Rodriguez roars to stage win and overall lead

Katusha Team rider Joaquim Rodriguez of Spain is embraced by his teammate and compatriot Alberto Losada after winning the186-km 10th stage of the Giro d’Italia from Civitavecchia to Assisi, May 15, 2012. (REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo)

By Alasdair Fotheringham

ASSISI, Italy, May 15 (Reuters) – Spanish overall contender Joaquim Rodriguez used his trademark uphill surge to blast away from his rivals and claim Tuesday’s 10th stage win and the overall lead in the Giro d’Italia.

Rodriguez darted clear of a pack of favorites 150 meters from the agonizingly steep summit finish in the heart of Assisi’s old town.

Poland’s Bartosz Huzarksi finished runner-up, two seconds behind, with Italy’s Giovanni Visconti in third.

It was a first stage win in the Giro for the 33-year-old Catalan climber who dislodged previous overall leader Ryder Hesjedal

The Canadian slipped to second, 17 seconds behind, with Paolo Tiralongo of Italy third at 32 seconds.

“My first thought and thanks today go to my team,” said Rodriguez, nicknamed “Little Cigar” for his short, stocky stature.

“They rode their hearts out to make sure I was exactly where I needed to be in the last kilometer.”

Fifth in last year’s Giro, and fourth in the 2010 Vuelta, when asked if he could win it, Rodriguez said: “I will try my best. The podium’s the objective for now.”

The Katusha rider added: “It’s not too early for me to lead. Whatever happens, happens, but I know I’m going home with at least one leader’s jersey in my suitcase.”

Sixth on the stage, overnight leader Hesjedal said he had accepted that a rider like Rodriguez would make a move and try and wrest the top spot from him.

“I knew it was very possible he’d attack” he told journalists. “Rodriguez is the best in the world at this sort of uphill finish, but there’s a long way to go yet to Milan.”

Wednesday’s stage sees the sprinters return to the fore, with a 255-km stretch from Assisi to Montecatini Terme. The Giro ends on May 27 in Milan.

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