Vuelta diary, Stage 16: Rodriguez proves too strong for Contador’s attacks
On a day in which the course was considered by many as the hardest of the 2012 Vuelta a Espana, Dario Cataldo of Omega Pharma Quickstep held strong, winning the stage by 7 seconds over fellow breakaway companion and 3rd placer in the 2012 Giro d’ Italia, Thomas de Gendt.
Cataldo, who is the current Italian time trial champion, put on a fearsome attack in the closing stages of the final climb of the day, to ensure his first ever Grand Tour stage win.
As I previously mentioned, today’s stage was one of the toughest of this year’s Vuelta, featuring 2 Category 1 climbs totaling 18 km, plus a final leg crushing Hors category climb to finish of the stage, that was 19 km in length.
It’s fair to say that many opportunities were available for riders to attack, and so they did. Who else, but Alberto Contador?
The 29 year old attacked time and time again in the hope of dropping red jersey holder, Joaquim Rodriguez in the final climb of the day.
Whilst on two occasions the attacks proved too difficult for the current 3rd in the general classification Alejandro Valverde to follow, Rodriguez was right on Contador’s wheel whenever it mattered most.
With about 3 km to go in the stage, Contador launched a ruthless attack that was inches away from dropping Rodriguez, however ultimately Rodriguez managed to stick with him.
With Contador’s energy zapped after a multitude of attacks, Rodriguez attacked inside the final kilometer in search of the finish line.
Importantly the 33 year old beat Contador to the line by 2 seconds, extending his lead over his compatriot in the overall classification by a total of 6 seconds, partly due to a 4 second time bonus for coming 3rd in the stage.
Whilst Rodriguez only gained 6 seconds on Contador in today’s stage, it is arguably Rodriguez’s most important time gap over Contador thus far. Today’s stage was the second last high mountain’s stage of the Vuelta a Espana, with the last being the penultimate stage on Saturday night being the last.
This indicates that today was one of Contador’s big chances to catch up to Rodriguez in the general classification. While he gave it everything he had, he ultimately couldn’t do it and this could be a sign that Rodriguez is truly the best rider in the Vuelta a Espana.
There are still four stages left in the Vuelta and only a 28 second gap between Rodriguez and Contador, however Contador needs to pull out something special if he is going to win his 5th Grand tour.
On another note, Australian and Orica GreenEdge rider, Cameron Meyer pulled out of the Vuelta before the commencement of today’s stage.
The Aussie young gun is fine; he quit in order to prepare for the world championships which start in two weeks in the Netherlands.
Elsewhere, Alejandro Valverde of Movistar only lost 17 seconds to Contador in today’s stage. More importantly for the 32 year old he gained more than 2 minutes on rival Chris Froome, and has now sewn up 3rd place in this year’s Vuelta a Espana.
Tomorrow the riders will have a well earned rest after 3 tough days in the high mountains. Stage 17 on Wednesday night is a medium mountain stage with two 6 km Category 3 climbs, before a 17 km Category 2 climb to the finish that will give Alberto Contador plenty of opportunities to attack.
What a great Vuelta we have seen this year, without a doubt the best Grand Tour of 2012!
1 142 CATALDO, Dario OPQ 5h 18′ 28”
2 211 DE GENDT, Thomas VCD + 7”
3 101 RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin KAT + 2′ 39”
4 201 CONTADOR, Alberto STB + 2′ 41”
5 9 VALVERDE, Alejandro MOV + 2′ 58”
6 7 QUINTANA, Nairo Alexander MOV + 3′ 24”
7 71 ANTON, Igor EUS + 4′ 07”
8 91 TALANSKY, Andrew GRS + 4′ 15”
9 168 TEN DAM, Laurens RAB + 4′ 18”
10 161 GESINK, Robert RAB + 4′ 21”
1 101 RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin KAT 63h 38′ 24”
2 201 CONTADOR, Alberto STB + 28”
3 9 VALVERDE, Alejandro MOV + 2′ 04”
4 181 FROOME, Christopher SKY + 4′ 52”
5 107 MORENO, Daniel KAT + 6′ 58”
6 161 GESINK, Robert RAB + 7′ 28”
7 91 TALANSKY, Andrew GRS + 8′ 28”
8 168 TEN DAM, Laurens RAB + 9′ 00”
9 71 ANTON, Igor EUS + 9′ 11”
10 19 ROCHE, Nicolas ALM + 11′ 44”