Martin wins, Valverde returns to UCI WorldTour lead in Il Lombardia
A stunning lone late attack by Ireland’s Dan Martin netted the Garmin-Sharp rider an impressive win in Il Lombardia, whilst Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) took second - but has moved back into the overall lead of the UCI WorldTour.
Second in Il Lombardia in 2011 and fourth in 2013, Martin waited until the last of this year’s 260 kilometre race from Como to Bergamo to launch his definitive attack. Blasting up the right hand side of the road from a front group of nine riders, whilst the chasers hesitated a fraction of a second too long, Martin forged ahead to his first win since a Tour de France stage in the Pyrenees last year.
Having crashed when leading into the final corner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège this April, crashed out of the Giro d’Italia on the first stage in Belfast and again, late on, in the World Championships last week, Martin was visibly delighted at having put an end to months of near misses.
“I have always loved this race, and finally to win it is something very special for me”, the 28-year-old said afterwards.
“I wanted to attack on the last climb but there were too many people. After our group got away over the top, I saw there was [Philippe] Gilbert (BMC Racing) and Valverde in the break and I knew they were very fast, so I’d have to attack before the finish. Then the opportunity happened.”
“I got the gap, and then I just kept going and hoped. It’s not been an easy year, but despite all my bad luck the team have never stopped believing in me and I cannot thank them enough.”
Meanwhile in the UCI WorldTour rankings, Valverde’s second place on Il Lombardia podium sees the Movistar Team leader move back into the overall lead.
With just one UCI WorldTour race remaining - the Tour of Beijing - Valverde has an advantage of 686 points, 66 more than former leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), who drops to second place.
The other important gain in the top ten of the UCI WorldTour, is for Portugal’s Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida). The former World Champion finished third in Il Lombardia and a result is now fourth overall - a gain of two places - behind Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge). Il Lombardia’s winner, Dan Martin, has made by far the biggest gain in the UCI WorldTour, though, jumping from 39th place to 20th in one fell swoop.
Even before the final round of the Tour of Beijing, Spain, with a new, increased total of 1,834 points, are once again the clear winners of the UCI WorldTour nations ranking - well in advance of second-placed Italy, who have 1,070. In the top ten of that classification, in fact, the only change in Il Lombardia has been for Belgium, who have ousted Australia from fifth place.
As the UCI WorldTour goes into its final round of 2014, the battle for third place, though, remains unresolved, given that the France, with 987 points, are now only 30 ahead of the Netherlands, in fourth, with 957. Australia, too, may yet re-gain ground on Belgium, given they are just 29 points behind the newly fifth-ranked nation.
The UCI WorldTour teams classification seems all but certain to go to Movistar for a second year running, given their total of 1,440 points, post Il Lombardia, mean they have an advantage of nearly 300 points on second-placed Tinkoff-Saxo. Thanks to the Italian Classic, Katusha made the most important gain, with the Russian squad moving into fifth place, pushing France’s AG2R La Mondiale into sixth. And with only one UCI WorldTour round remaining this season, the Tour of Beijing, these changes are almost definitive.