Joaquin Rodriguez of Katusha won Stage 5 of the 2011 Vuelta today on the brutally tough uphill finish at Valdepeñas de Jaén that made its debut in the race last year. 12 months ago, Rodriguez was caught and passed when he appeared to be set to finish second behind Igor Anton, but today, led out by yesterday's stage winner Daniel Moreno, the rider nicknamed Purito made no mistake. Moreno finished third, and makes up ground on overall leader Sylvain Chavenel of Quick Step. Wouter Poels of Vacansoleil-DCM got between the two Katusha riders to finish second on the stage.
The stage finish today was used for the first time on last year’s Vuelta in Stage 4, won by Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Igor Anton, and provided such a spectacle that organisers decided to repeat the finale at the earliest possible opportunity. Anton, however, who crashed out of last year's race while in the overall lead, has struggled to match his form of 12 months ago and again was off the pace today.
Last year, Vincenzo Nibali gave an early sign of the form that would carry him to the overall win, biding his time before racing past Rodriguez to take second place on the final climb to Valdepeñas de Jaén, whose ramps of up to 23 per cent inevitably draw comparisons with the Tour of Flanders’ Mur de Huy.
As last year, ahead of that final ascent to the finish, the peloton had to deal with the Category 2 Alto de Valdepeñas, crested twice today, the second time just 7 kilometres from the stage finish, and the fact that Katusha, with Vladimir Karpets to the fore, were setting a cracking pace at the front of the main group provided a strong signal that Rodriguez was aiming to make reparations for last year.
The first time the riders tackled that climb today, around a third of the way into the 187 kilometre stage, an eight-man breakaway group had formed including Cofidis rider Rein Taaramae, 2010 Tour of Britain champion Michael Albasini of HTC-Highroad and Liquigas-Cannondale’s Peter Sagan. Albasini would subsequently attack again and get off on his own, being joined later by two of the other members of that original break, Skil-Shimano’s Johannes Frohlinger and Angel Madrazo of Movistar.
On the second ascent of the Alto de Valdepeñas, the trio were swallowed up by the chasing group as Katusha upped the pace, riders being strung out back down the climb, with a number of them being popped out the back of the bunch as they found the tempo being set by the Russian team too tough to keep up with. Besides Anton, RadioShack rider Andreas Kloeden was another struggler.
Up ahead, Cofidis rider David Moncoutié, winner of the mountains classification in the Vuelta for the past three years,attacked off the front of the peloton and had a lead of around 30 seconds as he came over the top of the Alto de Valdepeñas.
Half of that advantage had gone by the time the Frenchman passed under the flamme rouge as the road narrowed and rose up inside the closing kilometre, and he was almost at a standstill as Moreno tore past him, with Rodriguez on his wheel, as Katusha reaped their reward for seizing control of the race.
Vuelta Stage 5 Result 1 RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin Katusha 4h 42' 54'' 2 POELS, Wouter Vacansoleil-DCM + 4'' 3 MORENO, Daniel Katusha + 5'' 4 MOLLEMA, Bauke Rabobank + 7'' 5 SCARPONI, Michele Lampre-ISD + 8'' 6 ZUBELDIA, Haimar RadioShack + 8'' 7 FUGLSANG, Jakob Leopard Trek + 8'' 8 ROCHE, Nicolas AG2R La Mondiale + 8'' 9 VAN DEN BROECK, Jurgen Omega Pharma-Lotto + 8'' 10 KESSIAKOFF, Fredrik Astana + 8'' 11 NIBALI, Vincenzo Liquigas-Cannondale + 11'' 12 PARDILLA, Sergio Movistar + 11'' 13 NIEVE, Mikel Euskaltel-Euskadi + 11'' 14 MENCHOV, Denis Geox-TMC + 11'' 15 BAKELANDTS, Jan Omega Pharma-Lotto + 11'' 16 SÁNCHEZ, Luis León Rabobank + 11'' 17 KRUIJSWIJK, Steven Rabobank + 17'' 18 SÖRENSEN, Chris Saxo Bank-SunGard + 20'' 19 BRAJKOVIC, Janez RadioShack + 20'' 20 WIGGINS, Bradley Team Sky + 20'' Vuelta Overall Standings after Stage 5 1 CHAVANEL, Sylvain Quick Step 18h 02' 34'' 2 MORENO, Daniel Katusha + 9'' 3 RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin Katusha + 23'' 4 FUGLSANG, Jakob Leopard Trek + 26'' 5 NIBALI, Vincenzo Liquigas-Cannondale + 33'' 6 KESSIAKOFF, Fredrik Astana + 36'' 7 MONFORT, Maxime Leopard Trek + 38'' 8 PARDILLA, Sergio Movistar + 43'' 9 VAN DEN BROECK, Jurgen Omega Pharma-Lotto + 44'' 10 BRUSEGHIN, Marzio Movistar + 52''
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.