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“I will try to go for GC. With a Tour like this, it would be a sin not to do it.”

Photo: Sirotti




15.12.2015 @ 14:12 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Joaquim Rodriguez had an outstanding 2015 season and this gives him motivation to face 2016 with ambition. His main goals are the Ardennes, the Tour de France and the Olympics. In the last seven years with Katusha, he has built a strong image and he still has lots of desire despite turning 37 year and having spent 16 seasons as a professional bike rider.


The Catalan rider spoke exclusively to BiciCiclismo at the Media Day in Calpe shortly before he wore the new red jersey at the gala of the official presentation. After renewing his contract for a single year, he is again one of the leaders of the team.


“For now I really enjoy every year I can ride my bike with more desire, and if next year includes the same amount of joy as I has had this season, I will see then if I want to continue.”


This year Katusha will try to build a more international image and has changed its jersey to reflect the new identity.


“Yes, you've seen we changed everything: clothes, design and philosophy as well,” Rodriguez said. “We will see what it gives us this year, but we come from a fantastic 2015. If we can repeat that, I'm content. If we can do even better, it will be a blast. We have made some changes, it is an international project and that is reflected in the signings. The Russian culture will always be there but it is no longer as it was before in the Russian Global Cycling Project.

“Victories do not come by themselves. Now I have to enjoy myself on the bike and I'm having a great year. I do not want to lose the joy. I will retire when I lose joy and harmony that I now see in the team, even if I have the best results in the world. Maybe that's when I realize that I must stop.”


2015 marked a bit of a comeback for Rodriguez who had a disastrous 2014 season hampered by several crashes.


“Maybe 2014 would have been the year when I had retired if I hadn’t signed for 2015,” he said. “We worked hard but did not get anything. It was not only me but also Dani [Moreno], Angel [Vicioso] broke his femur, and I always crashed. It was a very difficult year and if this year had been similar, I would have retired. It was a season that when it was hard to get up and do the training. I did not enjoy it and it felt like a job, and that's what I don’t what.”


Rodriguez’ motivation doesn’t come from the economic aspect.


“I have already been in the sport for many years,” he said. “Cyclists are not among the sportsmen that earn most money but I live with what I have. And I surely doesn’t want to cut my ties to the sport. I cannot continue this life forever I can remain connected to Katusha, Canyon and continue in this world. I can leave the racing but it will be hard to leave cycling.”


Rodriguez had a slow start to the 2015 season but his fortunes changed when he won two stages and the overall at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco.


“I came from more than a year without winning,” he said. “I hadn’t won since the 2014 Volta a Catalunya and the win came at a time when I did not expect it which made it better than ever. I had prepared very well for Catalunya but had an awful night of vomiting, diarrhea just before the race. Half of the peloton from Tirreno suffered from that virus: in the Volta I remember that Samu [Sanchez], Basso, Losada all abandoned. Luckily I was struck a few days earlier. I was empty and preferred not to ride. It was not my plan to go to the Basque Country.”


Rodriguez has already finalized his schedule for 2016.


“I will start in Dubai, Algarve and then I will do the three WorldTour races of Tirreno, Catalonia and the Basque Country to prepare well for the classics, Flece Wallonne and Liege. Then it’s the Dauphiné, Tour, San Sebastian, Olympics and almost surely also the Vuelta.”


Rodriguez has never done anything to hide that Liege-Bastogne-Liege is the race he most dearly wants to win.


“Having been second twice, Liege is a race that I really like, like Fleche,” he said. “They are my favorite races. At the end it is due to fear of winning a monument because I have won two Lombardias, but having been so close I really want to win once.”


To win La Doyenne, Rodriguez will have to beat defending champion Alejandro Valverde.


Like every year,” Rodriguez said. We are very similar riders. He has a better sprint than I have and there I have to anticipate. If he is good, he will always start as the favourite.”


This year Valverde will even be supported by Rodriguez’ usual lieutenant Daniel Moreno.


“The truth is that the loss of Dani is a big setback for me because he was the rider who was always there in the end. His absence will be felt a lot.”


Instead, Jurgen Van den Broeck has been signed as a replacement.


“But he is different,” Rodriguez said. “Maybe it is good for grand tour but Dani was very important for the way that I have to ride because he was a lot like me, and now it will be the same with Valverde: both are very explosive, and if it was already difficult to beat him this year, you imagine how it will be now with Dani.”


However, most of the Spanish armada remains intact as Alberto Losada and Angel Vicioso will still wear the Katusha jersey.

“The truth is that we are very happy, we are a very good group and they are riders who have done a lot for me,” Rodriguez said.


In 2013 Rodriguez finished on the Tour de France podium for the first time in his career. After he failed to contest the GC in 2015, he will go back with overall ambitions.


“I will try to go for GC,” he said. “With a Tour like this, it would be a sin not to do it.”


Another big goal for Rodriguez is the road race at the Olympics. He will have a look at the course later in the season.


“I plan to do so after Liege,” he said. “I think it will be a good time to test the course as I will be in top form. You can’t check it a week before the race before everything will be blocked. I have been told that it will be very hard, very difficult to control. I'm not saying it will be a lottery but it will be difficult to do something with just five riders.”


Despite his ambitions summer schedule, Rodriguez also plans to do the Vuelta.


“Yes, it's a race that I like,” he said. It scares me because this year we don’t have the break that we normally have after the Tour to rest, but I will still be riding and also very focused because the Olympics are very important. I will see how I feel and then assess whether I focus on the GC or whether I will change the goal and go for stages.”


The busy schedule means that it will be hard to train at altitude.


“This year it will be more complicated with this tight schedule so we'll have to see,” he said. “I see an opportunity between Algarve and Tirreno, but I also have to see if, from a psychological point of view, I want to be away so much. Perhaps it would be better to stay in Andorra to be too close to the family.”


Many had doubted that Rodriguez was still competitive in grand tours but his second place at the Vuelta proved his critics wrong.

“It was important, especially after a very eventful 2014,” he said. “For me it was super important to again contest a grand tour which is ultimately what has given me my name. I prepared for the Tour with a lot of joy to try to be up there in the first stages and everything went up in the air, so I started the Vuelta with some doubts about what I could do but the truth is that I finished very happy.”


Rodriguez has been second in past grand tours but this time there were no regrets.


“There are many ways of being second and being third and for me this was almost a victory,” he said. “I could just as well have been fourth because I didn’t have much left.”


Rodriguez had hoped to end the season with a third win in Lombardy but bad luck took him out of contention as he hurt his knee in training.


“I was still very good,” he said. “In the end I was fortunate that it was nothing,” he said. “At first we were very scared. Perhaps it also stemmed from the failure I had in 2014 when I crashed at Amstel and broke some ribs and then wanted to ride again immediately. With that fear, it was better to stop. But I felt bad because it's a difficult race that I like a lot.”



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