A well-deserved victory for Joaquim RodrĂguez (Katusha Team) in the UCI WorldTourâ€™s individual ranking was confirmed on Saturday when the final round of the series, the Tour of Beijing, saw no changes in the top positions overall. Spain and Sky ProCycling, meanwhile, claimed the top spots in their respective categories.
Third in the 2011 WorldTour, RodrĂguez concluded his most successful season to date with 692 points, 91 points clear of Britainâ€™s Bradley Wiggins (Sky ProCycling), whilst Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) completed the podium in third spot, with 410 points.
As ever, consistency has been the key to RodrĂguez triumph, with victories as early as stage wins inÂ Tirreno-Adriatico and the Vuelta Ciclista al PaĂs Vasco in the spring, as well as wins in Classics as prestigious as FlĂ¨che Wallone in April and Il Lombardia in September.
Furthermore, RodrĂguez was the only rider to claim two podium finishes in Grand Tours this year, second in the Giro dâ€™Italia and third in the Vuelta a EspaĂ±a.
The final round of the UCI WorldTour, the Tour of Beijing, was claimed by Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) for a second year running. Already twice the World Time Trial Champion, Martin doubled his score in Chinaâ€™s top race largely thanks to a devastating lone attack on stage two.
Nearly a minute clear at the finish when Martin sped into Men Tou Gou Yong Ding square, the lanky German had attacked with around 20 kilometres to go on the long descent from the Dong Fang Tunnel climb.
â€śThere was no time trialâ€ť â€“ effectively how Martin sealed his victory last year â€“ â€śso I had to make my own luck,â€ť he said afterwards. â€śI had a very, very small chance, but I took it.â€ť
Although his most dangerous rival, Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky ProCycling) tried his best on the ascent to Ba Da Ling Great Wall the following day to go clear, Martin kept his cool and his lead on the dayâ€™s three remaining stages. Francesco Gavazzi (Astana Pro Team) claimed second, with Boasson Hagen in third.
Boasson Hagenâ€™s strong finale to his season allowed the Norwegian to move up a spot in the UCI WorldTour rankings to eleventh. He also has the honour of being one of the very few riders to have claimed points as early as the WorldTourâ€™s first race of 2012, the Tour Down Under in Australia, and the very last. Meanwhile, Irishman Dan Martinâ€™s fourth place in Bejing gained the Garmin-Sharp rider 21 places, moving him up from 37th to 16th â€“ the final changes to the UCI WorldTourâ€™s top 20 overall in the individual ranking.
The nations ranking saw some more significant last-minute changes, with one country gaining two spots in the top ten -Â Norway, up from tenth to eighth -Â whilst Germany moved from 14th to ninth thanks to one single race.
However, the seven positions remained completely unchanged with Spain succeeding 2011 WorldTour winner Italy as the top nation with 1,889 points, whilst Great Britain gain four spots compared to 2011 to finish second, with 1,163 points. Italy, though, were close behind, with 1,115, but failed to turn the tables on the Britons â€“ as could have been possible â€“ in Beijing.
Top British team Sky ProCycling, however, went one better than in 2011 to finish the season as top WorldTour squad with 1,767 points. Katusha Team, meanwhile, improved by nine places compared to last yearâ€™s final result, to take second with 1,263 points, with Liquigas-Cannondale completing the podium in third with 1, 197 â€“ four places better than in 2011. The one change thanks to the Tour of Beijing came for Astana ProTeam, moving up from eleventh to tenth.
And whilst one WorldTour draws to a close, the next is closer than you might think to getting underway. In a little over three months time, Australiaâ€™s Tour Down Under will act as a curtain raiser for the 2013 series - on January 20th. See you then for another exciting season of top-quality professional cycling!