Cataldo conquers Cuitu Negru
Rodriguez stands his ground on queen stage
Last Updated: September 3, 2012 5:35pm
Dario Cataldo: Out-lasted his fellow escapee to bag the queen stage at the Vuelta
Dario Cataldo put in an impressive ride from the day’s breakaway to claim victory on a brutal 16th stage of the Vuelta a Espana.
The Italian (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) edged clear of fellow escapee Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) on the brutally steep ramps of the Cuitu Negru climb to take the win by six seconds.
The torturous slope was making its first appearance in the race and provided a huge spectacle with riders almost coming to a standstill on ramps of 24% towards the finish.
The overall contenders crossed the line 2:38 behind Cataldo - Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) holding firm to further tighten his grip on the red jersey going into the second rest day.
The Spaniard was able to cancel out the constant threat of compatriot Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) who, for the third stage running, looked to attack the race leader on numerous occasions.
Rodriguez was able to follow in his footsteps before chipping clear to take two seconds at the finish, extending his lead out to 28 seconds. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was the only man able to keep pace heading into the finish, and solidified third spot, 2:04 back.
The stage proved a tough one for Britain’s Chris Froome (Team Sky), who battled fatigue to hold on to fourth place overall, 14th spot on the day. That result saw the Tour de France runner up sit 4:42 off the pace.
In a repeat of Sunday’s stage, it was the same group of contenders who emerged when the attacks began - Rodriguez and Contador in attendance while Valverde was joined by team-mate Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
The third of three brutal mountain tests, the 183.5km route had headed out from Gijon ahead of the queen stage of the race.
After a number of moves were vetoed by the peloton, De Gendt and Cataldo finally went away after 50km. The gap to the duo ballooning out in excess of 15 minutes before beginning to fall away on the penultimate climb of the Alto de la Cobertoria.
Back in the bunch, Euskaltel Euskadi were willing to lend a hand to Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank with the pace-setting duties as the gap began to fall - the lead pairing holding little over 8:00 at the start of the final climb.
Fifth-placed Daniel Moreno (Katusha) was the first to become distanced and had to be paced back up to the lead group, but before long the reduced peloton was beginning to fracture further, with every man forced to fight for himself as the final climb kicked up.