Joaquin Rodriguez repaid his Katusha team mates for the huge effort they put in throughout today’s Stage 5 of the Vuelta by storming to victory on the short but steep climb through the streets of the Andalusian village of Valdepeñas de Jaén.
The win came 12 months after the Catalan rider had gone too early and missed out on winning on the day that the Spanish Grand Tour made its debut on this punchy summit finish where the gradient hits 23 per cent, with Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Igor Anton taking the win instead.
Today, however, after Katusha had worked hard to force the pace and reel in the day’s break, Rodriguez benfitted from a great leadout from team made Daniel Moreno, stage winner on the Sierra Nevada yesterday, for what turned out to be a convincing win.
David Moncoutié of Cofidis, winner of the mountains jersey in the Vuelta for the past three years, had attacked on the day’s last categorised climb and passed under the flamme rouge ahead of the chasing bunch, but ground almost to a halt as the road rose upwards and the Katusha riders stormed past.
David Moncoutié cracks inside the final km (copyright: Tour of Spain/Graham Watson)
“I’ve clearly achieved more than I expected with the gap I created over my adversaries on such a short distance”, the 32-year-old Rodriguez said afterwards.
“It was a hard stage with a breakaway comprising riders of the calibre of Rein Taarämae and Micheal Albasini, so it took a lot of work to prevent them from taking more than two or three minutes’ advantage.
Michael Albasini on the attack (copyright: Tour of Spain/Graham Watson)
“The last kilometre was extremely spectacular,” added Rodriguez, who now lies third overall, 23 seconds behind race leader Sylvain Chavanel of Quick Step, and 14 seconds behind his team mate Moreno.
“It was like a big Belgian classic with a huge crowd,” he added. “Everyone was yelling “Purito!” It was very enjoyable.”
"Purito" celebrates his Stage 5 win (copyright: Tour of Spain/Graham Watson)
As for that nickname, “Purito,” which is the name he goes by among much of the peloton, as well as his fans – it’s actually a type of cigar, and there’s an interesting account of how he came by it on the blog The Inner Ring.
In winning today on what is likely to become something of a trademark climb in the Vuelta in the years ahead, Rodriguez also put down a marker for his intentions regarding the overall title, and if he was suffering, he wasn’t showing it.
“I don’t think I have spent more energy than the others”, he insisted. “Everyone will be tired after such a stage. It’s often said in cycling that the winners are less tired than the others because of the high morale. It’s not a surprise for me to do this because I’ve said since the beginning of the Vuelta that I was here for the win.
“I’m satisfied with where I’m standing on GC,” Rodriguez concluded. “Most of the favourites are still in contention with no big difference. Many things can change, as we’ve seen last year at the time trial. I expect to stay at the same level in the mountains until the end of the Vuelta.”
Another team that put in some hard work today was Quick Step on behalf of race leader Chavanel, who finished in a bunch 31 seconds down on the winner and said afterwards:
“This stage was much harder than I imagined! I’ve been surprised, to say the truth. It was constantly fast but I hung on and I kept the red jersey. It makes me very happy.
“The Quick Step team controlled the race really well with sending Davide Malacarne in the breakaway and riding behind Michael Albasini who was alone away later on. Tom Boonen took part in the chase. That shows the respect that Quick Step has for this leader’s jersey.
Tom Boonen works for race leader Sylvain Chavanel (copyright: Tour of Spain/Graham Watson)
“In the finale, I was tired and I approached the last uphill in an uncomfortable position,” he added. “I planned my efforts according to the advantage I had over “Purito” on GC: one minute. The Vuelta is designed for climbers and I’m not one of them. That makes me proud to be the race leader. I’ll take it day by day but I’d like to preserve the lead until the time trial on Stage 10.”
Team Sky’s Kurt Asle Arvesen, who retires at the end of the season, was involved in a crash at speed after colliding with a child who apparently ran into the road. The team confirmed tonight that it had been in touch with the youngster’s father, who confirmed that his son as being treated in hospital for a cut nose and lip, but thankfully had no broken bones.
Arvesen, meanwhile, suffered “severe cuts and bruising” in the incident, which happened about halfway through the stage, and his bike’s frame was written off, but he got on a spare bike and completed the stage. He is expected to continue racing tomorrow.
Geert Leinders, Team Sky’s doctor, said this evening: "We have examined Kurt tonight and the initial signs are good. We don’t have any reason to think that he has any concussion to his brain. He remembers everything and never lost consciousness during the accident, which is obviously a very good sign.
"He is covered in cuts and grazes but we can treat those effectively, and his only complaint tonight has been with his left knee. We have checked over the area thoroughly and don’t feel the need at this moment for any further investigation. There is no swelling and there doesn’t appear to be any broken bones or major trauma with the ligaments both inside and outside the knee.
"At this moment we expect him to be able to continue in the race, although clearly he is going to be very sore for the next few days.”
Team Sky sports director Steven De Jongh added: “It was a really big impact and Kurt has lost a lot of skin. He’s having all the wounds cleaned by the doctor now and will then be bandaged up.
“There’s not much skin left on his knees and back so we’ll see what happens in terms of him being able to carry on but he’s going to be stiff for sure in the next stage and beyond.
“It’s not going to be easy but Kurt showed great determination to get back on his bike and finish the stage. He’s got great support from the team and we all really hope he can carry on racing.
"Kurt's main concern was that he wanted to know that the child was okay; we spoke to the hospital about him and the great news is that nothing appears to be broken – we were told he just has cuts on his nose and lip."
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.