Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) bounced back from a bad day on the climb to Prati di Tivo, using his favourite terrain to show he deserves a place at the top table of cycling along side Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali.
'Purito' was disappointed after losing 43 seconds to Chris Froome on Saturday and so any chance of a podium place at Tirreno-Adriatico. Despite his bad day, he found the power to attack hard when the gradient to Chieti touched 19%. Importantly he also had something left in his legs to stay away all the way to the line.
"I was a bit disappointed yesterday. I thought I was going well but I'm 33 years old and so I don’t get pissed off when I have a bad day, I fight back. I knew that I had a chance to make up for it today and I did," Rodriguez said.
"It was important for me to win. I won a stage last year, and others stages the past so I like it as a race. This year the best riders in the world are here and so to beat them is great for my self confidence."
"When there's a climb like that, I know I'm the favourite. I suppose it's like how Cavendish feels when there's a sprint and when Cancellara does a time trial. But it's not easy to win here. It was the same finish as last year, the same final kilometres. I went where I was dropped last year, so I knew it was the toughest point."
Froome's race to lose
Rodriguez tipped Froome to win Tirreno-Adriatico but warned him that Monday's hilly stage around Porto Sant'Elpidio will be difficult to control.
"Froome's got a 'squadrona' – a strong team. You can see that it’s a team that works well; they signed guys with similar style, powerful riders who can ride well on the climbs and make it difficult for other riders to attack. However tomorrow is more suited to our kind of team than theirs," he warned.
"It's a tough stage, with lots of little steep climbs and so I think Froome will need all of his 20 seconds to then win in the time trial. Anything could happen and we could even attack from a long way out to try and make something happen."
Enthusiasm for aggressive, close racing
Despite suffering because of the hard, close racing, Rodriguez is enjoying the racing. He has a real enthusiasm for aggressive, close racing.
"I think it's been a great race so far and it's nice that guys like Froome have come along. Things are finely balanced in the peloton and we've already had some great racing this season," he said.
"Froome is good now, Contador went well in Argentina. All the riders who are fighting for the big races are on form, so there's some spectacular racing where success can be won or lost by just a few seconds. I know what I'm talking about because I lost the Giro d'Italia by just a few seconds last year."