Spaniard Joaquin Rodriguez took a characteristic win at the top of the short steep climb in Valdepeñas de Jaén. The Katusha rider sprinted clear in the last 500m after a perfect bit of team work from yesterday’s winner Daniel Moreno.
When it comes to sprinting up such climbs Rodriguez is one of the few who can challenge either Philippe Gilbert or Cadel Evans. With neither of them present, the former world number one went unchallenged up the final stretch of road.
Behind him some gaps appeared between the favourites, although they were small enough not to merit any great panic. Euskaltel-Euskadi’s leader Igor Anton was the first to go pop, no surprise after yesterday’s dismal performance on teh road to Sierra nevada, and lost almost a minute.
The other GC riders lost just a few handfuls of seconds. Vincenzo Nibali was 11 seconds behind Rodriguez, Wiggins 20 and Dan Martin 39. Those gaps would have been as much about position than form as that final climb was also narrow.
The leaders almost rode in to the back of David Moncoutie when they caught him at the bottom of the climb, such was their difference in speed. And if anyone got caught behind slower moving riders at any other point, that loss of momentum would have cost them dear.
The win moved Rodriguez up to third overall, now just 23 seconds behind leader Sylvain Chavanel. Moreno held on to third place on the stage and stayed in second overall.
After just five stages the GC is already starting to take shape as two tough stages in the Sierra Nevada has filtered out many of the spontaneous riders who take their chances in the first week of Grand Tours.
Tomorrow’s stage to Cordoba features a second category climb 20km from the line. The descent to the line may nullify any attacks, but it should at least set up another interesting finish.
Vuelta A España 2011, stage five: Sierra Nevada – Valdepeñas de Jaén 187km
1. Joaquin Rodriguez (Esp) Katusha 4-42-54hrs
2. Wouter Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM at 4 secs
3. Daniel Moreno (Esp) Katusha at 5 secs
4. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank at 7 secs
5. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD
6. Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack
7. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard-Trek
8. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2r La Mondiale
9. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
10. Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swe) Astana at same time
20. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Sky at 20 secs
22. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky at 20 secs
30. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Cervelo at 29 secs
138. Ian Stannard (GB) Sky at 12-10
General classification after stage five
1. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick step 18-02-34 hr
2. Daniel Moreno (Esp) Katusha at 9 secs
3. Joaquin Rodriguez (Esp) Katusha at 23 secs
4. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard-Trek at 25 secs
5. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 33 secs
6. Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swe) Astana at 35 secs
7. Maxime Monfort (Bel) Leopard-Trek at 38 secs
8. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 43 secs
9. Sergio Pardilla (Spa) Movistar
10. Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Movistar at 52 secs
19. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky at 1-20
20. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Sky at 1-20
24. Dan Martin (Irl) Garmin-Cervelo at 1-44
25. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2r La Mondiale at 1-47
Liquigas ride for defending champ Vincenzo Nibali
Joaquin Rodriguez wins the stage
Sylvain Chavanel keeps the race lead
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Vuelta a Espana 2011
: Stage reports
Vuelta a Espana 2011: TV guide