Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) put a brave face on to cover up his defeat at the Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday. At 36 years old and after three podium finishes at the race, the Catalan rider knows that time is beginning to run out when it comes to winning his favourite Classic.
Asked if the glass was half full or half empty, as he added a third place to his runner-up spots in 2013 and 2009 at La Doyenne, Rodriguez answered categorically, “neither, it’s empty. I’m leaving here empty-handed.
“This is a race I adore and I’ve lost another chance to win it. Third is a good result, and the team worked brilliantly, but I’ve got a sour taste in my mouth right now.”
Valverde, he admited, was “very difficult to beat, he himself said he calculated the exact distance and I couldn't do anything there. When I saw that Alejandro got across to [Katusha teammate and late attacker] Dani Moreno, we were back to square one.
“It’s not possible to do everything and it’s easy to be wise after the event.”
Warming to his point about Valverde, he added, “It was almost impossible to beat him today. He had things under control all the way through. In Flèche Wallonne, maybe I didn't attack when I could have done, but when Dani went for it, I thought maybe it could work out. Then when Alejandro got across, we were in the same situation as in Flèche.”
As for the reasons why so many riders are now reaching the finish of the Classics like Flèche and Liège in a single front group compared to 10 years ago, Rodriguez argued that “The differences between leaders and domestiques is much smaller than it used to be. Everybody’s in better shape, the peloton is at a higher level across the board. So the difference between me and Moreno, say, is much less.
“It’d be nice if somebody went for it on La Redoute and made it to the finish, but it’s much harder now to break away to do that. The Astana riders tried it this time round, and they didn’t succeed.”
Rodriguez did not succeed either in taking the Classic he feels the most strongly about, and he admitted there is nothing he can do, now, but wait for another season. Or as he put it, “Now I’ve got to wait for another year and hope that I get the same chance next April.”