Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) has hinted at his credentials to lead the Spanish team at the world championships by predicting that the rainbow jersey will be won by a climber who races the Vuelta a España beforehand.
Rodriguez, who finished 3rd at the Tour de France last month, will line up among the favourites for the Vuelta, which gets underway on August 24, but the Catalan admitted that he already has one eye on the demanding world championships circuit in Florence.
“I’m really up for the Worlds, because it’s very hard in Tuscany. As well as being 270 kilometres long with 5,000 metres of altitude gained, there’s also a very steep climb 3 kilometres from the finish – it’s 800 metres long and it hits a gradient of 15%. It will do a lot of damage,” Rodriguez told Periodic de Andorra. “I think the Worlds will be won by a climber who comes out of the Vuelta.”
Rodriguez took bronze in the world championships road race in Mendrisio four years ago, and will be part of a strong Spanish team in Florence, a line-up that could also include Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Dani Moreno (Katusha).
Before the Worlds, Rodriguez will be hoping to complete some unfinished business at the Vuelta a España. In both 2010 and 2012, the Catalan led the race in the final week only to slip to third overall in Madrid.
Rodriguez is again among the favourites this time around, although he pointed out that the list of potential winners is a long one. “I know I’ll be one of them, but there are others too, like [Vincenzo] Nibali, Valverde, [Ivan] Basso and Samu [Sanchez]. Maybe Nibali is a point ahead of everyone else,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez also decried the revelation of positive EPO tests from the 1998 Tour de France that saw Erik Zabel suspended from his coaching position at Katusha. “They can’t find anything from this year so they’ve gone back,” he said. “I have the feeling that a part of the cycling world, or a part of the press, is interested only in this stuff and it will never end.”