Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha) arrived in Italy to be crowned king: win the Tour of Lombardy and move into the WorldTour driver's seat. He succeeded. He rode solo into Lecco under driving rain, and gained enough points to leap-frog Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and secure the 2012 WorldTour classification.
"I thought I was one of the five or six favourites this morning there on the start line," Rodríguez said, still drenched from the downpour. "It was hard to go about winning [the WorldTour classification] given I've had a long year, always racing all out. As the race went on today, though, I felt that I'd be able to pull it off."
The Spaniard only needed a top nine placing to overtake Wiggins. He narrowly missed winning the Giro d'Italia this year, placed second to Ryder Hesjedal, and earlier this month, placed third in the Vuelta a España. Those points combined with his win in Flèche Wallonne helped make the WorldTour title possible. All that remains is the less prestigious Tour of Beijing, but neither Rodríguez nor the Tour champ is heading east.
Beijing carries 100 points for the overall win, like today's race. If Wiggins did board the flight, Rodríguez would make sure to come along to defend his 91 point lead.
Wiggins gained his points in the Tour de France, but also by winning the Paris-Nice, the Tour of Romandy and the Critérium du Dauphiné stage races.
"It's hard to say if I as the strongest from this year because there were riders out there winning at other times when I was at home," Rodríguez added. "For sure, I went well this year. Wiggins could go to Beijing and try to take the points to win the WorldTour, but it wouldn't change the year I had."
The Spaniard had just dried off from his effort. The race in Lombardy capped his year nicely as he won in epic conditions and solo. Escapes went early in the race, but he kept calm and made his first move on the Muro di Sormano. After Sky's Sergio Henao (Sky), he set the fastest time up at 9-20 minutes.
Sormano and Ghisallo shed the group of some of the lesser lights, but Rodríguez still had to deal with Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp). On the final and least famous climb, Villa Vergano, he shot free just after the rain turned from drizzle to downpour.
"I thought Nibali and Contador would come with me and I'd be able to take the sprint," he added, "but to win solo is even better."
UCI WorldTour ranking (September 29 - after Tour of Lombardy)
1. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha 692 points
2. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky 601 points
3. Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStwp 410 points
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 400 points
5. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar 394 points
WorldTour ranking by team
1. Sky 1,691 points
2. Katusha 1,273 points
3. Liquigas-Cannondale 1,178 points
WorldTour ranking by nation
1. Spain 1,889 points
2. Great Britain 1,163 points
3. Italy 1,115 points
Rodriguez becomes first Spaniard to win Tour of Lombardy