By Gregor Brown in Ans
After losing two of its key support riders on Wednesday at Flèche Wallone, Caisse d'Epargne were up against it before the race had even started. Luckily for the team and Alejandro Valverde, super domestique Joaquím Rodríguez was able to support his captain until 16 kilometres from the finish.
But did the race go according to the team's original plan? "Yes, luckily so," responded Spanish champion Rodríguez to Cyclingnews. "We only left with six riders due to David López and [Alberto] Losada crashing in Flèche Wallonne. So, it was difficult to control the situation with only six riders."
The Spanish duo stared the race, but both were forced to abandon early on. However, Rodríguez was Valverde's key lieutenant when the race heated up, and the 28 year-old sprung into action when Team CSC's Andy Schleck started to stretch his legs.
"There was Andy on that last climb [the penultimate climb Côte de la Roche aux Faucons - ed.] and I had to close the gap because Alejandro was going very well," Rodríguez explained. "I went long. There was Alejandro, Fränk and Rebellin, and after the last 500 metres of the climb, I was dropped. However, I did my work well. I would have liked to have had a race for me, but he [Valverde] is so strong."
Still, Rodríguez's efforts were appreciated by his friend and team captain as the two immediately searched out one another after the finish to embrace. "I did everything that Alejandro asked of me," said Rodríguez. "And at the end, I could not have continued with him."