After finishing sixth at the Montevergine di Mercogliano, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) is full of confidence for the next uphill finish of the Giro d'Italia atop the Etna volcano on Sunday. Rodriguez has meticulously prepared for the race with training camps in Sicily, and he knows the local roads nearly as well as Sicilians Vincenzo Nibali, Giovanni Visconti, Giampaolo Caruso and Paolo Tiralongo.
"I've been to the Etna twice this year," said Rodriguez, to Cyclingnews at the start of stage 8 in Sapri on Saturday.
"After Tirreno-Adriatico, I had two weeks of training there just as planned, but my first session on my way back to Europe from the Tour of Oman was interrupted after three days because there was too much snow and I couldn't train. It was an altitude camp as much as a chance to reconnoiter the roads of this crucial stage. I was staying in a hotel at 2,000m, but it kept snowing above 1,800m, so as soon as the airport reopened, I went back home to Catalunya."
Rodriguez's early season did not go according to plan as he had a cyst on one of his femurs, but he said everything has been going according to plan with his Giro d'Italia preparation.
"I'm feeling physically good. I'm exactly where I wanted to be after one week of racing and before the mountains," said the rider nicknamed "Purito".
"There will be more selection on the Etna than yesterday on the Montevergine. We won't be 30 riders together for the stage win. Maybe eight or 10 of us will stay together, but I also don't expect any selection among the favourites."
"The Etna is a very long climb," said Rodriguez. "This will hurt. It's an important stage. I'm here for the overall classification, but if I can win the stage, I won't let it to go."
Rodriguez isn't the only foreigner who spent time training on Mount Etna in advance. Roman Kreuziger did the same, following the recommendation of his team Astana's captain Alexandre Vinokourov, who is not riding the Giro this year, although he had organized training camps on the Sicilian volcano last year prior to the Tour de France.