Godoy. Well onto the laps, Huzarski and Barta proved the most durable with Huzarski proving incredible endurance hanging on to late in the race. In the end though he was caught by an attacking Giovanni Visconti two laps from the finish and the rest of the field soon after. The Visconti attack was the opening salvo in the final battle. At that moment all looked well for the Italians who had patrolled the front with ease to that point but things were about to go pear-shaped. While the sun had now replaced the rain the course was still wet and this would bring both Nibali and Paolini down in a left-hander that had been the source of many crashes before. Nibali managed, with a little help from his friends and mechanics, to rejoin the peloton before the real fireworks began but the incident rattled the Azzurri.
Going into the final lap Denmark set the early pace on the Fiesole climb to set up Fuglsang but they didn't manage to do more than string the pack out. The real damage was to be done as Scarponi set in an attack that was followed and countered by Joaquim Rodriguez and Nibali. Rigoberto Uran, Rui Costa and Alejandro Valverde were the only ones able to go with them as the field blew apart behind. This was over and out for the classics aces Sagan, Cancellara and Gilbert et al. who simply lost too much time on the top part of the climb to be able to return to the front and factor in the race even with superb descending skills.
On the descent Uran went to the front and suffered a horrific fall that saw him tumble into the roadside gutter and embankment. Luckily he looked more busted up than actually injured as he saw the front ride away from him. J-Rod then used the descent to slide away from Nibali at the front leaving the Italian with two passengers on his wheel as he fought to catch the Spaniard in front, Valverde understandably protected his teammate and Costa refused to take part in the chase.But Nibali still managed to close the gap before the final climb. There it looked as if Costa was indeed to tired to contribute as he slipped behind the other three with Rodriguez once again attacking to make space between himself and the others. He attacked, Nibali closed and with about three km to go J-Rod used a slight incline to once again separate himself from the chase.
With a gap of a few seconds that didn't look to be closing as Nibali's energy faded, Valverde made the crucial error in keeping too close an eye on the Italian as Rui Costa, his Movistar teammate, mustered a last bit of strength that he had been saving and launched a counterattack. When Costa went, Valverde was misplaced to get on his wheel and he had to watch as the seemingly spent opponent slipped away. Costa then slowly ground down the gap to the fleeing Rodriguez and inside the final kilometer he caught him and that set up a sprint between the two. The spaniard looked behind to see if his faster teammate Valverde was still in it but he was too far behind at that point so it was up to himself to sprint for the win.
J-Rod took the front, awaiting the move of the faster Costa. The portuguese launched fairly early, confident in his superior speed and the fatigue of the spaniard who had been attacking for the better part of the last lap. It looked briefly as if he had gone too early as J-Rod fought back to come level with him but Costa had a few more watts in him to edge ahead on the line for the greatest win of his career.
It was another race that ended in second place and heartbreak for the Catalan Rodriguez who had to fight back tears as he received his silver medal while Rui Costa found it hard to fathom that he had won even as the newly elected UCI president Cookson put the Rainbow jersey on his shoulders on the podium. Bronze went to Valverde who easily outsprinted the home favorite for third.