Spaniard Joaquím Rodríguez took over the Vuelta a España race lead by one second today in a tug-of-war fight with Italian Fabio Aru. It is not the Italian, however, that team Katusha’s captain is worried about with less than a week to race, but Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin).
Dumoulin, third in the time trial world championships behind winner Bradley Wiggins, could shake up the race overall standings Wednesday in the 38.7-kilometre time trial around Burgos in Spain’s northwest. After two heavy mountain stages, and with a rest day tomorrow, he sits fourth overall at 1-51 minutes behind Rodríguez.
Team Astana’s Aru is one second back at the end of stage 16 and Pole Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) is in third place at 1-35.
“It’s going to be very complicated to win the Vuelta a España,” Rodriguez said at the top of Ermita de Alba before taking a helicopter ride to Burgos.
“Dumoulin was looking good today, better than he was yesterday. We got a little time back, but he will have tomorrow to recover, and I think he will have a very good time trial.”
Dumoulin hung with the best climbers until the final kilometre. As Fränk Schleck (Trek) celebrated his solo victory from an escape group, Dumoulin motored up the climb behind the Rodríguez group and managed the gap.
At the line 1185 metres up in Spain’s northwestern mountains, and after 5010 metres of climbing, Dumoulin only trailed by 27 seconds. His new 1-51-minute deficit is enough to worry Rodríguez, who is trying to claim his first grand tour win after finishing second or third in all three grand tours. In 2012, he lost 47 seconds, and the Giro d’Italia overall lead, in a 28.2-kilometre time trial to Ryder Hesjedal on the last day.
“I will try to have the best time trial I can, but the differences between everyone for the podium are going to be close,” Rodríguez added. “I hope to be able to finish on the podium.”