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"If you were to ask me for my most beautiful moment of 2015, and maybe of my entire career, I would answer the stage in the Tour de France to Plateau de Beille. It is a stage I really like."

Photo: Sirotti




17.12.2015 @ 06:00 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Joaquim Rodríguez shows few signs of tiring of the life of a professional cyclist and at age 36 he remains a strong leader for Team Katusha. Perhaps because of his current #2 status in the UCI rankings, built on top of his number one rankings in 2010, 2012 and 2013, “Purito” remains appreciative of the successes he’s enjoyed for much of his career and relishes his role of team leader. The first training camp in Calpe, Spain in preparation for the 2016 season found him relaxed and enjoying team life.   


“I have a great feeling here at camp," he said in an interview published on the team website. "In general, the weather has been good so we’ve enjoyed training. It is also nice to see how fast the new guys have integrated into the group. This is not so easily accomplished with all of our nationalities, but we know how to handle this. I find it most remarkable that no one is nervous at this camp – there is so much less stress than in other years. All of our 2015 riders have good confidence and our new guys like Van den Broeck and Taaramäe are already relaxed about the team. That helps, too."


Coming off a disappointing 2014 season, Joaquim Rodríguez looked to find form in 2015 and the Spanish rider once again reached great success on the bicycle, including winning two stages on the way to the overall at the Tour of the Basque Country, two stages at the Tour de France as well as a stage in his home tour of the Vuelta a España where he placed second on the final podium. His list of career wins is long - what do these recent wins mean to the Spaniard?


“It was a key moment for me when I first won that stage in Tour of the Basque Country," he said. "As you know, 2014 was a disastrous season for me, so I was eager to start 2015 and had many training kilometers in my legs. I really like this race, Tour of the Basque Country, and when I won there this was a key moment to me, making me feel I was on the right track again. It showed I was ready in the beginning of the season. If you were to ask me for my most beautiful moment of 2015, and maybe of my entire career, I would answer the stage in the Tour de France to Plateau de Beille. It is a stage I really like. And there were so many fans from Andorra and also my family was there. It rained like hell and it was a spectacular final."


Rodríguez is joined by his wife and two children for a few days at camp and a sweet dynamic plays out as the kids eat pizza and enjoy the affection of team members, completely unaware in their young ages that their father has achieved stardom status in his sport. He taps his son on the shoulder and points to his eyes to signal that he’s watching, watching, watching - like any Papa has to do. Some things in life remain the same for all, even a cycling superstar like Rodríguez. His palmares show he’s not a regular guy when it comes to success. “Purito” has come close to winning a grand tour several times in his professional life, but standing on the top step of the podium has eluded him so far. He has come so close, perhaps it is a frustration for him?


“No, my second place spot in the Vuelta was not frustrating like my second place in the Giro in 2012 when I only lost the victory in the final time trial and the margin of 16-second was so small," he said. "For me it was more like my 3rd place podium spot in the Tour de France of 2013. Second place was correct. I was close to winner Fabio Aru, but I was not able to beat him. He was stronger than me, just like Quintana and Froome were better than me in the 2013 Tour. Sometimes that’s the way it is."


By now Rodríguez knows what works and what doesn’t in his training and racing program and the Spaniard likes to return to the tried and true formula that has produced success for him in past years. His goals for 2016? More of what we’ve seen in years prior, he says.


“Three goals: Ardennes, Tour and Vuelta. In Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège I have really good chances to win," he said. "I will go for it. Then I will go to the Tour, again with podium ambitions. At my age you don’t start to change your objectives any more. I proved with my Vuelta podium last year that I am still capable of reaching such heights. If I see in the Tour that I lose time or have a bad day, I will go again for stage wins, like in 2015."


The wins of Rodríguez in 2015 were part of a grand total of 40 victories for the season, a record for Team Katusha since inception of the team in 2009. It’s a point of pride for all riders, with everyone contributing in their own way to the tremendous success. What’s the secret?


“It’s the hard work and the vast experience of the riders, plus this winter we took on some good young and strong guys," he said. "It’s a question of growing and growing every year. Can we repeat this success? We can do better, we can do worse or we can stay at our current level. One thing is for sure: we will be there in 2016. The worse thing that can happen is that we earn fewer victories, but for sure we will always be in the front row. We have experience so we can stay calm. The results will follow."



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