Joaquim Rodríguez says that it would be unjust to the riders if the Licence Commission were to deny Astana entry to the WorldTour on Wednesday. Rodríguez - whose Katusha team had their licence denied at the end of 2012 before being reinstated at the start of the next season - says that punishing the entire team for the actions of few is unfair.
"The riders have no blame for the problems that they've had. Here it is not just 30 riders but 60 in the WorldTour and Continental teams and it is the fault of five who have committed an error," said Rodríguez. "It doesn't seem fair. With regards to the regulations, I can have no opinion because I do not know how they decide who joins and who leaves the WorldTour but, I repeat, sportingly I don't think that it is fair to keep them out."
Rodríguez was speaking at Katusha's training camp in Calpe, where they are sharing a hotel with Astana. The troubles of Astana have not featured much in his thoughts, however, as he plans out his 2015 season with Katusha. Despite a torrid 2014, Rodríguez says that little will differ in his preparation next year.
"I haven't changed because since 2010 I have been doing the same and I always go pretty well," he said. "The objectives will be more or less what they were in the 2013 season."
Planning for success
There are a few minor alterations to his programme, with Dubai providing the start to his season before heading to Oman. He will then return to Europe for Tirreno-Adriatico and defending his Volta a Catalunya title. The Ardennes Classics mark the end of the first part of his season when he will begin preparations for his major goal of the year, the Tour de France. He will complete a recce of some of the most important stages before riding the Criterium du Dauphiné.
"This year’s Tour de France route is very attractive to the climbers and it will suit me very well," he said joking that they could hardly have done better if he’d designed it. "It is very good and fairly balanced and if it is true that there is not much time trialling then I can’t complain. The Tour will want a show in the mountains and surely this way they will have it.”
Rodríguez has competed at the Tour de France on three occasions, with his best finish of third coming in 2013. The result completed Rodríguez’s run of Grand Tour podiums but he is yet to climb onto the top step of the rostrum. Time trialling has often proved to be his nemesis and with so few kilometres against the clock it could be the best shot he has at taking his first Grand Tour victory.
However, Rodríguez is cautious. "The Tour is always complicated to win," he explained. "It is a very difficult course and it will be hard to take the victory because the Tour is very special and you have to take in a lot of factors to be able to win.
"Froome will always start as the favourite because, as with [Alberto] Contador, he has demonstrated what he can do in a tough Tour."
The Vuelta a España will be the next major bullet point on Rodríguez’s season. The race will spend four days in Andorra, where he currently lives, with the country playing host to the queen stage. Rodríguez was seen riding la Gaillna with Javier Guillen and has passed on his local knowledge to the race director
"I can’t say anything but it will be spectacular and very hard," he laughed. "It might be that there hasn’t been such an extremely hard stage in the Vuelta a España in recent years. I have given my ideas and knowledge of the country and I think that together [Fernando] Escartin and Guillen have heard my case and the stage is practically complete."
New contracts, Olympics and retirement
Next season is the last on Rodríguez’s current contract with Katusha. He joined the Russian team back in 2010 and has had some of his biggest results during that tenure. The Spaniard says that contract negotiations are yet to begin but that he would like to stay put beyond 2015.
"We haven’t discussed the issue. I have enjoyed being in Katusha ever since I arrived in 2010. I want to stay for longer and we will see what Katusha wants. This is out of my hands."
If Rodríguez does stick with Katusha the length of contract could be an interesting factor. At 35, there is no doubt that he is much closer to the end of his career than the beginning. 2015 will be the 15th season of Rodríguez’s career after turning professional in 2001. He says that he would like to make the Olympic Games in just under two years’ time before he considers hanging up his bike for good.
"I very much like the idea of the Rio Olympic Games in 2016, to race and compete there because it has been said that it will be a very hard circuit," he said. "In 2016 would be a good year to start thinking about my retirement. I want to go with a good level and to give a good impression to the fans."
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