Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha) has been relatively quiet during this year’s Tour de France. The most we have seen of the punchy Spaniard is the sight of him dropping out of the peloton when the road has gone up. It seems, however, that the man known as "Purito" has been hatching a plan. Rodríguez has been losing time on purpose to enable him to make a concerted challenge for the mountains classification.
The Katusha rider showed his intentions on the road for the first time. He made it into the huge break on stage 9 and fought tooth and nail with Cofidis’ Nicolas Edet for the mountains points left by the two leaders. Omega Pharma-QuickStep's Tony Martin put himself into the polka dot jersey for a day, after taking full points on the first category Le Markstein. Rodríguez and his companions were unable to bridge the gap, but he earned enough to put himself into fifth – seven points behind Martin.
"It's clear that my first goal, and I've said it before, is to win the mountains classification," said Rodríguez almost immediately after he crossed the finish line. "I first did it at the Vuelta a España in 2005 and I loved it. For me, I have to get into the breaks and I will do it little-by-little. Then, in the final week, I should be good to take the polka dot jersey."
Rodríguez took points on four of the six climbs but his efforts began to show towards the end of the stage. The diminutive rider was dropped on the descent off the Grand Ballon, as Tony Gallopin made his attack, and finished six seconds behind his fellow escapees.
The 35-year-old was a late edition to the Tour team - after he crashed out at the Giro d'Italia - and says that he’s still not at full form. "We have arrived at the mountains, which is my terrain and I had to give it a go. However, the feelings are not the best, and I suffered more than I thought I would," he explained.
With seven climbs on stage 10, it is a chance for Rodríguez to add to his tally. In addition, the steep gradients of La Planche de Belles Filles will suit Rodríguez's punchy style and is a solid opportunity to take a stage victory. However, a stage win is not on the top of his priorities.
"I will try tomorrow to finish with the best. I cannot count out winning the stage, if I can get a shot at it," said Rodríguez. "It can also help me get the king of the mountains but I have already won a stage in the Tour de France and it would be great to win the mountains classification."
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