An interview with Joaquin Rodriguez, September 1, 2005
Currently leading the mountains classification of the Vuelta a España after stage 11, Joaquin Rodriguez represents one of the more modest overall hopes in this year's race within the Saunier Duval-Prodir squad. Cyclingnews' Hernan Alvarez Macias spoke with Rodriguez out of the blistering heat in southern Spain, after stage 5 last week.
Rodriguez was a protagonist on Stage 5 while climbing the Category 3 Alto del Castillo together with Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Carlos Garcia Quesada (Comunidad Valenciana) close to the finish. In the bunch sprint over the closing stages he could do nothing against the power of Hushovd; nevertheless, he finished eighth in Cuenca and ended the day on the podium.
"Today [Wednesday] I did well - it was a nervous stage, and there were many junctions in the race," said Rodriguez about the stage that ended in Cuenca. "But that's the way the Vuelta is ridden. There were many nervous people inside the peloton. I was fourth or fifth on the descent and then I was able to end up eighth in the bunch sprint."
The Saunier Duval rider had a big chance for a stage win, and he admitted this, saying, "yes, it's true that I had a big opportunity today. But it's also true that there are many days to go in the Vuelta. I think tomorrow [Thursday] there will be a very demanding climb [the Category 1 climb to the ski station at Aramon Valdelinares], but we are going to try. We should keep on trying".
The young Spaniard has had a good season so far, taking fourth place in the Clasica de Primavera on home turf and seventh in the Spanish national championships in June. He also took part in the big spring classics: Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liege and Amstel Gold Race, finishing among the top 30 in each of these. "I think it's a good year for me. At the beginning of the season I started well, I rode a good Paris-Nice even though I had a hard crash [he ended up 30th]. In the Vuelta al Pais Vasco I lost the opportunity of getting among the leading riders. In the Giro d'Italia I did quite well, I think, and I helped the team leader [Juan Manuel Garate]. The year has been positive; it's one of my greatest years as a pro cyclist."
Being third on GC in the first week and leading the mountains competition, when considering the high-calibre field in this year's Vuelta, came as a surprise for many observers. Rodriguez explains: "the goal was simple - to get in the top positions, to achieve the best possible result. I think I rode a good stage here and also in Cordoba [stage 2, where he finished seventh]. Getting in the front group today gave me the opportunity to take third overall."
Rodriguez's season doesn't finish with the Vuelta a España, however; he still has "plenty of competition remaining," according to the 26-year-old from Parets del Valles. "I don't know if I will race in the World Championships [in Madrid next month], but I hope so. I like three-week races, but I also like one-day races. That's why I will race the Giro di Lombardia and also Zurich. This kind of races fits me very well." But for now there's still a big race with plenty of riding left, and if the stages so far are anything to go by, it's not going to be easy.