Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) is biding his time until the third week of the Tour de France when he hopes to turn defence into attack, according to his team. Rodriguez has tended to fair better in the big mountains the further the race progresses, and he's hoping to use that to make up for lost time.
"For the moment, we need to follow. [Nairo] Quintana, [Chris] Froome, [Romain] Bardet, they are really strong," Katusha directeur sportif Jose Azevedo told Cyclingnews. "We see also [Adam] Yates and Daniel Martin so there are many riders in front of him. We need to be patient and wait and then in the last week, if there is a chance then we will attack.
"We need to go day by day and try to be in the front on Ventoux. It's important to do a good time trial the day after. On this parcours, the hilly parcours is not the best for him. He will try to lose the minimum of time possible. Then, in the Alps, if he's at his best then the end of the Tour is a good place for him to gain time in the GC."
Rodriguez is just outside the top 10 going into the crucial Mont Ventoux stage after losing 1:09 on the windy stage 11 to Montpellier. That could change his approach to Mont Ventoux given that he is likely to lose more time in Friday's time trial. There have since been changes made to the finish on Ventoux with 110kph gusts expected at the top. The stage finish has been moved slightly further down the mountain to Chalet Raynard, 5.7km from the original finish point. While shorter, the gradients are still steep, which should favour the punchy Rodriguez.
"Normally, the steeper climbs suit him, the faster climbs where you need to push big gears are not his type of climb," said Azevedo. "It's more the steep climbs where you ride with really small gears; that's his sort of climb. "I think it is important for all the GC riders. It is a difficult climb and normally you will see big differences on this day, so I hope that we can be in front."
Until his misfortune on stage 12, Rodriguez had been in fifth place overall just 37 seconds back on the yellow jersey. Even then, his ambitions had been a relatively modest goal of top 10 and Azevedo is keeping that in mind, explaining that it has been a particularly challenging year for Rodriguez.
"The Tour, for us, starts now and we still have all the Alps and Mont Ventoux is still a climb that will always make a big difference, we have a lot of time trials so there is a lot of stages still to come. We have our strategy; we aren't going to change our plans," Azevedo explained. "He has had a complicated year. He was sick four times during the year. In Algarve, he stopped and then he had antibiotics for one week. He started training and recovering and then he stopped again Tirreno-Adriatico. At the end of Tirreno-Adriatico, he was sick. Then he started Catalunya not in good condition but then in Pais Vasco he was good.
"In the Ardennes Classics the form was coming, and he was approaching his normal level, and then he had a tooth infection, and he had to stop again and have antibiotics for a week and then he was sick again at the Dauphine so he stopped on the last stage. When you start and stop like that so you can't continue your work, then it is complicated. Now, he has started the Tour in good shape, which also motivates him. It is important to us that he is healthy."
This will be Rodriguez's final Tour de France after he announced on the rest day in Andorra that he would retire at the end of this season.
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