Recently confirmed as 2010's world number one, Joaquin Rodríguez has said he is targeting both the Tour de France podium and victory at the Vuelta a España in the 2011 season. Speaking at his Katusha team's end-of-season celebratory dinner at Desenzano del Garda in Italy, the Spaniard also said he will have his eye on the Ardennes Classics as he seeks to build on a year when just about everything fell into place.
Having become the first Catalan winner of his home region's tour for years, Rodríguez showed impressive consistency as he took second place at Flèche Wallonne, won a stage on his Tour debut, then took a stage at the Vuelta on his way to fourth place overall. Late in the season, he also became a father for the second time.
"I'm really happy to have taken the world number one ranking," he told AS before the Katusha dinner. "I saw Alejandro Valverde triumph in the same way on two occasions at Caisse d'Epargne and I know what it means. I might not be world champion but I am like Rafa Nadal in being world number one because of my consistency. It's not easy staying in top form from February to September."
Of all his successes in 2010, Rodríguez picked his Tour stage win at Mende as the best. "It had the most impact because it was the Tour and because I beat Alberto Contador mano a mano, because he wanted to win as well, there were no agreements between us."
There was little hesitation when asked for his worst day of the season. The final Vuelta time trial at Peñafiel stood out, he admitted, because he not only lost the race lead but also any chance of finishing on the podium. "Everyone thought going into the race that because of the hard season I'd had I wouldn't have any reserves left. I thought that too and for that reason during the first week I wanted to take advantage of the form I had and ended wasting it stupidly and paying the cost in the end."
Not surprisingly, he revealed he will be working on his time trialling technique over the winter, starting with a visit to the Mapei Centre, where he is set to undergo biomechanical testing on the Focus bikes he will be racing on next season for Katusha. He was adamant, though, that his explosive climbing ability will not be sacrificed in the quest for time trial speed.
Asked about his objectives for 2011, the Spaniard replied: "I've got several. First the Classics. The one that suits me best is Flèche Wallonne, but I dream of winning Liège. Then there are the Tour and Vuelta.
"Can I win the Tour? Why not? The route is better for me than this year's because there are a lot of mountains and not much time trialling. More realistically I'm aiming to finish on the podium and win a stage."
He admitted, though, he is planning to head to the Vuelta focused on overall victory. "On paper it's the race that is most suited to my characteristics. If I ride more with my head than with my legs then I know that I can achieve it."
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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).