A gutsy early attack by Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) on the Vuelta’s final summit finish at Ancares fizzled out when he was caught and quickly dropped by Chris Froome (Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) 4.2 kilometres from the line.
The veteran climber finally finished fourth on the stage, just ahead of Fabio Aru (Astana) after Rodriguez was then passed by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and barring disaster will finish fourth overall in the Vuelta.
Having attacked early, Rodriguez’s advantage had stretched to nearly 30 seconds before Froome started to increase his pace and up the pursuit. However, when the Sky rider accelerated behind, the speed with which he and Contador caught and dropped Valverde - who had briefly counter-attacked - meant it looked almost inevitable Rodriguez would be reeled in.
“There are some riders who were better than me on the day and when that happens you can’t do anything,” Rodriguez told Spanish television reporters afterwards.
“Today I thought I would just go for it and if it worked, it worked and if it didn’t, it didn’t. I tried from a long way out, I know some people will now ask why I did but what’s done is done. I enjoyed the climb, and that’s what matters.”
“You have to try your best, in all of the finals I’ve been up there, in some I could have won and in others when you’re dropped, you’re well and truly dropped.”•
There was no way, he said, that he could have stayed with Froome and Contador when they caught him.
“I guess Froome knew that I was not in a good place and then he managed to drop me. I was so empty by that point it was all I could do to stay with [Fabio] Aru” - dropped half-way up the climb by the Froome group and who took fifth.
Next on the list of his races will be the Worlds, where in 2013 Rodriguez claimed a silver medal in a dramatic final duel against Rui Costa of Portugal.