Although he is set to finish the season as winner of the WorldTour standings and in spite of his wins at Flèche Wallonne and the Giro di Lombardia, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) is all too aware that his 2012 campaign will be remembered as much for his near misses in the Grand Tours as for his triumphs elsewhere.
The Catalan was among the most prominent guests at the presentation of the route of the 2013 Giro d'Italia in Milan on Sunday, and when he was called up on stage, he summed up his season with a self-deprecating touch. "It was a great year, and I won a lot," Rodriguez said, before adding, "but I lost a lot, too."
Among those defeats was the Giro d'Italia, a race Rodriguez led into the final day before losing the pink jersey to Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) in the concluding time trial in Milan. In spite of the enormous strides Rodriguez made against the watch in 2012, therefore, he can hardly have been encouraged to learn of the 55.5km individual time trial at the end of the 2013 Giro's opening week. Instead, he was determined to focus on the tough finale in the Dolomites.
"I'll need to study it in a bit more detail, but it looks like a tough Giro, especially the last week," Rodriguez said. "As ever, the final few days look extremely difficult and the stage to Tre Cime di Lavaredo is the one that I like the most."
The Tre Cime di Lavaredo stage comes on the penultimate day, and features no fewer than five mountain passes - the Passo Costalunga, Passo di San Pellegrino, Passo Giau, Passo Tre Croci and the final climb itself. However, Rodriguez acknowledged that he will be hard-pressed to remain in the running by that point, given the 92 kilometres of time trialling on the course. "I'll just have to see if I can manage to stay close on general classification by then," he said.
As well as being dismayed by the length of the stage 8 individual time trial, Rodriguez also expressed reservations about the overall length of the race, which includes six stages in excess of 200 kilometres and two more 199km in length, including the final stage from Riese Pio X to Brescia.
"I don't like the that some of the stages are so long and I'm not sure if too many people will be happy with a long final stage like that, but all told, it's a balanced route," he said.
After doubling up at the Giro and Vuelta a España for the past two seasons, next year Rodriguez might yet be tempted to return to the Tour de France for the first time since 2010, but he was positive about the prospect of another tilt at the maglia rosa in 2013.
"I hope so, but we haven't decided everything yet for next season," he said. "But I always feel good when I race in Italy, with the tifosi chanting 'Purito' on the climbs."
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Barry Ryan is European Editor at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.