Rodríguez is one of the favourites to take the title, alongside Movistar’s Nairo Quintana. In 2012, Rodríguez finished second to Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) by 16 seconds, after losing out in the time trial on the final day. Since then, the Katusha rider has come close to a number of grand tour victories but is still waiting for the moment when he can finally step onto the top of the rostrum.
The nine summit finishes at this year’s Giro will suit his punchy style, however he will have to take on two individual and one team time trial, a discipline that has often been the factor in Rodríguez missing out on victory. The diminutive rider has improved his time trialling since the disaster he had at the 2010 Vuelta a España, and the mountain time trial will be to his liking, but he will have to improve yet again to avoid losing too much time against the clock.
The Spaniard has had a bumpy road towards the first grand tour of the season. He won his home race the Volta a Catalunya at the end of March. However, he crashed out of Amstel Gold, bruising his ribs, before suffering a second crash at Flèche Wallonne. The pain from the chest injury then proved too much and he later went onto abandon Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He hasn’t raced since then and only time will tell if the disruptions have had an adverse effect on his form.
With the Giro d’Italia Katusha’s biggest goal this season, they have thrown some of their best riders behind it. Rodríguez’s most important lieutenant will be Daniel Moreno. The 32-year-old is a stage winner and a general classification contender in his own right and he provides Katusha with an alternative if Rodríguez begins to struggle in the mountains.
Luca Paolini and Giampaolo Caruso will also be key riders in the battle for the pink jersey. Caruso made what looked to be the winning move in the finale of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, only to be overhauled on the finishing straight. Maxim Belkov, Vladimir Gusev, Alberto Losada, Angel Vicioso and Eduard Vorganov complete the Giro line-up.
Katusha team for the Giro d’Italia: Maxim Belkov, Giampaolo Caruso, Vladimir Gusev, Alberto Losada, Daniel Moreno, Luca Paolini, Joaquim Rodriguez, Angel Vicioso and Eduard Vorganov.