Joaquim Rodriguez is back at the Vuelta a España. But now, after years of being a key participant in the race, he is on hand simply as a visitor and fan, and in his new role, Purito believes the battle for the final red jersey in Madrid is almost all over bar the shouting with Nairo Quintana (Movistar) some 3:37 clear of Chris Froome (Sky) with five stages remaining.
"I think Nairo has got things pretty much sorted in his favour," Rodriguez told Cyclingnews. "Looking at all the factors, I think he's heading for the overall win in Madrid.
"He's climbing very well, he's got a really strong team to back him up and he's got an advantage of nearly four minutes on Chris Froome (Team Sky). There may be last minute upsets, of course, and he could well lose time in the time trial, but I think as things stand Quintana is on track for the win.
"It's been a very hard race, that's for sure, and he'll have to play things defensively. There are still some difficult stages to come and his rivals won't be happy to settle with what they’ve got."
Having retired after the Olympic Games road race, Rodriguez, 37, says he is "enjoying cycling as much, if not more than ever" now that he has hung up his wheels.
Rodriguez's best overall finish at a Vuelta came in his final appearance last year, when he placed second behind Fabio Aru (Astana). In both 2010 and 2012, he led the race into the final week, only to slip to third overall by the finish. The Catalan won nine Vuelta stages during his career, and placed in the top 10 overall on no fewer than seven occasions.
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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