Joachim Rodriguez escapes to Tirreno-Adriatico stage six
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Monday, March 12, 2012

Joachim Rodriguez escapes to Tirreno-Adriatico stage six

by Ben Atkins at 11:42 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results, Tirreno-Adriatico
 
‘Purito’ jumps away in steep final kilometre and holds on to win in Offida; GC battle tightens

joaquim rodriguezJoaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) opened his 2012 WorldTour account, as he begins his season-long quest to take back the ranking title he won in 2010, with an opportunistic victory in the sixth stage of Tirreno-Adriatico in the Marche hilltop town of Offida. The Spanish climber jumped away from a select group of riders, that was all that was left of the peloton after the tough finishing circuit, opening up a sizeable gap on the steep final climb.

Despite a fierce chase, led by Slovakian champion Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale), Rodriguez managed to hold on to take the stage victory. Stage five winner Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) sprinted around the outside of the chasing pack to take second place, with Danilo Di Luca taking third.

“We let Sagan work a lot because we knew he’d be the most dangerous,” explained Rodriguez after the stage. “That was the key to success. These kind of attacks don’t often work and if the stage had been 200 metres longer, I don’t know if I’d have made it to the finish.

“I was a bit demoralised because I thought I’d be up there in Chieti [on stage 4 - ed] but I wasn’t,” he added. “So I was a bit surprised to win.”

With race leader Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan) taking fourth, Nibali’s six-second time bonus moved him closer to the American’s lead. Roman Kreuziger (Astana) - who finished in seventh place - was still second, at five seconds, but Nibali was now just six seconds back in third.

“I made no mistakes; the tactics were dictated by the race,” said Horner. “Kreuziger is the big threat I believe, and we’ll see tomorrow if I’m correct. For me the important thing was to keep the jersey; I think the race has been perfect.”

“Today Peter Sagan was phenomenal on the last climb and up to the finish,” the American added. “If Nibali wins, he owes Sagan a car or something.”

The battle between the overall contenders came after a long distance breakaway from Carlos Betancur (Acqua & Sapone), Luis Felipe Laverde (Colombia-Coldeportes), Arthur Vichot (FDJ-BigMat), Andrey Amador and Branislau Samoilau (Movistar), Serge Pauwels (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Mirko Selvaggi (Vacansoleil-DCM) had been pulled back in the final 16.1km finishing circuit.

The stage was to feature a brief cameo from World champion Mark Cavendish (Team Sky), as he escaped in a group of six in the first few kilometres. The move only lasted a few kilometres though, and later on Cavendish joined many of the other contenders for the following Saturday’s Milano-Sanremo on the plane home.

A tough, hilly parcours with a finishing loop to match

The 181km stage featured a long, hilly, 83.9km opening loop before hitting the 16.1km finishing circuit, which it would complete six times. The steep gradients to Ponte delle Pietre would be climbed in every lap, but would only score points the fourth time around, with 35.9km remaining. It’s position in the circuit however, was to provide an ideal launch pad for an attacking rider in the final kilometres.

The Cavendish group escaped after just 3km; with the World champion joined by Danilo Napolitano (Acqua & Sapone), Luca Ascani (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia), Dominique Rollin (FDJ-BigMat), Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank) and Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-ISD). The six of them only managed to open up a gap of around 20 seconds on the peloton though, before being quickly pulled back.

Cavendish continued in the stage but abandoned when the peloton reached the finishing circuit, with his eyes firmly focused on Milano-Sanremo five days later.

The peloton was all together as it took on the climb to Ripatransone after 17.2km, with Beñat Intxausti (Movistar) leading over the top, but after 45km the seven-man group got clear.

Betancur, Laverde, Vichot, Amador, Samoilau, Pauwels and Selvaggi all worked well together, and managed to open their lead to 4’52” by the time they reached the finish line for the first time.

As Liquigas-Cannondale and Farnese Vini-Selle Italia led the peloton behind the seven fugitives, the gap began to steadily fall. At the end of the first lap it was still 4’33”, with 50km to go it was down to 3’42”, and, as Betancur led over the top at Ponte delle Pietre to take the mountain points with 35.9km remaining, it was as low as 2’20”

With two laps to go - as Liquigas-Cannondale was now alone at the front - the gap was down to 1’53”; in the penultimate lap BMC Racing pushed its way to the front, along with Horner’s RadioShack-Nissan team.

The break splits up as the hills take their toll

As the lead dropped below a minute Laverde and Samoilau found themselves dropped by the other five as they took the steepest part of the climb. Selvaggi was the next one to become detached, as Vichot and Pauwels increased the pace; Amador too was struggling, but the Costa Rican managed to claw his way back up.

Lampre-ISD was now in control of the peloton, with RadioShack-Nissan taking over in the final kilometre of the lap. Across the line to take the bell the group, which now numbered four, the peloton - now led by Katuasha - was just 58 seconds behind.

As the four leaders passed the 10km banner on the back of the lap, they were just 30 seconds clear, and an attack from Luca Paolini (Katusha) on a long descent attempted to bridge across to them. RadioShack-Nissan was quickly chasing however, and he was soon back in the fold, but the flurry of activity closed the gap further.

With 6km to go the peloton was just a few seconds behind and the four leaders began to look behind them. Vichot sat up almost immediately and Amador, who had been the weakest in the group for some time, surrendered as the road began to climb

Pauwels and Betancur persisted though, but the Colombian stopped as soon as he saw that it was his Acqua & Sapone team leading the peloton towards him. The team in white continued as the last two riders were swept up, with Nibali and Horner lurking behind them

With the breakaway caught the favourites attack

Suddenly though, Wout Poels (Vacansoleil-DCM) jumped past and the Dutchman was away and clear. Di Luca with Domenico Pozzivivio (Colnago-CSF Inox) gave chase however, and, as Pozzovivo faded, Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) made his way up to the front. The two were briefly clear as they crested the climb, but Sagan pulled up to them with the shrinking peloton on his wheel

The next move came from Christophe Riblon (AG2R La Mondiale), who managed to open up a sizeable gap, while, behind him, Pozzivivo attacked again and made his way up to the Frenchman. With Sagan working hard on the front however, they were caught in final kilometre, just as the final climb began.

Rodriguez attacked and immediately forced a gap, and the Catalan rider looked as though he had done enough. Sagan had the bit between his teeth however, and was leading the chase once more; as they pulled into the finishing straight it looked as though the Slovakian champion was going to pull the lead group up to Rodriguez’ wheel, but the Katusha rider just managed to hold on to take his first victory of the season.

Nibali sprinted around Di Luca to take second place and, with Horner in fourth, Nibali’s six second time bonus moved him closer to the American’s lead. The 40-year-old just has to hold off those two challengers for the flat 9.3km final day’s time trial to take his first victory since last year’s Tour of California.

Result stage 6
1. Joachim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha Team
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
3. Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
4. Chris Horner (USA) RadioShack-Nissan
5. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
6. Wouter Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM
7. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Astana
8. Oscar Gatto (Ita) Farnese Vini-Selle Italia
9. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD
10. Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM

Standings after stage 6
1. Chris Horner (USA) RadioShack-Nissan
2. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Astana @ 5s
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale @ 6s
4. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale @ 45s
5. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD @ 47s
6. Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM @ 48s
7. Joachim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha Team @ 50s
8. Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale @ 1’15”
9. Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Acqua & Sapone @ 1’21”
10. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Colnago-CSF Inox @ 1’22”

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