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Rodriguez 3 - Contador 0 in Vuelta battle
Sept 2nd, 12. Joaquim Rodríguez won the first of three consecutive summit finishes after a great fight with Alberto Contador on today's Stage 14 of the Vuelta Espana.
Contador (SaxoBank Tinkoff Bank) has been aggressive throughout this tour, but he has never been able to permanently drop tour leader Rodriguez (Katusha) who won his third stage today.
It was Contador who looked like he would be the victor in the 149km stage after his team controlled the overall race pace and then made the first big move by attacking 3km from the Cat 1 mountain top finish.
With teammate Rafael Majka leading Contador, the duo split the group of favourites. Soon there was only Contador, Rodriguez and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) at the front of the race.
Another big favourite, Chris Froome (Team Sky) was initially left behind, but he clawed his way back into the action and tried an attack himself.
With 2km left to climb, Contador launched a decisive attack but once again Rodriguez was able to bridge the gap and more - the tour leader finished 1st, 5sec ahead of Contador, 13sec ahead of Valverde. Froome finished 5th, +38sec.
Rodríguez's victory pushed his overall lead out to 22sec over Contador, with Froome and Valverde now tied at 1m41s and looking less likely to challenge for the top step of the final podium.
Over the first four categorised climbs a breakaway of 16 riders enjoyed time out in the front of the peloton as SaxoBank Tinkoff Bank took responsibility for the chase.
Alberto Losada of Katusha was the last rider to be caught after he tried a stage winning move on the 9.5km Puerto de Ancares final climb, but he was caught when the speed and aggression of the favourites unfolded in the final 3km.
Rodriguez, who was not originally at the top of most people's picks to win the tour, is not getting ahead of himself. He knows there is still plenty of racing to come.
"I gained some more seconds but there are still three mountain stages that can change everything: and it's not only a matter of Contador and me.
"When Valverde attacks he proves to be very strong, while Froome at first seemed to drop, then he came back and attack himself. Everything can happen," he said.
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