Joaquim Rodríguez: “I’ve made a giant step towards the overall victory today”
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Monday, September 03, 2012

Joaquim Rodríguez: “I’ve made a giant step towards the overall victory today”

by Ben Atkins at 5:49 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España
 
Vuelta a España leader stands up to Alberto Contador’s attacks on the toughest stage so far

joaquim rodriguezVuelta a España leader Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) cam under some of the biggest pressure so far from big rival Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) on the steep final climb to Cuitunigru in today’s sixteenth stage, but came out with his slim lead increased by six seconds. The stage was won by Dario Cataldo (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), who was part of a two-man breakaway with Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM), but - after having fielded numerous attacks from Contador - Rodríguez took third place, two seconds ahead of the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank rider, and the four second time bonus on offer.

“Cuitu Negru is a really hard climb!” Rodríguez exclaimed afterwards. “We were flying fast at the beginning of the race. It was difficult to control the situation when groups of thirty or forty riders were going clear off the bunch. Riders’ bodies were obviously tired after the previous stages, so it was a relief when two went away and made a gap that was big enough for them to contest the stage victory.”

Rodríguez was isolated from his team for most of the final climb, with usually dependable mountain domestique Dani Moreno being dropped early on. His rivals teams were setting the pace but, despite being all alone, Rodríguez was confident of hanging on.

“Euskaltel[-Euskadi] and Saxo Bank[-Tinkoff Bank] put a high rhythm at the beginning of the climb,” he explained. “Then I had no option but follow Alberto. I wasn’t too worried. I was feeling good, that’s why I’ve opted for taking the responsibilities earlier on. I don’t know the percentage of my chances to win the Vuelta but I’ve made a giant step towards the overall victory today.”

Today’s ‘Queen’ stage was the toughest of three straight days in the mountains of northern Spain, and many of the Vuelta’s big names suffering on the steep finish. Race favourite Chris Froome (Team Sky) was the big loser; despite hanging on to his fourth place overall, the British rider lost two and a half minutes to Rodríguez, Contador and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and any chance he may have had to win the race overall.

“We’ve had three hard days plus the stages in Galicia to make us tired,” said Rodríguez. “Look at Froome! In such a race, a weakness gets paid at a high price. I have also feared having a bad day.

“Now we have two crucial stages left: at Fuente Dé and Bola del Mundo [stages 17 and 20 - ed],” he explained. “For sure, Alberto will be motivated at Bola del Mundo, but my team-mate Dani Moreno is also from Madrid. He also knows the roads at perfection.

“Not only Bola del Mundo is hard but also the climbs before,” he added. “I just hope for an extension of the way I’ve ridden so far. Katusha has proven to be able to control the race but I don’t have a big advantage. I have to resist. I’m totally focused on fighter for the maximum result, which is winning the Vuelta.”

Today’s stage was the Vuelta’s first ever visit to the incredibly steep Cuitunigru. While many will not have enjoyed its 24% sections in the last few kilometres, the spectacular racing was a hit with the fans, Rodriguez feels.

“Having climbed up here at Cuitu Negru is fantastic for cycling,” he added. “I’m sure it’ll become a climb for fans to come and ride. Many people will be eager to discover the gradient and the scenery. It’s worth it!”

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