Just after crossing the line in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Joaquim Rodriguez hugged Ivan Basso and told him in a few words why he felt obliged to win stage 17 of the Giro d'Italia, even though no time bonuses were at stake at the finish. Exactly one year ago on this day, May 23, was the tragic death of Movistar rider Xavier Tondo while he was training in Sierra Nevada with his teammate Benat Intxausti, who is currently sixth on GC at the Giro d'Italia.
"I wanted to win today because it's a special day," said Rodriguez. "Xavi was a great friend of mine. I've known him since we were kids."
Tondo was only seven months older than Purito and they rode together as youngsters in Catalunya. Their respective home towns of Valls and Parets-del-Vallès are one hundred kilometres apart.
The Movistar riders showed up at the start of stage 17 in Falzes with a medal to pay tribute to their companion who joined their team in 2011 after finishing sixth overall in the 2010 Vuelta a Espana, during which he told Cyclingnews that it had always been his dream to ride for the same team that once was Miguel Indurain's. Tondo's memory was already mentioned twice in the post-stages comments since the beginning of the Giro by stage winners Francisco Ventoso and Andrey Amador, both of Movistar.
"It's not that I think of him today, one year after his death, I'll keep thinking of him all of my life," Rodriguez said at the press conference in Cortina d'Ampezzo when asked to describe Tondo's personality as he was quite unknown in Italy despite having held third place on GC at the 2010 Giro d'Italia until the final week. "I don't like to talk about him," Rodriguez added. "I also dislike hearing some people talking about him as if they knew him but they actually didn't. He's in my heart, that's all. I don't want to talk about him, thanks."
As he pronounced those words, Rodriguez's eyes turned red. He was not able to listen to the next question and he stood up and left the room in tears. After regaining his composure, Rodriguez returned to the press conference but the reporters thanked him and let him go without asking further questions.