Vuelta Stage 15: Purito wins to close to within one second

Joaquim Rodriguez smoked his rivals in the dying kilometres of today’s summit finish in Asturias. He crossed the line 12 seconds ahead of second-placed Rafal Majka, but fell short of securing the race lead by a solitary second. More important than distancing leader Fabio Aru, Purito put more time into Tom Dumoulin on day two of the Vuelta’s three-day mountain fest.

Stage 15 profile: Vuelta a Espana 2015

Stage 15 profile: Vuelta a Espana 2015

The fireworks in today’s stage were all in the back end of the race. The day’s nine-man break was kept in check and then reeled in on the final climb by the combined efforts of Astana and Movistar who set an uncomfortable pace, limiting the ability of anyone to attack and intent on shaking loose Tom Dumoulin from the leading pack.

Finally, with Dumoulin adrift, as the climb ramped up in the last few kilometres, Rodriguez attacked and broke clear of the pack, outpacing race leader Fabio Aru, rocking and rolling all over his bike, to take the stage and move within a second of the race lead. Rafal Majka was runner-up and moved into third overall, with Rodriguez’s Katusha teammate and Dani Moreno third.

Rider of the day

Joaquim Rodriguez might only be pocket-sized but he has one of the biggest hearts in cycling. He lit the afterburners on the final steep ramps in the last kilometre of today’s summit finish, soloing across the line to the cheers of the Spanish crowd – a very popular winner. This is his ninth Vuelta stage win but he’s still seeking an elusive grand tour victory. He’s come close but his weakness, the time trial, has tipped him off the podium on more than one occasion. Today he was trying to put time into Tom Dumoulin. He succeeded, but will it be enough? Dumoulin is capable of taking huge chunks out of the leading contenders in Wednesday’s time trial around Burgos. As a consequence yesterday, today and tomorrow is all about the other contenders, including Purito, building a big enough cushion.

Post-race Rodriguez confirmed:

I feel very, very good. For me, it’s one of the best Vueltas I’ve ever done. I am very happy to have won today. We were looking for the stage win during this Vuelta, and now I am right there in the overall, so it’s turning out to be a great Vuelta.

He may have missed the red leader’s jersey by a second, but he’ll be wearing the green points jersey tomorrow with a four-point margin over Esteban Chaves. He also holds the white combined jersey which Dumoulin continues to wear.

Three things we noticed

1. Making the calculation. As Sean Kelly would say, Tom Dumoulin is digging deep to limit his time losses and maintain his hopes of a podium finish. Today we saw him slipping out of the back of the leading group with FDJ’s diminutive Kenny Elissonde for company. But he found the energy to slowly and surely peg back any loss to within an acceptable limit. It’s tough, he’s in new and rarified territory but he’s adapting despite limited support from his team, set up to support sprinters rather than GC contenders.

2. Who’s going to win the Vuelta? Twitter has bet the house on Dumoulin and he’s certainly worrying the traditional GC contenders. This could go down to the wire. While today belonged to Purito, runner-up Rafal Majka rode an astute race to move into third overall. We may have been a bit hasty yesterday in heralding Nairo Quintana’s return to form. He went on the attack today but was unable to sustain it and is still three minutes back on GC. He’s yet to reach that level where he soars away from everyone looking as if he’s on a Sunday club ride. Maybe, he was keeping his powder dry for tomorrow but, if so, why did Movistar burn all their riders to set him up on the final climb? Tomorrow’s stage, with six categorised climbs before another brutal summit finale, will be difficult for Astana to control ahead of Tuesday’s rest day and Wednesday’s individual time trial which will shake up the overall.

3. Beautiful scenery. Cracking racing against a beautiful backdrop in Asturias. The Grubers would have taken some fabulous photos today and done it justice.

Stage 15 result

1.  Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) 4:33:31

2.  Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) +0:12

3.  Daniel Moreno (Katusha) +0:14

4.  Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +0:15

5.  Fabio Aru (Astana) same time

General classification

1.  Fabio Aru (Astana) 61:53:56

2.  Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) +0:01

3.  Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) +1:24

4.  Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) +1:25

5.  Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) +1:34

6.  Daniel Moreno (Katusha) +2:08

7.  Mikel Nieve (Sky) +2:19

8.  Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +2:11

9. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +3:00

10. Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka) +5:07

Points leader: Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).

King of the Mountains leader: Omar Fraile (Caja Rural).

Combined classification leader: Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).

Team classification leader: Sky.

Link: Official race website

Header: © Unipublic

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