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Vuelta á Espana: Cataldo takes punishing stage as Roche slips back

Joaquim Rodriguez extended his advantage over Alberto Contador in the race for red on Monday’s 16th stage of the 2012 Vuelta.

Image: Lalo R. Villar/AP/Press Association Images

Result: THE BRUTAL MOUNTAIN finish of Cuitu Negru was the backdrop for a dramatic day at the Vuelta á Espana as a drained Dario Cataldo (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) won his maiden stage at a Grand Tour.

Thomas de Gendt (Vacansoleil) was the Italian’s closest rival, finishing seven seconds back, while red jersey leader Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) came home in third 2:39 behind Cataldo — but crucially, two seconds ahead of GC rival Alberto Contador.

Here’s how it happened: With a category three, two category ones and a HC climb paving the way from Gijon to Cuitu Negru, Monday’s 16th stage at the Vuelta was set to be one of the most punishing of this year’s race.

After an early break was reeled in by the peloton, Cataldo and de Gendt hit the front in a two-man breakaway shortly after the first climb of the day up La Cabrunana. Their lead stood at over 13 minutes at one stage and though it was reduced to just over two minutes at the finish line, there was never any real danger that they would be caught.

Behind them the battle for the red jersey raged as the GC contenders struggled up the slopes of Cuitu Negru. With Ireland’s Nicolas Roche among those faltering, Contador tried to press home his advantage and shake Rodriguez on a 24% section of the climb. That extra effort may have been Contador’s downfall as it was Rodriguez who had more in the tank and broke free over the final 500m to take another two seconds out of his compatriot at the finish.

The day’s big loser was Britain’s Christopher Froome who finished 5:11 down on Cataldo and is now an insurmountable 4:52 behind Rodriguez in the GC.

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Who’s wearing what jersey?

  • Red (general classification): Joaquim Rodriguez
  • Green (points): Joaquim Rodriguez
  • Blue dots (mountains): Simon Clarke
  • White (all-round): Joaquim Rodriguez

How did Nico do? It was a disappointing day for Roche who visibly struggled in the race’s closing stages and failed to keep touch with the red jersey group. He finished in 20th place, 6:58 behind Cataldo, and lost ground on the majority of his GC rivals. He slips back to 10th place overall, 2:33 behind Igor Anton.

What happens tomorrow? Tuesday is the final rest day before the field heads for home. After today’s endurance rest, who would argue?

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Niall Kelly

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