Next season could be the last one for Joaquim Rodríguez, but it looks primed to send him out with a bang. The Spaniard has won a lot but there are still a few things that he needs to tick off on his palmarès before he hangs up his wheels. Rodríguez hopes that he will be able to do just that in 2016 as he puts his focus on the Tour de France and the Olympic Games in Rio, two courses he believes are strongly suited to him.
“2016 is a very attractive year that motivates me a lot because we have the Olympic Games in Brazil, and they will be a very hard Olympics for the climbers. Then there is Tour de France that, considering the route that I saw recently, is also very tough. I think that 2016 has a lot for climbers like me, and it motivates me a lot,” Rodríguez said while out in Japan for the Saitama Criterium, after taking a brief break out of his off-season.
“The Tour de France and the Olympics will be my main objectives. I won’t do the Giro and we will have to see about the Vuelta, it will be complicated because after the Tour I want to prepare for the Olympics and it will be really hard to then continue to the Vuelta a Espana. I am 100 per cent focused on the Tour de France.”
Rodriguez hinted last winter that after the 2016 Olympics he would call an end to his career. With a new one-year contract in his pocket, however, his options are open should he want to continue. He may just want to do that if he can carry on the form that he showed this season. After a very challenging 2014 that saw him crash twice during the Ardennes Classics and abandon the Giro d’Italia in the first week, he found himself battling for the WorldTour title with his compatriot Alejandro Valverde.
It ended with a slight whimper after he injured his knee during training two days before Il Lombardia, which subsequently handed the WorldTour victory to Valverde. However, with two Grand Tour stage wins in his pocket and a podium at the Vuelta a Espana, Rodríguez can look back on his season with a much more positive light than he could this time last year.
“It was a perfect year until the end of the season when I couldn’t go to Lombardia and Abu Dhabi, two races that I could have done well at considering how I finished at the Vuelta,” said Rodríguez. “At País Vasco, I began a good streak. The Tour was brilliant, without contesting the general classification I won two stages and I wore the mountains jersey. But, above all, the end of the season, with the Vuelta, I did really well. To return to the podium in a Grand Tour is very important.
“Since 2010, I have been growing a lot and in 2014 I worked really hard to continue this growth but I did not get anything. It seems that everything is back on track.”
If Rodríguez does find success next year he will have to do it without his loyal lieutenant Dani Moreno, who is moving to rivals Movistar after Katusha decided not to renew his contract for next season. The pair has been working together since Moreno joined the Russian outfit in 2010, with Moreno often providing the team with a back-up option and Rodríguez will be sad to see him leave.
“It is a tough blow,” he said. “He has a lot of qualities and he was always in the final, in many cases next to me. But we will have others like [new signings - Rein] Taaramae and [Jürgen] Van Den Broeck, who will also be able to contribute a lot and are really strong.”