Joaquim Rodriguez became the first Spaniard to win Italy's Tour of Lombardy classic with a gutsy ride in torrential rain on Saturday.

'Purito' attacked in the final part of the Salita di Ello, a 3.25-km ascent at an average gradient of 7.4 percent, and held off a strong chasing group on the flat.

The win gave Rodriguez top spot in the World Tour standings ahead of Britain's Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins.

Spain's Samuel Sanchez was second and Colombian Rigoberto Uran finished third.

As expected, the brutal climb to the Muro di Sormano sorted the men from the boys.

The two-kilometre ascent at an average gradient of some 15 percent blew the peloton apart with Alberto Contador, Vincenzo Nibali and Rodriguez among those setting the pace in front.

World champion Philippe Gilbert crashed in the descent and pulled out.

“He's got some burns and cuts but nothing serious,” his BMC team manager John Lelangue told RAI.

Nibali also hit the deck in the descent from the Madonna del Ghisallo but he managed to get back on the bike and rejoin the peloton.

The Italian, one of the pre-race favourites with Contador, Rodriguez and Gilbert, had not fully recovered before the last ascent and could not be a factor in the finale. – Reuters