It’s cold and snowy in Andorra right now with some mountain passes completely blocked, but 2013 UCI WorldTour number one Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) is already training hard in his adopted home. Yesterday (Friday), the Catalan was out training until well into the early evening, and - unsurprisingly - the season’s big objectives are already uppermost on his mind.
“My first target will be the Giro, which suits me the most of the Grand Tours, above all with such a long time trial in the Tour de France this year right at the end of the race,” Rodriguez told Cyclingnews. “But I’m very keen to have a crack at the Vuelta again, too.”
The Katusha leader is adamant that trying to win both in a single season is possible, despite Vincenzo Nibali’s near-miss last year, his own failure to do so in 2012 and that the last rider who managed to do the Giro-Vuelta double was Alberto Contador, way back in 2008.
“For sure it’s feasible. I only lost the Giro in 2012 in the last time trial by 17 seconds and I came very close in the Vuelta that year, too and lost that one because of an error. If I’m able to be in good form, then why not try for both?”
“On top of that, the Vuelta gives you a level of form that no other race can when you’re aiming at the Worlds.”
Talking of which - on the one-day front, Rodriguez has some unfinished business too. Second in Liege-Bastogne-Liege and a silver medallist in the World Championships in 2013, he is determined to go one better in both, if possible in 2014.
“The World’s will be another big objective. It’s going to be a very special race in Spain whatever happens because racing an event like that in your own country automatically gives you an extra degree of motivation. And as a race, anyway, the World’s is such a good one that I couldn’t ignore it if I wanted to.”
Rodriguez will start his year again in the Tour of San Luis, “even if it’s almost impossible for me to win, the South American riders are all in top shape because they’re right at the end of their season. But the good weather is always a huge plus about going there. And then I’ll go on to Dubai.”
“In Oman, after two preparation races, even if I’m not on top of my game, I’ll be getting there and should be able to fight for a stage win.” That was the case in 2013, with Rodriguez winning on the Green Mountain, Oman’s hardest stage. “where I was pleasantly surprised to see I was actually in a good enough condition to fight for a victory on a mountain stage so early on.”
HIs first big objective of 2013, though, remains the Giro or Liege-Bastogne-Liege: “They’re my two favourite races on the calendar, and winning either would be amazing.”
With very few changes in Katusha line-up from 2012, Rodriguez says that “the best thing about this start to the season is we don’t have all the problems about whether we’re in the WorldTour or not, it’s been just a question of getting on with work and training. Everybody in the team is in a better mood than they were at the end of 2012 and you can really see that in the way it’s all coming together for 2014.”
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The Independent, The Guardian, ProCycling, The Express and Reuters.