How Joaquim Rodriguez became world number one – again

Vuelta a Espana

Rodriguez claims a traditional Asturian hat as reward for his victory during stage 19 of the Vuelta a Espana (Pic: Sirotti)

On the back of a superb Tour de France, where he finished third overall, Rodriguez rode in front of his home fans amid high expectations.

In France he secured his third consecutive Grand Tour podium place by joining Nairo Quintana in an attack on the penultimate stage, but a stage win had ultimately deserted him.

But in his home country, Purito ensured it would not be the case again.

After a series of consistent rides throughout the Vuelta, the Spanish climbing king did what he does best when presented with the stage 19 summit finish in Oviedo, up the Alto del Naranco.

Rodriguez hit the ascent among a leading group which also contained GC contenders Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) – in the maglia rosso – and eventual winner Chris Horner (Radioshack-Leopard).

Rodriguez, alongside team-mate Dani Moreno, remained safely tucked in the bunch before launching a stinging attack as he passed under the flamme rouge.

With Roche and Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) already up the road, Rodriguez caught the duo with 200m remaining and attacked again.

His ferocious kick left his rivals standing and his pursuers had no answer as he gritted his teeth and took on the fierce final gradients of the Naranco alone to storm to victory.

His stage win, and overall fourth place highlighted once again his pedigree in Grand Tours and left speculators wondering if he could add an overall victory to his packed palmares next year.

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