By Andrew Hood
Spanish puncheur Joaquín Rodríguez (Caisse d’Epargne) knew he had a good shot at stage victory when he saw the short but steep third-category finish-line approach in Thursday’s second stage at the Vuelta a Burgos in northern Spain.
Known for explosive ability that’s helped him win, among other victories, the hilltop stage at Tirreno-Adriatico to Monte Lupone two years in a row, Rodríguez turned on the gas Thursday to win the 153km second stage and take the leader’s jersey at the five-day Burgos tour.
“The stage was ideal for attacks and Caisse d’Epargne did a great job during the day to have the situation under control,” Rodríguez said. “I felt good and the legs felt good, and this type of finale is adapted perfectly for my characteristics. I jumped just at the right moment to arrive with a small but sufficient margin.”
The hilly stage provoked a series of futile attacks, as Caisse d’Epargne was controlling the race perfectly. Finally, a group of three extracted themselves, but they never opened up a gap of more than three minutes.
The pack reeled in the aggressors once the road turned into the finishing town of Miranda de Ebro, where the stage finished atop the Cat. 3 Alto de San Juan del Monte.
King of the Mountains leader Fernández de la Puebla tried in vain to surprise the favorites, along with a surge by Fran Masciarelli, both neutralized going into the final kilometer.
Rodríguez jumped clear with under 1km to go and had enough in the tank to hold off the chasing rivals to pull the double. He won one second ahead of the pack, led by Ben Hermans (Top), with teammate Alejandro Valverde third.
The Catalan rider said he will try to win the overall of the Burgos tour, which ends Sunday. Friday’s 175km flat stage into Burgos shouldn’t present too much difficulty.
“I will ride to defend the jersey, but the hardest days are still to come,” he said. “I am satisfied with my condition, especially after the problems I had in the Giro. This is a good sign three weeks before the start of the Vuelta a España.”
American Ted King (Cervélo), who raced with the metas volantes hot sprints jersey, didn’t get a trip back to the podium after the stage, slipping into a tie for second with 5 points to new leader Thomas Da Gent, with 6 points.