Rodriguez optimistic ahead of the “three most important days of the Giro”

Pink jersey fears Liquigas-Cannondale more than Basso

Joaquim Rodriguez remains in the lead at the Giro d’Italia prior to the three big stages set to conclude the race: uphill finishes at Alpe di Pampeago and Passo Stelvio, and a 30km individual time trial in Milan on Sunday. “Those are the three most important days of the Giro”, the Spaniard said after putting the pink jersey on his shoulders once again at Vedelago.

Stage 18 wasn’t exactly to his taste. He didn’t mind the sun in the region of Veneto but the 149-km course that ended up with a bunch gallop with Andrea Guardini beating Mark Cavendish was a big change in terms of race rhythm after two days in the Dolomites. “We’ve done three hours at 50km/h”, “Purito” said. “After using a gear of 39x17, I was on the 53x11, which is far from being my favorite one! I got sore legs because of that constant speed.”

With 30 seconds of advantage over Ryder Hesjedal, 1.22 over Ivan Basso and 1.36 over Michele Scarponi, Rodriguez is not in the best situation considering his poor performances against the clock in the past. “I wish I had more time over Hesjedal, it would give me more possibilities to defend the pink jersey”, the Catalan commented. “I’m hoping for Hesjedal to have a bad day in the mountains. He’s 70kg, Basso is 67. Hesjedal is very lean. I don’t foresee him getting dropped uphill. He won’t lose two minutes. Either he’ll stay with us or he’ll lose a lot.” Weighing in at 58kg, the Spaniard is clearly the purest climber of the four contenders.

“For sure, l’Alpe de Pampeago suits me”, Rodriguez admitted. “It matches my climbing skills. I’m a little more of a climber than my rivals. My biggest concern is Hesjedal but my luck is that Basso and Scarponi need to gain time on him even more than me. I believe that Liquigas is going to lead the race again.”

Asked to put in order of importance the rivals he fears the most, “Purito” gave a subtle answer: “1. Hesjedal, 2. Liquigas, 3. Scarponi.” It means that he’s been impressed by the collective actions of Basso’s team more than by Basso himself.

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