Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) extended his overall lead on stage 9 of the Vuelta a España in Barcelona after he finished second behind Philippe Gilbert (BMC). The pair escaped on the final climb on Montjuic, which was enough to see Rodriguez add another 20 seconds to his overall advantage on Chris Froome (Sky) and Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank – Tinkoff Bank).
“I had to attack because I knew that in the worst of circumstances they would just bring me back to the main group,” said Rodríguez. “I was just very lucky to have someone like Philippe Gilbert with me.
“It was a very stressful finish, because everybody was very fresh at the finish, and very emotional for me, too, because I knew the Montjuic park as a bike rider very well when I used to do the [now defunct] Subida a Montjuic hill-climb when I was a young pro.”
While Rodríguez was outsprinted by Gilbert at the finish, he had the consolation of coming in twelve seconds ahead of Froome and Contador, and picking up an additional 8 seconds in time bonuses on his chief rivals for final overall victory.
“We didn’t need to make a pact, he knew what he wanted, and I knew what I wanted. It clearly had a mutual advantage for both of us,” Rodríguez said.
“I didn’t know how much of a gap we’d got and kept on looking back, but finally a TV cameraman was kind enough to tell me to stop doing that because I had enough of a gap.”
Would Rodríguez hope for a similar replay of events on the Cauberg in the World Championships in just under a month’s time? “I hope not, because I would choose anybody but Gilbert to have to fight in a sprint,” he said.
As for the Vuelta, little by little Rodríguez is opening up an important gap on his rivals. “That’s because in the time trial I’m going to take a big hit back. But maybe if it’s not a disaster, who knows with this advantage I’ve got I could maybe get on the podium - or even win it.”