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Joaquim Rodriguez says he is confident he can win the Tour de France King of the Mountains competition after reclaiming the lead in the polka-dot-jersey competition on Saturday.
The Spaniard was third at the Grand Boucle last year but came to this Tour short of form after suffering crashes during the spring Classics and Giro d’Italia.
He hadn’t raced since pulling out of May’s Giro and spent the first week at the Tour just trying to hang on to the back of the peloton.
But since the race reached the mountains, he has been on a mission to pick up points in the polka-dot-jersey competition.
After getting into Saturday’s breakaway, he gained 35 points and took back the jersey he lost to race leader Vincenzo Nibali on Friday.
“I don’t have much else to do, I had to go with the breakaway because I can’t do anything in the overall standings,” said the 35-year-old Katusha climber.
“The only thing I can do is pick up (mountain) points. I went from a long way out and I think I swept up a lot of points today.”
Rodriguez is down in 55th place overall, more than 1hr 40min behind Nibali. He had held the jersey since getting in the breakaway on Monday’s 10th stage from Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles. He was 1km from winning that stage when Nibali overhauled him and the Italian took the jersey off him on Friday when he won that summit finish too.
Rodriguez only just took it back as Rafal Majka moved level on points with him after winning Saturday’s 14th stage, with Nibali just two points behind that following his second place finish on Saturday.
Now Rodriguez is looking to the Pyrenees to pick up the points he needs to be on the Paris podium in white with red dots.
“Rafal and Vincenzo are my big rivals in the Pyrenees but I got a lot of points in the Alps,” he said. “I know it will be tough but I’m happy because for me the Pyrenees are easier and I’ll feel better there.
“I knew the Alps were going to be difficult. I needed a few days to get into form but I’ll feel better in the Pyrenees and I hope to be in better form by then.”