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Rodríguez dug deep in the multi-mountain stage that marked the final day of GC racing Saturday but couldn’t hold the wheels when it mattered most, losing time and sliding down the standings.
“I’m almost dead,” Rodríguez told reporters shortly after he finished atop Puerto de Navacerrada. “I suffered from minute zero. But I knew what to expect from the beginning of today’s stage.”
Ineos Grenadiers’ hot GC hope succumbed Saturday to the stiff pace-setting of UAE Emirates and a huge late attack by Thymen Arensman (Team DSM). Rodríguez finished 1:23 back on the red jersey group and fell from fifth to seventh overall just as Madrid came onto the horizon.
“I have to be happy with the result,” he said. “When I started the Vuelta I didn’t expect to finish sixth overall, and after everything that happened I have to be very happy with the result.”
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Arensman in fact beat Rodríguez into sixth by just one second to add a sour taste to a breakout grand tour derailed by the huge crash that also ended Jay Vine’s (Alpecin-Deceuninck) race Thursday.
Rodríguez completed the stages Friday and Saturday swathed in gauze to protect abrasions down his left-hand side.
“It affected me. I started to feel very rough,” Rodríguez said. “Maybe I wouldn’t feel the same without that crash, but we never know. I don’t have to think about that, I just have to think that I did my very best.”
‘This is a big lesson for the future’
This Vuelta gave Rodríguez a taste of things to come.
The 21-year-old grand tour rookie could see many more stage race opportunities in future after a dazzling three-week debut that saw him score five top-1os and sit in the top-5 overall for 12 days.
A simply superb Grand Tour debut 🇪🇸 pic.twitter.com/H8DFhscIWG
— INEOS Grenadiers (@INEOSGrenadiers) September 10, 2022
With Vuelta KoM jersey winner Richard Carapaz leaving the the team for EF Education EasyPost next summer, there’s a little more space at the top of the Ineos stage-race ladder next season.
The British supersquad is intent on developing new talents like fellow Vuelta racers Luke Plapp and Ben Turner as well as Tom Pidcock, Ben Tulett and Magnus Sheffield.
“We have four guys in their first grand tour, super young group,” team director Matteo Tossato told VeloNews. “We have the whole team working to help these guys. They are the future of the team.”
Rodríguez is only booked in with Ineos for one more season, but his stock will soar once he cements his seventh overall in Madrid on Sunday.
“This is a big lesson for the future. To never surrender, always give your best, focus on yourself and hopefully in future we can get a better result,” he said.