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Overall favourite Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) with his special bike
Katusha leader out to pull back time on uphill finishes
Joaquim Rodriguez has endured a difficult start to the Giro d'Italia but remains confident he can turn his race around in the mountains and possibly on the early uphill finishes of the race to Montecassino and Montecopiolo.
Katusha put up a poor performance in the opening team time trial in Belfast and Rodriguez has been riding on the defensive since then. He is 1:47 down on race leader Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) and has 1:28 to recoup on Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), is 1:32 down on Cadel Evans (BMC) and 38 seconds behind Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
The Catalan climber knows he will have to chase time bonuses to recoup his losses. He tried on the climb to the finish in Viggiano on Wednesday and is expected to try again on the climb to Montecassino and on Saturday's more testing finish to Montecopiolo.
"I've got to try something on every stage," he told Gazzetta dello Sport. "Even if I'm behind overall and the worst placed of the GC contenders, I won't change the way I race. I feel I'm the strongest and I won't leave anything to anybody else."
Four Katusha teammates
Rodriguez tried an attack in the final kilometre of the climb to Viggiano but was chased own and passed by eventual winner Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida). He wasn't happy to miss out but can take heart from having four Katusha teammates with him in the finale. The Russian team has the strength to play a tactical game in the big mountain stages.
"The finale (in Viggiano) was harder than we thought it would be because of the rain and wind, I also thought I was feeling better than proved to be and so I went a bit too early. In fact I struggled to make it in the last fifty metres," Rodriguez admitted.
"The important thing is to try something every day and hope that my form and my GC position gets better every day."
Rodriguez no doubt saw that Cadel Evans is riding well and he could take the pink jersey today in Montecassino. However, he predicted the tough finale of stage eight, with the Cipo di Carpegna and the climb to the finish in Montecopiolo will be far more important.
"It's difficult to say for now, it's difficult to see a rider's real form on a short climb like that one," he said.
"We'll know more after the Montecassino finish. But I think the first real showdown will be on Saturday. That's a tough finish for everyone."
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