Joaquim Rodriguez has confirmed to Cyclingnews that he will leave the Katusha team if the Court for Arbitration for Sport decides against the Russian team in its appeal for a place in the UCI WorldTour. The CAS is due to give its decision on Friday.
The Spaniard hinted he may stay at Katusha earlier this week but with the final decision just hours away, his mind is made up.
The UCI Licence Commission refused to give Katusha team a place in the cycling's first division because the team did not meet its ethical criteria. The team's management appealed that decision, arguing it had done enough to deserve one of the 18 WorldTour slots.
If CAS rules that Katusha should be awarded a WorldTour licence, Rodriguez will have to respect his contract and stay with the team. If the team is not given a WorldTour place, his contract is not valid and will be free to join another team.
"I hope they say if it's yes or no and why yes or why no," Rodriguez told Cyclingnews after dinner in Oman.
"We are at a point where I need to know my future. I want to ride the best races in the world. It'd be a lot easier for me if the team was in (the WorldTour). I haven't got anything against the Katusha team. They helped me grow and become the rider I am today. But they know that if the team isn't in the WorldTour, then I'll change teams. It's not about money or because I'm not happy. It's simply because at my age, I can't waste a year of my career."
Rodriguez knows that the long-term future of the team could be at risk if he leaves. But he refutes he is to blame.
"I've been here for three years and I've done everything I can for the team. I showed that by winning today's stage at the Tour of Oman," he pointed out.
"It's not easy to work well in the current situation, but we won today. That means I've acted professionally from the first to the last day that I've been at Katusha. I'm trying to stay strong but I don’t want to crack mentally and throw in the towel. Especially when what has happened is not my fault."
Not even a wild card invitation to the Tour de France would be enough to keep Rodriguez at Katusha.
"It's not just about the Tour de France. The Tour is important but we're out of Paris-Nice, out of the Dauphine and now we're out of the Tour de Romandie, too. We don’t know if were going to ride Fleche-Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege and as everyone knows, they're some my biggest goals," he explained.
Rodriguez has been linked to several teams since the Katusha case exploded in November and seems to have an alternative team lined up and waiting if he is allowed to leave Katusha. However, he is unlikely to make a sudden announcement on Friday immediately after the CAS verdict.
He refused to tell Cyclingnews the name of his preferred choice of team, repeating that it would be a surprise to many people.
"If the team doesn't get a place in the WorldTour, I won’t announce the name of the team I'm going to immediately," he said.
"I'd like to give Katusha the time to understand why it's not in the WorldTour. Perhaps the UCI will give certain reasons for why the team isn't in and so I'll decide not to stay because it's not good for my image. But I've got to say that I've never seen anything strange in the team."
"The media has speculated a lot about where I might go. People have said Argos-Shimano, Movistar, Lampre and even Euskaltel-Euskadi. Each month I was linked to a different team. I said it'd be a surprise because it will be."
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