Giant-killer Rodriguez gives Euskadi-Murias a massive Vuelta a Espana triumph

Basque team take first Grand Tour victory, Rodriguez captures maiden pro win

Oscar Rodriguez (Euskadi-Murias) has clinched what is unquestionably his team's biggest win to date in the Vuelta a España on Friday, with a stand-out solo win on the Camperona.

Rodriguez dropped riders of the calibre of triple Tour de France stage winner Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing Team) less than two kilometres from the finish line of the painfully steep eight-kilometre ascent.

Rodriguez's victory represents a massive triumph for his Euskadi-Murias team, which is making its debut in the Vuelta a España this year in the same season as it has moved up a category to the Pro Continental division.

"I got dropped at the foot of the climb because I wanted to ride up at my own pace, and then when I caught the two guys ahead [Majka and Teuns] I saw they were looking a bit rough, so I pushed a little bit harder," Rodriguez said.

"My earpiece fell out with about 500 or 600 metres to go, so I had no idea if I could win or not. But finally, I saw that I could get across the line first."

For Rodriguez, previous memories of the slopes of la Camperona could not be more different. During the Vuelta a Castilla y León last year on a stage due to finish on the same ascent, he crashed on a previous climb and ended up abandoning and in a race ambulance.

"I'd cut my mouth quite badly and needed stitches but the ambulance couldn't up get up the Camperona, it was too steep and its clutch burned out.

"So they got me out of the back and stitched up the injuries in my face, whilst I was sitting on the side of the road here on the climb."

Rodriguez recounted that he had kept a steady pace on the climb, looking constantly at his power meter. "I tried to keep it at 400 Watts all the way up," he said, "though when they told me I could win, I went a bit harder."

"I still don't believe that I've got this victory, and even less so here in the Vuelta."

Rodriguez hails from Burlada, a tiny village on the outskirts of Pamplona and he cut his teeth as an amateur racer in the CC Villaves club, the same one where Miguel Indurain began to race over 40 years ago.

But whilst he denied that he had been inspired by Indurain when it came to taking climbs at a steady pace - one of Indurain's strategies for handling the high mountains - Rodriguez did say that he had run into Indurain occasionally whilst training, and had raced with one of Indurain's sons, too.

"I was born in the last year he won the Tour [1995] so I never knew him as a racer, but he still occasionally gives us some good pieces of advice," Rodriguez said, "and when you come across him training, you can see he's in good shape."

With his team's sole objective in the Vuelta a España to get in breakaways and snaffle a stage win, and after a tough time finding sponsors for the squad, Euskadi-Murias team manager Ion Odriozola was understandably over the moon about his rider's victory.

"If a helicopter landed right here on the summit of the climb and took me back home, I wouldn't care," Odriozola said. "I've fulfilled what I wanted to do here in this race."
 

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