Rodriguez chases Maglia Rosa with cheeky stage nine attack
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Monday, May 14, 2012

Rodriguez chases Maglia Rosa with cheeky stage nine attack

by Shane Stokes at 2:20 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia
 
Katusha rider makes intentions clear in advance of tomorrow’s lumpy stage

Joaquim RodriguezExpected to play his card on tomorrow’s draining parcours, Joaquim Rodriguez showed his determination by making a move 24 hours early, uncorking a late attack on today’s ninth stage of the Giro d’Italia.

The Katusha rider was prominent in a very active finale, surging ahead inside the final eight kilometres with team-mate Angel Vicioso, Lotto Belisol’s Gaetan Bille and Sonny Colbrelli of the Colnago CSF Inox team, then quickly dropping the other three on an uphill drag.

His effort was frustrated by the parcours, which soon flattened out and made it impossible to stay clear, but the effort showed that he is in strong shape and a focused frame of mind.

"I knew this finale because we did the same in 2005,” he said afterwards. “I´m in a good shape, Vicioso attacked so I followed him: in the end, attacking is almost as difficult as staying in the group, and in this ´Giro d´Italia´ it´s important to gain even a few seconds. If I see the chance to win, I always attack: I know it was unexpected, but if somebody who wanted to win the stage followed me we could even have reached the finishing line.”

Rodriguez has ridden well thus far in the race, performing above expectations in the opening time trial and particularly so in the team time trial five days ago. His Katusha squad were second in that effort, and he is highly placed as a result.

He picked up third on yesterday’s stage and in collecting an eight second time bonus, moved to within nine seconds of the Maglia Rosa of Ryder Hesjedal. That pink jersey is a big focus and he knows that he could have a big opportunity on stage ten.

“Tomorrow it will be more suitable to me but also difficult: all the teams riding for a sprinter won´t work, so we´ll have to take some more responsibility,” he said. “It will be a tough stage, very hard to keep under control, but if there will be the opportunity, we will fight for win and to take the pink jersey.”

Rodriguez knows that the real gains and losses will happen in the final week of the race, but is clearly feeling good and is prepared to fire off some surges before then.

His directeur sportif Valerio Piva said that the move was an impulsive one, and that the rider chose to follow what was a pre-planned attack by his team-mate Vicioso.

“´Purito´ simply slipstreamed him,” he said. “He strongly wants to achieve his goals: he knows he has to keep energies for the last week, but if you don´t try you´ll never manage to obtain a win.”

Rodriguez has had a good season thus far, taking his first Classic victory in last month’s Flèche Wallonne, and also taking two stages plus second overall in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. His best Grand Tour finishes up to now are fourth place in the 2010 Vuelta a Espana and the 2011 Giro.

Tomorrow’s stage heads to Assisi, where the riders will face a tough final five kilometres. The profile will remind Rodriguez of the Ardennes Classics and he will seek to use this as a springboard to snag the Maglia Rosa.

Ryder Hesjedal’s Garmin Barracuda team expect the attack, and will set out with the goal of keeping close tabs on the explosive 33 year old. Whether or not the jersey changes, it should be a very eventful finale.

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