Spanish veteran Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) put a brave face on losing the leader's jersey in the Burgos time trial and argued that despite the disappointment, there were still some chances between here and Madrid for him to, as he put it, "maybe cause the Dutchman [race leader Tom Dumoulin] to crack."
However, Rodriguez was fulsome in his praise of Dumoulin’s performance in the Vuelta to date, saying "they've not gifted him anything and he's taken a huge step forward. He's forging a path in this year's Vuelta as a great champion and a future winner of a Grand Tour."
There was no cracking Dumoulin in the Burgos time trial, either, where Rodriguez struggled home in 30th place, 3:06 down and dropping to third overall at 1:15 on the flying Dutchman. "I felt really clogged up, and strangely enough where I was at my best was on the flat rather than the climbs," Rodriguez, who already lost hold of a Vuelta lead in the 2010 race in a third-week time trial, said afterwards.
"[Fabio] Aru (Astana) and Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) have both ridden superbly. Aru was particularly good. I hoped to do something special, even keep the lead if I'd had a great day but lose a couple of minutes, and instead it was one minute too many."
However, Rodriguez was adamant that there are three good stages in the mountains, culminating in Saturday’s trek over four first category ascents, to "give it some welly."
There was no denying that Dumoulin has won a hugely important battle in Burgos, though, and Rodriguez admitted he was "almost more disappointed" than in 2012, when he lost the Vuelta in the final week thanks to a spectacular last-minute ambush by Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo). "Either because of the route or because of the rivals, I never end up winning a Grand Tour," the Catalan climber concluded. However, the fight for the 2015 Vuelta is not over yet and Purito has surely not said his last word, either.