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Spain's Joaquim Rodriguez of Team Katusha celebrates after winning the Fleche Wallonne
Spaniard eyes Ardennes before focusing on Tour de France
Joaquim Rodriguez finished third on stage five at the Tour of Oman but hugged his Katusha directeur sportif Valerio Piva as if he had won, after hearing that the Russian team had won it's appeal to the Court of Arbitration and secured its return to the UCI WorldTour.
Rodriguez and Piva refused to confirm their good news, under strict orders not to talk by the team's management, but the big smiles and hugs between the riders and staff as they whispered the news, made it clear that Katusha had finally received some good news.
Since being turned down for a WorldTour spot by the UCI Licence Commission on December 10, the team's future has been up in the air.
It was granted a provisional Professional Continental licence so it could compete but the team had been snubbed for wild invitations to the Giro d'Italia, Paris-Nice, the Criterium du Dauphine, and most recently the Tour de Romandie.
On Thursday night, Rodriguez confirmed that he would leave Katusha if the team failed to secure a WorldTour place. He is determined to ride the Tour de France and was unwilling to let the team's problems impact on his season.
Fortunately the team's future now appears safe. Rodriguez's contract with the team is valid and he insisted he was happy to continue racing in the red and white Katusha colours.
"I'm happy to stay with the Katusha team because I've been in the team for several years now. The team has given me a lot and I've given a lot to the team. This is the best possible solution for everyone," Rodriguez said in a hastily arranged press conference in the permanence of the Tour of Oman.
"In the days before the verdict, we were optimistic and we always believed we'd win, even if it wasn't our decision to make and even if we'd never understood the reason why we were left out of the UCI WorldTour."
"I'll admit it, I was worried about my future, even if I knew I'd have ridden the Tour de France in one way or another. Now my race programme won’t change. I'll ride Tirreno-Adriatico, then the Volta a Catalunya, go for a spell of training at altitude on Mount Teide, and then the Ardennes Classics."
Piva echoed Rodriguez's sentiments of relief and satisfaction. The Italian is highly respected in the sport but had been struggling to keep morale up in the team and struggled to convince organisers to invite the team to key races.
Now it seems Katusha and six other team that applied for a WorldTour licence will have to go through the selection process with the Licence Commission. Rather than eliminate another team from the WorldTour, Rodriguez believes the sensible solution is to allow 19 teams to be part of the 2013 WorldTour.
"I hope another team doesn't have to go through what we've been through and so perhaps the best solutions is to allow 19 teams in the WorldTour," he said.
"That would be fair even if it caused some problems by raising the number of riders in the peloton and on the roads. It'd be worth it and much fairer all round."
"I'm sick of everyone talking about all the problems in our sport. There are still a lot of good things going on. I'd much prefer if we could talk about the Tour of Oman and the Volta ao Algarve, or the Vuelta a Andalucía. At least now I can look ahead to the rest of the season, knowing that goal for the year are safe and that the future of the team is safe."