Defending Volta Ciclista a Catalunya champion Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) will not start this year's race due to a stomach virus, his team confirmed on Sunday. Rodriguez will be replaced by Alberto Losada in the Katusha line-up.
On Sunday morning, just as teammate Alexandre Kristoff began the defence of his own Milano-Sanremo crown, Katusha confirmed Rodriguez’ own Tweet that “to my great regret, I’m out of the Volta because of a stomach virus. Hopefully I will be able to recover for [the Vuelta al] País Vasco. What bad luck I have had!”
Although Chris Froome (Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) are the headline acts in the race, Rodriguez was expected to have played a major part in this year’s Volta.
Twice a winner of his home race, Rodriguez victory in the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya last year was one of the few high points of a difficult season blighted by, among other things, a major crash in the Giro d’Italia which forced him to abandon.
Rodriguez was also the winner last year on the one summit finish in La Volta, at La Molina ski station, which also features in this March’s race and which will likely be the decisive stage. Although he has not had a strong season so far, Rodriguez’s combative style, particularly in the mountains, combined with the absence of a time trial, his weakest point, would have made him a factor for other teams to bear in mind at the Volta a Catalunya.
Rodriguez’s next big target will presumably be the Ardennes Classics, where he has shone strongly in the past, with a win in Flèche Wallonne and podium finishes in Liège-Bastogne-Liège already in his palmares.