BARCELONA (Reuters) - Spanish veteran Joaquim Rodriguez won the Tour of the Basque Country on Saturday when he finished a gritty second in the final 18.3 km time trial in northern Spain.
The Katusha rider had been level on time with Team Sky’s Sergio Henao following Friday’s fifth stage but ended up winning the race by 13 seconds after a determined ride.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would win,” Rodriguez told reporters.
“I rode as if in a breakaway and gave everything. I went close to my limits, just leaving enough so I didn’t fall apart in the final part.”
Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin of Giant-Alpecin won the stage around the village of Aia in 28 minutes and 46 seconds, four seconds clear of Rodriguez, while Henao finished fourth after suffering on the climbs.
With no clear favorites going into the stage, the steep sections were not ideal for the specialist time trialists but Dumoulin was quick over the initial 10km downhill and then showed how he is improving on the climbs.
The 35-year-old Rodriguez has been one of the best stage cyclists in recent years but Saturday’s race win was his first since Catalunya in March last year.
“I developed as a rider in this race and it is very important for me. I never thought I would win this at my age,” said Rodriguez.
“I came here in good shape, I felt good but I didn’t expect to be at this level.”
Reporting by Tim Hanlon, editing by Alan Baldwin and Pritha Sarkar