Having proved himself one of the best climbers in the sport by finishing eighth at the Tour de France and taking a stage win in Mende, Joaquim Rodríguez is turning his attention to this weekend's San Sebastián Classic and the Vuelta a España, which starts in late August. He also has an eye on the Worlds, having heard from riders who know the course that it's not a dead cert for a bunch sprint as has been widely suggested.
First up is San Sebastián, which takes place on roads that the 31-year-old Catalan rider knows well from his time as an elite rider in the Basque Country. The route of Spain's biggest one-day race has been radically revamped this year. The key change will see the riders tackle the Jaizkibel and Arkale climbs twice rather than once, additions that Rodríguez says he's very much in favour of.
"Of course I like this new route, because two passes over the Jaizkibel and Arkale suit me much more," Rodríguez told the race-organising newspaper, El Diario Vasco. "Although the race will go slower than usual over these climbs the first time, there will be splits and there will be a good selection. Then the lead groups will get whittled down even more on the second pass over the climbs."
Rodríguez continued: "There will be fewer riders up front and that will allow me more freedom, assuming that the race is going well for me. There will be no chance to recuperate during the final part of the race."
One other factor that the Katusha climber may have to take into account is the imminent arrival of his second child. The baby, a girl that Rodríguez and his wife Yolanda will name Elsa, is due at any time. Once she arrives, the family will head to the family's second home in Andorra, where Rodríguez will start his preparation for the Vuelta.
"It's the ideal place to go because you can train at altitude and be at home with the family at the same time," said Rodríguez, who will be training with Liquigas rider Sylvester Szmyd. "I will stay up there until the start of the Vuelta."
Rodríguez admitted that he had finished his debut Tour de France "tired, the last week of the race was very tough for me", but still believes he can have an impact at his national tour. "I will go there looking for stage wins. I think the overall title looks a little more complicated for me," said Rodríguez, who finished 7th overall in last year's race when he was with Caisse d'Epargne. After that he will the consider the Worlds if selected for the Spanish team "because everyone is telling me that it is going to be a lot harder that has been suggested."
Rodríguez concluded by saying he is keen to return to the Tour in 2011, "but first I will have to see what the route is like. I'm certainly not going to go there if there are three time trials and not many mountains. If I like the route of the Giro I will go there. I've still not managed to win a stage there and I would certainly like to do so."
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).