While he's not getting carried away by the success he's enjoyed at this year's Vuelta a España so far, race leader Joaquin Rodriguez can't help but keep an eye on his chances of overall victory when the event concludes in Madrid on Sunday.
The gutsy Katusha has taken a stage win en route to the red jersey and finds himself engaged in a fierce battle with Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) and countryman Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo-Galicia). He says it's natural to be thinking of overall honours with five days left in the year's third grand tour but first there's today's 46km time trial in Peñafiel to negotiate.
"I've been wanting to fight and now it lifts me that I can more clearly see victory for the first time in a grand tour. This is my best season since I became professional; I'm in a team, Katusha, who gives it all for me. I'm all wrapped up," Rodriguez told Europa Press during the rest day in Peñafiel.
And he'll have to continue fighting hard, with today's test against the clock, Friday's 231km stage to Toledo - the longest of this year's Vuelta - and Saturday's 172km journey to Bola del Mundo, where, Rodriguez said, "you will have to give everything on the bike."
He added that during the time trial he'll "have to be very attentive to the wind," and hopes to minimise his losses to Nibali, who is the superior rider against the clock and has proven so far in this year's Vuelta that he's capable of securing the overall victory.
But Rodriguez is confident in his form and believes in the old adage that wearing the leader's jersey adds significantly to a rider's motivation. "I see myself in very good condition. I like to leave Peñafiel dressed in red, it is important to me. But with two minutes lost in the time trial, I think I can get to the Bola del Mundo ready to do battle.
"I'll attack from the beginning of the [Bola del Mundo] stage because it is a unique opportunity to raise me up the general [classification] in Madrid," he explained.
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