Joaquim Rodriguez has said that the loss of Dani Moreno to one of his biggest rivals has been tough to take. Moreno left the Katusha team - where he has supported Rodriguez since 2011 - after they decided not to extend his contract and he has since signed for Movistar where he will help team leader Alejandro Valverde.
“It’s true that the loss of Dani has been a ‘bitch’ for me because he was a rider that I would always have in the final and we will notice his absence a lot,” Rodríguez told Biciclismo. “Dani was very important because he was similar to me and now he will do the same with Valverde. They are both very explosive [riders] and if it was difficult to beat [Valverde] imagine what it will be like with the addition of Dani.”
Rodríguez has been out with his Katusha teammates in Calpe for the team’s training camp. The 10-day camp, which ended last week, was an opportunity for the Spaniard and the team to begin shaping what could be his final season as a professional. Rodriguez confirmed that he would begin his season at the Dubai Tour, followed by the Volta ao Algarve, Tirreno-Adriatico, his native Volta a Catalunya and the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. In April, he will ride the Ardennes Classics before taking a short break. The next part of his season will then see him pack in the Dauphiné, the Tour de France, Clásica San Sebastián, the Olympic Games in Rio.
There is also a definite chance that Rodriguez will return to the Vuelta a Espana. It’s set to be another mountainous route, which should suit him but the tight schedule has him slightly worried. “Yes it is a course that I like,” he said. “It scares me too because this year we don’t have the break that we normally have after the Tour de France to rest. I will still be competing and I am also very focused because the Olympics are very important. I will have to see how I feel and then assess whether or not I go for the general classification or look for stages.”
While Rodríguez has hinted heavily that 2016 will be his last, and he has only signed a one-year deal with Katusha, the 36-year-old has kept the door open for continuing on into 2017. “For now, I really enjoy every year and I ride my bicycle with more desire and if next year I have the same joy that it has given me this season then we will see if I still want to do something,” he said. “I will leave the bike when I lose that joy or the harmony I now see in the team, despite having the best results. Maybe that is when I realise that I must go.”
Whenever it is that Rodríguez does decide to retire, he indicated that he could stay in the sport either with the Katusha team or in an advisory role at Canyon, the team’s bike sponsor.