Joaquim Rodriguez crying on the podium is one of the enduring images of last year’s World Championships in Florence. Those tears could have easily represented his nation, as they saw a clashing of egos get in the way of what should have been an inevitable gold medal.
After failing to put a rider in the rainbow jersey for a decade, Spain is determined not to make the same mistake again on home soil. Rodríguez will be Spain’s ‘plan b’, with Alejandro Valverde the clear favourite for victory within the home nation, and he is ready to work for his friend.
“Alejandro will be very good on this circuit, but it is difficult to find a circuit that he isn’t good on,” Rodríguez said. “Nobody is making us come here. Once we accept to be here, we have to do what they tell us and give our best for the team.”
However, he admitted that bringing such a strong contingent of riders, who often spend the season trying to beat each other, makes working as a cohesive unit a little more difficult. “When you ride with the team you know that it isn’t easy. Suddenly you find yourself with a team that you have to race with for four days. But, don’t forget that this doesn’t just happen in Spain. It goes for all of the teams. That’s the difficulty of the Worlds.”
It is likely that Rodríguez will spend Sunday as a super-domestique for Valverde, harking back to his days at Caisse d'Epargne before he left at the end of 2009. However, after taking on the course yesterday during the official reconnaissance, Rodríguez said that the finer details of Spain’s tactics are yet to be laid out.
“We haven’t spoken yet, but I imagine that we will,” he said of national coach Javier Minguez. “In the end, we all have our form for the race and I imagine that is why he has selected us.”
Rodriguez comes to the Worlds after fourth place in the Vuelta a España. Since the end of his home Grand Tour, Purito has been spending time at home, aside from one race day at the GP Industria & Commercio di Prato – where he finished 12th. Valverde also rode the Vuelta (finishing third), but many of the main contenders have shied away or left the race early. Rodríguez isn’t worried, however.
“I believe that I arrive in good form for the Worlds,” he explained. “The Vuelta was really hard, more so than last year, but I think that I came out of it well. Since then, apart from the race in Prato, I have relaxed. So I hope that these days, here in Ponferrada, I can recover from my efforts at the Vuelta.”