There’s no other word for this year’s men’s World Championship road race: heartbreaking. Not for winner Rui Costa, who rode a smart race to take the top step of the podium. But for second place Joaquim Rodriguez, who after seven hours of riding in the rain was passed in the last few seconds by the Portuguese rider and saw his rainbow dream crushed.
- The biggest story for most of the race was the weather: pouring rain, thunder and lightning. In a gruelling 272km race, it was only at the very end that it finally abated..
- This decimated the field – by the end of the race, only 61 out of 208 starters finished..
- A small breakaway went clear very early on and it wasn’t until the last lap-and-a-half that the final man, Bartosz Huzarski (Poland), was caught.
- There then followed a waiting game punctuated by small dramas, one of which was Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali crashing on a slippery corner. He got back on the bike and used some creative – and certainly illegal – drafting off the team car to get back to the peloton.
- The main contenders including Philippe Gilbert (Belgium), Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) and Peter Sagan (Slovakia) were seemingly content to mark each other until the closing circuit.
- Near the top of the last climb of the Fiesole with 10km to go, Nibali and Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain) got away, with Alejandro Valverde (Spain), Rui Costa (Portugal) and Rigoberto Uran (Colombia) in hot pursuit, distancing everyone else.
- Uran took a header into an embankment, and then there were four.
- Rodriguez attacked, getting a handful of seconds, with Nibali the only one willing to pursue his repeated moves.
- With 2km to go, Nibali took his foot off the gas. Costa took up the chase, bridged to Purito inside the final 500 metres then jumped him in the sprint to take the win by inches. Valverde was third.
We’ve seen races like this a lot. No one doing anything until the last 10km, but by that time, after 272km and seven hours in the rain, who had it in them?
Everyone was looking for major attacks on the Fiesole but the fireworks between Sagan and Cancellara and Gilbert never got lit. Did they watch each other too closely, cancelling each other out? Or did they just not have it after such a long and wet day?
The men on the podium, however, certainly did have it in them – as did Vincenzo Nibali – to take the race by the scruff of the neck and even though Nibali was clearly the strongest, once again it was the cleverest who won – and that was Rui Costa. His thoughts:
Today I realised a dream and also won a lottery. This means a big deal. I wanted it the most in my career. I still can’t believe it, but I will do everything I can to honour this jersey.
Winning is not for the faint of heart. First of all, chapeau to every rider who was out in that weather today. The ones who finished surely are the hard men of the peloton – and the number of classics riders who were still in the 61 finishers says a lot about the conditions today. We had a few big casualties – Cadel Evans, for one, who sent this tweet from the hospital:
But what of the favourites this year? Cancellara was always in the right place in the peloton but never lit the afterburners. Gilbert put in a lot of smaller attacks, but didn’t light the afterburners. Sagan was with the other two and since they didn’t light the afterburners neither did he. They lost the race because they never took the race by the scruff of the neck – which is unusual for these three, and perhaps indicative of just how tough this race was.
On the other hand, Vincenzo Nibali did. As in the Angliru stage of the Vuelta a few weeks ago, Nibali would not go quietly into the rain-soaked evening. He came away with nothing – not even the third step on the podium – but he can’t say he didn’t give it everything.
Just another training ride? For all the hype about Chris Froome‘s chances of winning the rainbow jersey this year, it all amounted to nothing, with not one of Britain’s eight-man team finishing the race. Bradley Wiggins was off the back before they even hit the first circuit. From then on, they dropped like flies. This is what Froome told BBC Sport:
The conditions are the same for everyone. We’ve got no excuse. We just weren’t there,
Geraint Thomas, who was the last of the team to abandon, said:
There wasn’t a lot you could have done when you don’t have the legs. Luke Rowe and Mark Cavendish did a great job early on, and the first time up the climb we were all sort of there apart from Bradley Wiggins and Steve Cummings. It was just so hard.
Froome did say a bewildering thing: he said the team would have to go back to the drawing board for the Rio Olympics. That’s 2016. What about the Worlds for 2014? 2015? Is that not on the agenda for Team GB?
Sadness personified. Have you ever seen someone so distressed to get a silver medal?
Men’s road race result
1. Rui Costa (Portugal) 7:25:44
2. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain) same time
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spain) +0:17
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) s/t
5. Andriy Grivko (Ukraine) +0:31
6. Peter Sagan (Slovakia) +0:34
7. Simon Clarke (Australia) s/t
8. Maxim Iglinskiy (Kazakhstan) s/t
9. Philippe Gilbert (Belgium) s/t
10. Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) s/t