Joaquim 'Purito' Rodríguez has one clear objective for the coming season: to finally claim his first Grand Tour win. To that end, the Katusha rider has been assured the total support of his squad, where he is the main leader for three-week races.
Rodriguez' final goals for 2012 include the victory at the World Championships in two weeks, as well as the overall UCI WorldTour ranking. His good results over the 2012 season have placed him second behind current leader Bradley Wiggins (Sky).
The two-time Grand Tour podium finisher will choose his targets carefully next year. "I have to look at the three itineraries and then focus on either Giro, Tour or Vuelta," he told Spanish news agency EFE on Monday. "I only have to win one of those races. However, I think it will be difficult to target the Tour de France but it depends on the parcours. I've improved in the time trial but I'm not a specialist. The time trial in the Vuelta had a climb and so the time loss was less significant."
The 33-year-old has made continuous progress in the world's biggest stage races over the last few years, winning a total of ten stages as well as one Classic, the Flèche Wallonne this year. The Spaniard confirmed that the next logical step on his palmarès would be a Grand Tour victory. "It's my dream, it's what I work towards. In the Giro, I lost by a hair, and in the Vuelta it was because of one stage that didn't go well but I had the level to win. I'm eager to win a Grand Tour, going for the one that will suit my abilities best and fight for it," he added.
As a consequence, he will continue to enjoy full support of his team, and he's now in a position to claim optimal conditions - including his domestiques. "When I first signed for Katusha, they put their bets on me and the riders that they signed were there to work together. If they want us to continue to collaborate, then they have to continue in this way," Rodriguez stated, before explaining what exactly happened on the day [stage 17] he lost his Vuelta leader's jersey to Alberto Contador.
"Saxo Bank had a perfect tactic, but in order for them to succeed, I had to fail somewhere. I made mistakes, no doubt about it, and paid for them. I don't know if it was fate but it wasn't my day since the stage start and in the end I paid the consequences."
Contador had made a surprise attack on the medium-mountain stage, with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) also taking advantage of the situation to pass Rodriguez on GC.
"It was very hard to see my teammates in the hotel, crying becaue we had lost it all. It was a big blow but in cycling you have to accept it rapidly and move on to the other objectives that are still left," he continued.
One of which is the Worlds road race, where Rodriguez will be one of his national team's leaders together with Contador, Valverde and his teammate Oscar Freire. "I think we have a very strong team, we are all in top shape and I hope results will come from it. We know the parcours, there is one challenging climb and I'm mentally focusing on going for the win. I know what a Worlds medal represents since I took the bronze in 2009. Now, the target is to win."
The Spaniard is also looking to take the honours of the overall WorldTour rankings, having already won the 2010 UCI ProTour. He currently has nine points to catch p on Wiggins.
"Once Valkenburg is over, I will concentrate on winning the UCI ranking. There are nine points but it only means I have to do a good Giro di Lombardia or extend the season to China. But I want to do it because it is a reward for consistency," 'Purito' concluded.