Sept 1, 2012 – Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez, riding for Katusha, won Saturday’s 14th stage of the Tour of Spain to strengthen his overall lead after the 149.2km mountain stage ride from Palas de Rei to Puerto de Ancares.
Having already bagged the 6th and 12th stages, Rodriguez pocketed another as he negotiated the tough final Ancares climb, holding off compatriot and nearest rival Alberto Contador of Saxo-Bank by 5sec with another Spaniard, Alejandro Valverde, 3rd at 13sec.
That, coupled with bonuses, saw Rodriguez, initially regarded as an outside bet but now looking a true challenger, extend his overall lead over Contador to 22sec.
Valverde stands joint third in the overall standings with Briton Chris Froome, 1min 41sec off the pace.
Contador strove to narrow the gap and tried an escape 3.5km out, but Rodriguez and Valverde stayed with him and the former overhauled him in the final kilometer as he sprinted home.
At 19km, a group had ventured an early escape from the peloton with Italian Alessandro Ballan of Lampre and Frenchman David Moncoutie of Cofidis trying their luck before they were reined in.
Heading into the Ancares climb Alberto Losada of Katusha, who had been in the mix with Ballan and Moncoutie, stepped up the pace as he tried an ambitious tilt at a stage win but having opened up a minute lead on the peloton he was finally caught with 3km to go to the line.
Belgian Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol), fourth in the Tour de France and former Spanish national champion Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) did not start the stage.
Tuesday sees the racers head into the second mountain stage – a 186.5km slog from La Robla to Lagos de Covadonga in the rugged, northern region of Asturias.
Standings after the 14th stage of the Tour of Spain on Saturday:
1. Joaquin Rodriguez (ESP/KAT) 149.2 km in 4hr10min 28sec
2. Alberto Contador (ESP/SAX) at 0:05.
3. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 0:13.
4. Daniel Moreno (ESP/KAT) 0:35.
5. Chris Froome (GBR/SKY) 0:38.
6. Andrew Talansky (USA/GRM) 0:44.
7. Igor Anton (ESP/EUS) 0:56.
8. Laurens ten Dam (NED/RAB) 1:04.
9. Tomasz Marczynski (POL/VAC) 1:13.
10. Nicolas Roche (IRL/ALM) 1:17.
11. Gorka Verdugo (ESP/EUS) 1:17.
12. Przemyslaw Niemiec (POL/LAM) 1:26.
13. Rafal Majka (POL/SAX) 1:51.
14. Robert Gesink (NED/RAB) 1:56.
15. Bart De Clercq (BEL/LTB) 1:56.
16. Rigoberto Uran (COL/SKY) 2:19.
17. Sergio Henao (COL/SKY) 2:19.
18. Paolo Tiralongo (ITA/AST) 2:19.
19. Maxime Monfort (BEL/RSH) 2:19.
20. Eros Capecchi (ITA/LIQ) 2:19.
Olivier Kaisen (BEL/LTB) Retired . Rafael Valls (ESP/VAC) Retired . Jos Joaquin Rojas (ESP/MOV) Withdrawn . Jurgen Van den Broeck (BEL/LTB) Withdrawn
1. Joaquin Rodriguez (ESP/KAT) 53h06min 33sec
2. Alberto Contador (ESP/SAX) at 0:22.
3. Chris Froome (GBR/SKY) 1:41.
4. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 1:41.
5. Daniel Moreno (ESP/KAT) 4:16.
6. Robert Gesink (NED/RAB) 5:07.
7. Nicolas Roche (EIR/ALM) 5:51.
8. Andrew Talansky (USA/GRM) 6:13.
9. Laurens ten Dam (NED/RAB) 6:34.
10. Igor Anton (ESP/EUS) 7:16.
11. Tomasz Marczynski (POL/VAC) 8:26.
12. Przemyslaw Niemiec (POL/LAM) 8:48.
13. Eros Capecchi (ITA/LIQ) 9:18.
14. Maxime Monfort (BEL/RSH) 9:26.
15. Bauke Mollema (NED/RAB) 9:32.
16. Gorka Verdugo (ESP/EUS) 9:42.
17. Benat Intxausti (ESP/MOV) 10:28.
18. Bart De Clercq (BEL/LTB) 10:33.
19. Winner Anacona (COL/LAM) 10:34.
20. Steve Morabito (SWI/BMC) 12:23.