After placing sixth overall at his debut Tour de France in 2010, Joachim “Purito” Rodríguez went on to lead his new team, Katusha, at the Vuelta a España. In between the two grand tours, he placed fifth at the Clásica San Sebastián, a half-minute down on the winner, his former Caisse d’Épargne teammate Luis Leon Sanchez, and then prepared for the Vuelta through the month of August.

Words by John Wilcockson/Image: Yuzuru Sunada

That training break, following a hectic few months of racing, allowed him to come into this second grand tour full of ambition. Purito quickly fulfilled his high expectations. On the second road stage, with an uphill finish in Málaga, he was second to Belgian specialist Philippe Gilbert, and remained in the top three on GC for the following week.

Then, on stage 10 along the coast of his native Catalonia, Purito nabbed a two-second time bonus at an intermediate sprint to snatch the race leader’s red jersey from fellow climber Igor Anton. The very next stage, however, after first countering attacks on the mountain climb to Pal in Andorra, he went backward when Anton broke clear to claim the stage and the overall lead—with Purito losing a minute.

Three days later, he was back to his best and after Anton crashed out of the race with a broken elbow Purito attacked on the ultra-steep Peña Cabarga finishing climb (this image) and moved to within four seconds of new race leader Vincenzo Nibali. Then, on stage 16 to the Alto de Cotobello summit, Nibali cracked in the final 2 kilometers and enabled Purito to take the red jersey a second time.

Although he would finish top three on the only remaining mountain stage, Purito lost all hope of Vuelta victory when he rode a dismal 46-kilometer time trial at Peñafiel, taking 103rd place, more than six minutes behind stage winner Peter Velits and more than four minutes slower than Nibali—who eventually won that 2010 Vuelta, with Velits second and Purito an honorable third.