Joaquim Rodriguez has confirmed that he will retire at the end of the 2016 season. The Catalan made the announcement Monday morning at his Katusha team's Tour de France rest day press conference in Andorra.
"I'd like to announce that this is my last year of competition," an emotional Rodriguez said, before pausing to steady himself. "I'd like to stop while I'm still at a good level. I love this sport and I wouldn't change a thing about these years I've spent as a professional. I'd like to thank my family and everybody who has supported me during my career."
It was fitting that the 37-year-old Rodriguez chose to call time on his career in Andorra, given that he has resided in the principality for many years. A battling outing on the summit finish at Arcalis on Sunday leaves Rodriguez in 5th place overall on the Tour, 37 seconds down on Chris Froome (Sky).
Rodriguez has not yet decided on his final race, but confirmed his intention to line out at both the Rio 2016 Olympics and the Vuelta a Espana.
"I will give my maximum like I did my whole career. I would be happy to finish my Tour career in top ten, but of course I still dream of another overall podium in Paris: the support I got yesterday on the Pyrenean roads helps me to go on," he said. "For the moment I have no idea what my last race will be. In theory, Rio and the Vuelta a Espana are still on my program."
Winner of the Tour of Lombardy (2012 and 2013) and Flèche Wallonne (2012), Rodriguez has been one of the most consistent riders of the decade, as testified by his three victories in the end of the year WorldTour ranking (2010, 2012 and 2013).
Rodriguez has finished on the podium of each of the three Grand Tours, but never succeeded in winning one. In 2010, he led the Vuelta a España into the final week only to drop to third overall after a calamitous showing in the Penafiel time trial.
In 2012, Rodriguez carried the maglia rosa into the final day of the Giro d'Italia, only to lose the race to Ryder Hesjedal by just 16 seconds. Later that season, Rodriguez again led the Vuelta into the final week only for Alberto Contador to snatch the red jersey in dramatic fashion at Fuente De, and Rodriguez again had to settle for third.
A third place finish at the 2013 Tour de France felt rather more like a victory, though Rodriguez was to endure further disappointment that season when he was out-sprinted to the rainbow jersey by Rui Costa at the World Championships in Florence, a defeat he said would stay with him for ever.
"I have so many memories. I think of my super year 2012 with Il Lombardia in the pouring rain but also I think of my silver medal at the 2013 World Championships. Not to have won there still hurts but that's cycling," Rodriguez said on Monday, adding that Alejandro Valverde and Michele Bartoli were the riders who had most impressed him over the course of his career.
A professional since 2001, Rodriguez earned his nickname of 'Purito' – 'Little Cigar' – at his first team, ONCE. After three years at Manolo Saiz's team, which included a stage win at Paris-Nice in 2003, and two seasons at Saunier-Duval, he joined Caisse d'Epargne in 2006.
After winning the Spanish title in 2007 and placing 6th at the 2008 Vuelta a España, Rodriguez enjoyed a break-out year in 2009, placing second at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and taking bronze at the Worlds in Mendrisio. It was enough to convince him that co-existence with Alejandro Valverde was no longer feasible, and he signed for Katusha in 2010, and the best results of his career would all follow in his 30s.
Competitive in Classics, week-long stage races and three-week tours, Rodriguez has compiled a vast palmares in the second half of his career, and maintained a remarkably consistent level of performance - the Catalan has finished in the top ten overall of at least one Grand Tour in each of the past eleven seasons.
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