By Julien Pretot
FLORENCE, Italy, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Joaquim Rodriguez lost out to Portugal's Rui Costa in the world championships road race on Sunday but the Spaniard could be forgiven for also thinking he was beaten by compatriot Alejandro Valverde.
Valverde, who finished the 272.3-km race in third place, failed to cover Costa's decisive attack 1.5-km from the finish before the Portuguese caught Rodriguez and outsprinted him to the line.
Had he followed on Costa's wheel, Valverde could have "sandbagged" his rival - sat behind him and toyed with his nerves. If Valverde had managed to rejoin Rodriguez, the Spaniards would have been in a two-against-one position.
Rodriguez, also known as Purito, looked truly stunned when he saw Costa alone catch him.
"Losing like this is stupid," a dejected Rodriguez, who cried on the podium, told reporters.
"We had the numbers, we were the strongest, we should not have lost."
Asked why he did not cover Costa's move, Valverde said: "I just could not. He attacked in a curve and at first (Italian) Vincenzo Nibali tried to catch his wheel and I could not follow.
"I had no legs after 270 kilometres."
That explanation did not appear to placate Rodriguez, who did not look at his Spanish team mate during the post-race news conference.
"This (silver) medal does not count for anything, I wanted to win," said Rodriguez, who finished third overall in the Tour de France.
"When Rui Costa caught me, I knew it was over because I was very tired."
Costa and Valverde both race for Movistar and trade team alliances sometimes occur at the world championships which are raced by national sides, however this was not the case on Sunday.
"We should have won the world title," said Spanish team coach Javier Minguez.
"You can't let Rui Costa go. Rodriguez had the title in his hands and Nibali was dead." (Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Alison Wildey)