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Rodriguez edges his way back into Vuelta fray

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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) was in a chase group

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) was in a chase group (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) reports for duty.

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) reports for duty. (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Joaquim 'purito' Rodriguez lights a cigar during the roll-out from Versailles

Joaquim 'purito' Rodriguez lights a cigar during the roll-out from Versailles (Image credit: AFP Photo)

After Katusha’s near debacle in the Vuelta team time trial, team leader Joaquim Rodriguez has had two much more solid days racing, with a third place on Monday’s second mountain top finish confirming Purito's solid form despite the early setback. Rodriguez now lies in 18th place overall, 53 seconds down on race favourite Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).

“I’m going pretty well, and I thought I might even have pulled back Horner at one point, but he did a great job,” the 2013 Tour podium finisher said afterwards.

The time gaps on the third category climb were minimal, but Rodriguez admitted that he knew only too well the slightest time gained or lost could tip the balance in one or another rider's favour on a general classification. “We all know seconds can be really important in a Grand Tour - that’s how I lost the 2012 Giro [to Ryder Hesjedal]” - by a mere 16 seconds - he pointed out.

“Alejandro [Valverde] got ahead of me, but he had to kill himself to do that," Rodriguez said.

"The important thing is I’m beginning to feel like I’m on track again after such a long break after the Tour, although I must say today I don’t know where anybody else finished apart from Alejandro. This is a pretty stressful race!”

Asked if he had started to reel Nibali back in, Rodriguez said, “there’s no big rush on that, there’s a lot of the Vuelta still to come.”

Rodriguez will surely get another boost to his morale when he sees one of his high points of the 2012 Vuelta close up tomorrow (Tuesday) when the race tackles the third-category Mirador de Ezaro climb - where he won in 2012 - en route to the finish at Fisterre.