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Katusha rider takes la Vuelta lead after Valverde incident
Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha) was the other winner from stage four at la Vuelta a España - after Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge) took his first professional victory on the stage. Rodríguez took over the race lead from Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) who crashed with around 30km still to race and was unable to regain contact with the unrelenting Sky-lead peloton.
It was a difficult situation for the Katusha leader. While he was aware of his countryman’s fall, there was little he could do but follow the wheels of the Sky team as they continued to drive the pace along a crosswind section. Valverde lost 55 seconds to the Rodríguez group however the new race leader did not criticise the actions of Team Sky.
"Each team works their own way. Sky prepared an attack and then there was a crash. We thought we were going to slow down but once it happened we had to keep going," Rodriguez told Europa Press.
Valverde’s teammate Beñat Intxausti apparently rode alongside Rodríguez and informed him that the Movistar captain has fallen and while Katusha were committed to follow Team Sky, the Katusha team was told not to contribute to the pace.
"When he Intxausti came to tell us that Valverde was one of the injured, I told the team not attack," said Rodríguez.
Intxausti vented his rage after the stage, reiterating the sentiments of his fallen leader. He believes Sky were not acting in the spirit of cycling whilst Sky has insisted they were not aware of Valverde’s crash until later.
"You [Flecha]: You should have decided to stop the attack when the race leader went down. But [you didn’t], that's not cycling or sports!" he to Europa Press.