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In 2010, for his debut at the Tour de France in his first season with Katusha, he was not only the most explosive climber but also a smart tactician in the way he maneuvered Alberto Contador and Alexandre Vinokourov

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JOAQUIM RODRIGUEZ OLIVER

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02.07.2015 @ 12:34 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

In between the Pyrenees and the Alps, stage 14 of the Tour de France from Rodez to Mende can have an impact on the general classification. It’s a great finish for explosive climbers too. A former stage winner in the same venue, Joaquim Rodriguez can be the man to watch.

 

With the spectacular Gorges du Tarn (canyon), the Millau viaduct and the green mountainous Lozère, stage 14 looks like an appealing touristic brochure. But the bike riders might too busy to enjoy the breathtaking landscapes. Probably, a hierarchy will be shaped after the Pyrenees but it won’t be too late or too early to gain a few seconds over a direct rival. Glory is also around the corner. The 3-km long uphill leading to the small aerodrome has an average gradient of 10%. It’s favorable for a fight between hungry athletes, unless someone finishes solo like Laurent Jalabert but that was twenty years ago and times have changed. Top contenders are watched out more closely.

 

Climbers at their ease on short and steep climbs are usually identified in April on the occasion of the Ardennes classics. Their condition might have evolved when stage 3 will end up atop the Mur de Huy. But only one currently active rider has won on both chemin des Chapelles in Belgium and côte de la Croix-Neuve. Joaquim Rodriguez is inspired for doing it again. In 2010, for his debut at the Tour de France in his first season with Katusha, he was not only the most explosive climber but also a smart tactician in the way he maneuvered Alberto Contador and Alexandre Vinokourov who were team-mates at Astana.

 

The Spaniard is one of the very few cyclists who have made the final podium of each of the three Grand Tours but he’s yet to win one at the age of 36. He hasn’t won as much as some of his rivals in the lead up to the Tour but he came 4th at the Flèche wallonne and 3rd at Liège-Bastogne-Liège after winning the Vuelta al Pais Vasco in April. His eighth place overall at the Dauphiné, albeit a quiet one, was a strong indication that he’s ready for the Tour – maybe one of his last chances to shine in the world’s biggest bike race.

 

The côte de la Croix-Neuve seems to be a Paradise for Spanish climbers. The Vuelta a España also uses this kind of terrain on a regular basis. Even though he’s expected to ride in support of Nairo Quintana this year, Alejandro Valverde was born a winner and that might be his day of freedom. He claimed the Flèche wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège this year, so stage 14 is made for him.

 

Alberto Contador likes Mende too! In 2007 and 2010, he won up there during Paris-Nice. Actually, different types of riders can impose themselves, from Vincenzo Nibali to Rui Costa, depending on their positions on GC. A man to watch already has a distinctive jersey: reigning world champion and Amstel Gold Race winner Michal Kwiatkowski.

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