Joaquin Rodriguez has finished second in all three of the of the Ardennes Classics, and thinks that now “the time has come for a change.” The Katusha rider is ready to stand atop the podium, and is one of the favourites to do so Sunday in the Amstel Gold Race.
The Spaniard was second in Liège - Bastogne - Liège in 2009, and second behind Philippe Gilbert in both Amstel and La Flèche Wallonne last year.
"Every season the Ardennes races have been among my goals. Only there is always a better rider. Take last year: Philippe Gilbert was almost unbeatable,” Rodriguez, 32, told nieuwsblad.be.
He actually sees Amstel as least suited to him of the three upcoming races. “The Flèche Wallonne with the finish on the Mur de Huy suits me better, like Liège - Bastogne - Liège , but actually I don't care.”
Rodriguez will be sharing captain duties on Sunday with Oscar Freire. The decision as to who the team will ride for will depend on how the race goes. “If it looks like there will be a mass sprint on the Cauberg and that Oscar Freire has more opportunities, then I will sacrifice myself. If I am stronger and I can go with a group with some top riders, then I assume 'Oscarito' will protect the break.”
He took a look at the other contenders. "Samuel Sanchez, winner of the Tour of the Basque Country, is as much a favorite as I am. Alejandro Valverde is still very dangerous, even after his comeback. Vincenzo Nibali also impressed me. Like at Milan-Sanremo, where he not coincidentally was third after he won Tirreno-Adriatico.”