Spaniard focusing on Giro and Vuelta, Russian on the Tour
Katusha team leader Joaquim Rodríguez has quickly put to bed any ideas that his nose might have been put out of joint by the arrival of Denis Menchov, saying he is “looking forward to sharing leadership” with the Russian. Katusha scooped up Menchov earlier this month after the Russian’s Geox-TMC team failed to find a new backer for 2012.
“Denis’s arrival has been an open secret and it is logical that the best Russian rider around at the moment is racing as part of this project,” said Rodríguez. “I honestly hope that his arrival will benefit both of us and I hope that we don’t have to wait too long for results to come. I am also happy to be sharing team leadership with him. We are two very different riders and we will be able to fight on two fronts at the same time without any problems.”
Rodríguez has already revealed that his two principal targets next season are the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España. Although Menchov has won both of these titles in the past, he will almost certainly focus his efforts on the Tour de France, where he has twice finished third. With Oscar Freire also on board and Hans-Michael Holczer replacing Andrei Tchmil as team manager, Katusha will have a very different look in 2012 to the outfit that generally failed to deliver last season.
Rodríguez was one of Katusha’s few successes last year, winning two stages at both the Vuelta and Dauphiné, and taking podium finishes at Lombardy, Flèche Wallonne and Amstel. He described himself as “satisfied” with his season and indicated that he will be following much the same calendar in 2012. He is hoping that a switch in the date and location of Katusha’s pre-season training camp – with Mt Teide in Tenerife the new venue – will get him up to racing speed faster with a particular view towards Tirreno-Adriatico.
“Last year I didn’t go into Tirreno with good form and we will be trying to avoid that happening again and this time getting into the right condition for ‘the race of the two seas, especially if confirmation is given that the race will be returning to Montelupone.” The Spaniard has won twice before in the spectacular hill-top town accessed by the kind of super-steep ascent that he has made his speciality.
Rodríguez would also like to be more competitive in the Classics, particularly Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but admits winning will be difficult if Philippe Gilbert returns in the same form as last spring and Alejandro Valverde is back to his best following his ban. “Whatever happens, I think that the most important thing is for us to do our job well. If we achieve that, the results will come.”
Rodríguez believes that the quality of Russian team’s roster has improved over the off-season and is optimistic that will count in the favour of Katusha’s leaders. “Proven campaigners such Xavier Florencio and Angel Vicioso will provide not only me with strong support but also Freire and Menchov. I am sure that they are going to fit in well here and that they will be able to ride to their maximum for the team. Oscar is focused on Milan-San Remo and the Olympics and I’m sure he will do well. Denis will start a little more slowly as his goal is the Tour, a race that suits his characteristics very well. For a Russian team, getting a good result there with him would be the ideal scenario.”
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