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“My formative years as a cyclist were here in the Basque Country and this is a race I’ve always really liked. I just couldn’t see myself winning it outright at my age but I have done it!”

Photo: Unipublic/Graham Watson

ITZULIA BASQUE COUNTRY

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JOAQUIM RODRIGUEZ OLIVER

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RICHIE PORTE

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11.04.2015 @ 20:36 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Bitterly disappointed to be unable to take part in his home race, the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, last month because of illness, Joaquim Rodríguez (Team Katusha) bounced back in style in the Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco to claim both two stages and the overall win.

 

After five days of tense racing, Rodriguez reached the final stage, an 18.3 kilometre hilly time trial starting and finishing in the little town of Aia, tied exactly on time with provisional race leader Sergio Hernao (Team Sky).

 

But despite prior fears that his time trialling skills - never his strongest point - might let him down, Rodriguez nonetheless secured a second place behind winner Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), just four seconds short of a third stage victory in four days. Henao’s fourth place, a further 13 seconds back, meant that Rodriguez went clear overall of the Colombian for the overall win.

 

The Spaniard therefore adds another highly prestigious win to a palmares already containing podium finishes in all three Grand Tours and the World Road Championships, two overall wins in the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, and two victories in Il Lombardia, one of cycling’s five one-day Monuments.

 

Whilst Henao claimed second place overall, Ion Izaguirre (Movistar Team) rounded off the podium in third - both in the final stage and in the Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco’s definitive overall classification.

 

For Team Katusha, Rodriguez’ victory continues an impressive run of wins and podium finishes both in the UCI WorldTour and in other events. The Spaniard’s team-mate Alexander Kristoff has been the most successful of all the team in recent weeks, taking a second place in Milano-Sanremo and a win in last weekend’s Ronde van Vlaanderen as well as outright victories in the Europe Tour’s Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde and Scheldeprijs.

 

 

Rodriguez said after his first ever overall victory, at 35, in the Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco. “My formative years as a cyclist were here in the Basque Country and this is a race I’ve always really liked. I just couldn’t see myself winning it outright at my age but I have done it!”

 

Having had to rule himself out of racing in the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya because of a stomach virus, Rodríguez recognised he had started in the Basque Country “in good form, I felt strong. But I never expected to be performing at this level.”

 

In the UCI WorldTour individual ranking, Team Sky’s Richie Porte continues to lead with 303 points, but Rodriguez has shot ahead of 54 riders, moving from 64th to tenth with 120 points. Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) is the other rider to have advanced in the uppermost echelons of the UCI WorldTour ranking. Thanks to his fourth place overall in the Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco, the Colombian moves from eleventh to fourth with 168 points.

 

With two riders on the final podium of the Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco and three stage wins out of a possible six, too, Spain makes a significant advance in the UCI WorldTour nations ranking, moving from fourth to second with 457 points. Australia still remain clearly in the lead, however, with 588 points. Colombia, with two riders in the top five have also made important gains, moving up from fifth to third ahead of the Netherlands, with 375 points and Italy.

 

Team Sky continue to dominate in the UCI WorldTour teams classification, with a total of 611 points. But Team Katusha’s run of success sees the Russian squad rise to second overall with 523 points, pushing Etixx-Quick Step down to third. Former outright winners of the classification, Spain’s Movistar Team are also gaining ground, moving into fourth overall ahead of BMC Racing Team. In yet more changes to the UCI WorldTour teams ranking, Lampre-Merida are now seventh, having gained two places, whilst Australia's Orica GreenEdge, whose promising young rider Simon Yates finished fifth in the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco, have edged back into the higher zone of the ranking, in tenth.

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