Rodríguez aims for top in Giro d’Italia

Spanish star Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) has flung his hat into the ring and says that he will be gunning for his first ever overall victory in a Grand Tour in this year’s Giro d’Italia.

Fifth in the Giro last year, following a fourth place overall in the Vuelta and eighth place in the Tour de France in 2010, Rodríguez told Cyclingnews, “I’ve put in the miles training this spring, I’ve got good form, better than last year actually, and I was fifth overall then. So I’ll be fighting for the podium of the Giro at least - in which case, why not try and win it?”

Following a series of near-misses in the Ardennes Classics in previous years, Rodríguez finally hit the bulls eye at Fleche Wallone this spring, so there’s no doubt he has rock-solid morale and strong condition.

One reason why it might be tougher for 'Purito' to be in pink in Milan this coming May 27 than it was in 2011, though, is that the Giro 2012 is far less mountainous and there are some very exposed, flat stages early on - not exactly the Katusha climber’s favourite terrain.

However, with some reliable rouleurs in the Russian squad’s line-up to help keep him close to the action in the early stages, Rodríguez believes he can stay in contention.

“Logically I’d like more mountains rather than all this flat, but I’ll just have to focus on not losing time and keeping out of trouble. I’ll be trying to get safe and sound to the last week” - which contains the 2012 Giro’s most mountainous stages.

“This first bit in Denmark is going to be very stressful: there’s bound to be echelons, crashes and you’ll have to get through it as best you can.” Rodríguez points to how well he came through the turbulent first hour of racing in Fleche Wallone this spring - basically an interminable series of pile-ups and splits in the bunch - as an indication of his team’s capacity to protect him in such unfavourable conditions.

“We’ll split up the work. On the flat stages there will be guys like [Mikhail] Ignatiev, [Gatis] Smukulis, [Aleksandr] Kuschynski, [Alexander] Kristoff and Pavel Brutt, then the three Spaniards [Angel Vicioso, Alberto Losada and Dani Moreno] will be there for the mountain stages.”

The final stage is an individual time trial in Milan, though, where Rodríguez will have nobody to rely on but himself. Yet he believes he has progressed in that discipline, too.

“Last year finished with a 30 kilometre time trial, less technical than this one and with a lot more straightaways. Just looking at the overall contenders, I only lost a minute on [podium finisher Vincenzo] Nibali, who’s very fast against the clock.”

“So I’ve improved a lot, already. On top of that I’ve been doing a lot of work on it in the Olympic velodrome in Barcelona and Mallorca and even though people remember the Peñafiel time trial where I lost the [2010] Vuelta, I’m not going as disastrously badly as I used to” - and, who knows, it might just be enough to tip the balance in Rodríguez's favour.

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