Dan Martin finished off a frustrating season in style with victory at Il Lombardia in Northern Italy on Sunday.
The Irishman's year has come full circle after coming back from the disappointment of crashing on the final corner 12 months ago to clinch his second monument win of his career after victory at the 2013 Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Bad luck over
Last year's final corner crash started a chain of bad luck for the rider, with further crashes in this season's Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Giro d'Italia Team Time Trial on home soil severely hampering his progress for a successful 2013 season.
These disappointments and decrease of Grand Tour racing days could have been a blessing in disguise, leaving Martin fresher than other riders who may have been fatiguing at the end of a long season with many more miles in their legs.
Despite crashes occurring and affecting other main rivals in the final 5km, a select group managed to fight clear coming off the last ascent. The initial attack occurred when Lotto Belisol rider Tim Wellens used the pavè section of the final climb as a springboard for potential victory.
Wellens was then caught by BMC pair Phillipe Gilbert and Sammy Sanchez who both tried to distant themselves from the leaders on the final descent into Bergamo. However, it was Team Garmin's Martin who struck the killer blow, causing the select lead group of eight riders to hesitate long enough to ensure they were no longer fighting for the top step on the podium.
Bittersweet finish for Valverde
Alejandro Valverde and Rui Costa completed the podium places after a sprint finish ensured their second and third places respectively at one second down. However, Valverde's disappointment of another podium place finish in a big race was cushioned with the result moving him into first place in the UCI World Tour rankings.
This was helped by previous leader Alberto Contador crashing going into the final climb in Bergamo and finishing 34th in the race. This dropped the Spainard to second place with Australian rider Simon Gerrans in third with just one point scoring race to come at the Tour of Beijing.
Newly-crowned world champion Michal Kwiatkowski was displaying his rainbow jersey for the first time after victory in Ponferrada, Spain last Sunday. However, the Pole was unable to replicate his performance after suffering with cramp with just 9km to go and eventually finished in 77th place and over nine minutes down.
No treble for Rodriguez
Defending Il Lombardia champion Joaquim Rodriguez was unable to make it three victories in a row after wins in 2012 and 2013. Despite being in prime position to do so, Rodriguez eventually finished with the lead group of riders who hesitated when Martin attacked, before ultimately finishing in eighth place.
Team Sky once again failed to produce a respectable classics performance with Vasil Kiriyenka their highest placed finisher in 47th place. This result summed up what has been a disappointing season for the high-demanding British outfit, whose history of results outside of the Tour de France and it’s build-up races are not anything to be desired.
The opposite can be said for Irishman Martin, who can look back on what he would consider to be a below par season with one of the biggest results of his career to date.
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