Joaquim Rodríguez negotiating to stay with Katusha through 2014
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Friday, November 02, 2012

Joaquim Rodríguez negotiating to stay with Katusha through 2014

by Ben Atkins at 4:15 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
WorldTour winner wants to keep “Spanish block” together; tired of answering Armstrong questions

joaquim rodriguezJoaquim Rodríguez is in current negotiations that should commit himself, and his Spanish teammates, at the Katusha team until the end of 2014. Despite the team being a “Russian Cycling Project”, most of its top performers have been Spaniards; although three-time World champion Oscar Freire has retired, Rodríguez hopes to keep the rest of his compatriots together.

The winner of the International Cycling Union (UCI) WorldTour - who finished second in the Giro d’Italia, and third in the Vuelta a España on his way to reclaiming the title he took in 2010 - is currently on the Netherlands Antilles island of Curacao ahead of the Amstel Curacao Race.

“I need a bit of a holiday and to unwind with everybody,” he said. “I’m a bit fatter… but I have time to lose it…”

Part of the reason for Rodríguez’ decision to extend his contract at Katusha has been the removal of general manager Hans-Michael Holczer, who has been replaced by former RadioShack director Viatcheslav Ekimov, who rode on Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France team between 2000 and 2005.

"The relationship with Holczer had become untenable,’ Rodríguez explained. “The change in the team leadership has given everyone peace of mind, and I think it will be positive for the future.

"Things are back to normal, I'm happy with this team and we are negotiating the continuity of all of the Spanish block until the end of 2014.”

Questions about Armstrong are making a tired rider even more so

Despite being so far from Europe, Rodríguez is far from out of the gaze of the press on Curacao and, as the World’s number one rider, is finding himself constantly fielding questions on the Armstrong case.

"Rather than escape, I wanted to rest,” he explained. “After a highly charged season, I needed to be with the family, enjoy my children, and almost had three newspaper diaries to do. I understand the concern and I know it's part of my job and I'm delighted with the attention, because that means I had a great season. The problem is when, rather than an interest in this, what interests them is to know my opinion on the Armstrong case and the performance of the UCI, and that makes me even more tired.

"I have no problems in answering any question, but it’s getting so repetitive and tiring,” he added. “On the subject Armstrong, I think that sanctions are only meaningful when you're active. Now, many years later, all that is achieved is to tarnish the image of current cycling."

One problem for Rodríguez has been that much of the publicity about the Armstrong case has been from sections of the media that don’t usually cover the sport in any detail.

"Suddenly, all of the media, even those who never talk about cycling, were interested in the Armstrong topic,” he said. “No one remembered the nice spectacle we put on in the Vuelta a España and how well they spoke at the time of cycling, a beautiful and spectacular cycling... Two months later, cycling is dead because of things that happened in the past,”

“It’s better not to look back,” he added.

Looking ahead, Rodríguez is among those that favours the idea of a kind of ‘truth and recognition’ panel to air all of the sport’s problems, and then the application of fierce punishments for doping transgressors going forward.

"If we want to fix this sport, we should make a point of inflection, an amnesty, to call it somehow, and establish much stronger sanctions that do not lead to new dubious situations…” he said. “For example, sanctions for life for the use of doping products, and maybe not give so much hype to silly news that often occurs.”

With many pointing the finger at the UCI for allowing - or even aiding - Armstrong in his years of systematic cheating, Rodríguez remains more pragmatic and points to the progress made by the sport’s governing body in recent years.

"Everyone wants someone to blame, but it is easy to blame someone or another,” he said. ‘The UCI's work is not easy. It has worked extensively on the issue of doping, but if it continues looking back it will never end. Because now you look 10 years ago and in a little while it will look 20 or 30 years ago and will continue the same story, ignoring the work that is being done now, I think that is what should be pointed out and that is on a good path.”

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