2012 marks Joaquim Rodriguez’s third year with Katusha and the 32-year-old Spaniard is as motivated as ever to win a Spring Classic. Rodriguez discussed why he’d chosen to stay at the Russian team and revealed that he’d had past negotiations with a number of teams, including Garmin.
Last year Rodriguez finished second in both Amstel Gold Race and Fleche Wallone and on both occasions was the runner-up to Philippe Gilbert. With a new season underway Rodriguez is confident that he can bump the Belgian off his perch, pointing to preparation, as well as pointing out that even though Gilbert was on a different level last year, that form is hard to maintain for consecutive season.
“He wasn’t unbeatable, he was just better than everyone else. If he comes into the races this season it will be tough. I’ll have to change my tactics to confront him but it’s all about preparation. If you look at Davide Rebellin, he won the triple in 2004 and then the next year he really didn’t do anything,” Rodriguez told Cyclingnews.
Katusha’s tactics won’t all depend on the strength and form of Rodriguez though. Along with his climbing abilities the team have Daniel Moreno, and secured the services of Oscar Freire in his final season. The Spanish trio will look to rattle Gilbert and his BMC team by anticipating attacks.
“We have three really strong riders with me, Freire and Moreno. The first race is Fleche Wallone and we’ll have a really aggressive tactic there, go early and go as hard as we can. So if there’s a group that goes away without Gilbert that’s good for us. From there we’ll adjust our tactics accordingly,” he said.
One rider that Rodriguez won’t be able to count on for support is Alexandr Kolobnev, who was dismissed after a positive test at last year’s Tour de France. To add to that he was then embroiled with a race-fixing scandal with Alexandre Vinokourov, dating back to 2010. Rodriguez was a teammate of the Russian that year but has chosen to keep out of the press on the matter and dismissed the reports as ‘impossible.’
“I really don’t trust the whole situation,” he said.
“Firstly I don’t how a rider of Kolobnev’s quality would sell the race. I think it’s almost impossible to do that. I also don’t trust the whole story about the emails. The whole thing seems impossible to me.”
That scandal aside, money matters of a different kind have featured heavily in the last few months, with Rodriguez agreeing to extend his contract with Katusha for a further season. He admitted that a number of teams had come calling and that back in 2010, before he joined Katusha, he had met with Garmin over a possible move to the American team.
“I feel at home here and really comfortable so when the results have come it felt logical to want to stay in that situation.”
“It’s true that Garmin and I sat down and had a meeting but when we talked we had different ideas of what we wanted to do. I had a certain way in which I wanted to approach racing and I didn’t feel like they saw the class I had as a racer. We talked but it wasn’t close to being a contract.”
“It’s logical that teams would be interested. I have a lot of UCI points and there were a lot of offers that were entertained, certainly, but I like it here. If I went to another team I’d have to bring a number of riders with me, plus it’s difficult to integrate into another squad. There was some back and forth with different offers but I’m very happy with my choice.”