A solid fifth place on Monday’s Vuelta a España stage 16 for Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) meant the Catalan climber consolidated his fourth place overall. But there was no denying, either, that the Spaniard did not make the gains he might have liked after his team’s hard work on four of the stage’s five classified climbs.
Dropped by Chris Froome (Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) on the Farrapona, Rodriguez and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) buried their differences to try and stay within contention. Shedding Fabio Aru (Astana) for once and for all shortly before the summit, Rodriguez lost 59 seconds to Contador and 44 to Froome, dropping to 2:29 behind the race leader.
“It’s a very hard race in general, and today with 5,000 metres [of vertical climbing] it all fell apart,” Rodriguez said afterwards.
“It’s clear that Froome and Contador are the strongest right now, but there’s still a week left to go. Today, though, I was beaten fair and square.”
Discussing the stage, Rodriguez said “The break went from the gun and we weren’t that awake when it happened, so we had to chase hard. The team did very well throughout the day and I’m very happy about that.”
As for further ahead, he said, “The good thing is that for sure, right now, is that Froome won’t settle for second and he’s going to work his fingers to the bone to try to win the Vuelta.
“There’s still a week left to go in the Vuelta, and it’s not over yet, because I can’t settle for what I’ve got. There’s a lot of excitement still to come.”
Given he is not a top time triallist, Rodriguez best chances of improving on fourth overall - a result he already took in last year’s Vuelta and in 2010 - are in the stage’s two final summit finishes, on Thursday and on Saturday.