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Rodríguez: Vuelta will stay undecided until the Angliru

In 2008 and 2011, the last two times the Angliru was tackled in the Vuelta a Espana, it has acted as the deciding factor in the race - and leading contender Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) says he fully expects it to do the same in 2013, when the Angliru will be the Vuelta’s last of eleven summit finishes.

“Consistency will be the key to winning, but I think the Vuelta will still be wide open right up until the Angliru” Rodriguez told Spanish newspaper El Mundo on Friday.

“The race will be very exciting as a result, and that can only be good for the Vuelta.”

Rodríguez has taken podium finishes on each of the last three Grand Tours he has completed, with a second overall in the 2012 Giro, third in the Vuelta last year and third in the Tour de France this summer. It is, he feels, “time I actually won one. My initial objective is to do better than third in Madrid last year, but that won’t be easy.”

“After that I will go for it in the World’s, which is a tough circuit and I think very good for me.”

He denies, though, that being a top favourite in his home race means more pressure for him. “The years go by but I am getting better at taking responsibility,” he told El Mundo. “I’m in good shape technically and physically and above all I’ve got a great deal of support from my team.”

Nonetheless, after opting for the Tour rather than the Giro this year, “My build-up has been different to 2012. I took a few days off after the Tour because I was very tired. All of the rest I’ve had  afterwards, though, hasn’t felt like it’s been enough.” The precedent of Chris Froome, who finished second in last year’s Tour before struggling to finish fourth in the Vuelta as exhaustion kicked in, cannot be encouraging, either.

In another section of a wideranging interview, the 34-year-old Rodríguez also told El Mundo he does not believe that it can be taken for granted that Froome’s impressive 2013 season will automatically continue into 2014 or beyond.

“He’s shown he’s the strongest, but that doesn’t  necessarily signify he’s going to go on winning. There are young, strong riders like Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and riders like Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) who still have a lot to say. As I said, every year it gets harder to win - just ask [Bradley] Wiggins, last season he looked like he was going to dominate the sport.”

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