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A delighted Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) crosses the line at San Lorenzo de El Escorial.
Looking forward to changes and new faces at Katusha
Joaquin Rodriguez is looking forward continuing with Katusha in 2012, which he says will become “more international” under new team manger Hans-Michael Holczer. He hopes to finally win one of the Classics, but will once again skip the Tour de France, concentrating instead on the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España.
Holczer's arrival to replace Andre Tchmil will bring “significant changes in almost everything, a touch more German or rather more international,” Rodriguez told biciciclismo.com. The former Gerolsteiner manager “want us all to be one group,” and more countries will be represented on the team.
Another team newcomer will be sprinter and three-time world champion Oscar Freire. Before signing him, the team asked Rodriguez his opinion. "My response was very positive," Rodriguez said. "Aside from the wins, he provide safety and experience. I get along great with him and he will find it very comfortable in this environment, even I say that he is sure to continue for another year.”
Looking back at his season, 'Purito' said that this year was even better than 2010, “especially the Classics. It is very difficult to win one. However, in the five that I rode, my worst placing was 26th in Liege. The rest were three podium finishes and a fourth at San Sebastian.
“I have many second and thirds, and a bronze from the Worlds [2009 - ed]. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever get a victory in a Classic or not.”
The 32-year-old will most likely once again skip the Tour de France to concentrate on the other two grand tours. The Tour not only has many time trial kilometers, a noted weakness of his, but also fewer mountains, which are his strength. “Surely I could do something good, if I'm in great shape and am lucky. But in the Giro, with its hard course, and the Vuelta, with its mountainous profile, I can look for more stage wins and the podium.”
The early season will see him follow “virtually the same schedule as in 2011” -- the Challenge de Mallorca, Tour of Algarve, Vuelta a Andalucia and Tirreno-Adriatico. They will be followed by either the Volta a Catalunya or a training camp ahead of the Tour of the Basque Country and then Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallone and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Rodriguez finished fourth in the UCI World ranking this year, with seven wins: a stage at the Tour of the Basque Country, two stages each at the Vuelta a España and the Critérium du Dauphiné, plus a stage and the overall at the Tour of Burgos. His ranking was aided by a number of podium finishes in other races, and top five finishes in both the Giro d'Italia and the Dauphiné.
He has just returned from a family vacation and won't start training again until the end of the month or early December. “I'll relax a bit more. It will be six weeks without the bike, but with other activities, such as walking, mountains, gym work, swimming and even football. The goal is regain my strength and desire.”
The first team camp is scheduled for December 12-20 in Tuscany, to be followed by one in Mallorca in January.