Joaquin Rodriguez aiming for the top step of the podium at the Vuelta
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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Joaquin Rodriguez aiming for the top step of the podium at the Vuelta

by Jered Gruber at 10:47 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Spaniard looks to complete great 2010 season with the overall win

Following a brilliant debut 8th place overall including a stage win in Mende at this year's Tour de France as a 31 year old, Katusha's Joaquin Rodriguez, could be forgiven if he wanted to hang up his bike for the rest of the season.

The Catalonian climber is not even close to finished. The winner of this year's race through his home province, the Vuelta a Catalunya, is targeting the race through his homeland next, the Vuelta a Espana.

"I will aim for the general classification, just as I did in the Tour, and if I can win a stage, I will try. David Arroyo, second at the Giro, Mosquera, and Nibali are the most dangerous riders along with Menchov, who already knows how to win this race. He also has the 46 kilometer time trial in his favor," said this year's winner of the GP Miguel Indurain to sport.es.

He knows, however, that a second Grand Tour in a season could go either way for him. Some riders have had great success in the past at the Vuelta racing their second three week loop, Alberto Contador and Denis Menchov come to mind, but for every success story, there are many more flops. Rodriguez is aware of the possibilities and will go into the Vuelta's start in Sevilla with measured hopes.

"Evans, Sastre, Vinokourov, and Basso all rode the Tour after riding the Giro, and it did not go so well for them. It's not a coincidence. A second three week tour is not easy. My performance depends on my recovery."

For a rider of Rodriguez's abilities, namely a small, explosive climber, this year's mountainous romp through Spain should fit him perfectly. The grand mountain stages of the final week will draw the most attention of course, but Purito is intrigued by some of the less obvious profiles along the route.

"I love the course, because along with the last six stages in the mountains, there are many tricky stages and only a singe time trial. In the second week, those who are not doing well, will lose all hope."

The course on offer to the racers in September will be a difficult one, but it's not one the 2nd place at La Fleche Wallonne feels will see much separation on the overall classification, not because it's not hard enough, but because of the narrowing gaps between the top riders. Some might call it evidence of a clean peloton.

"In modern racing though, the Grand Tours are won with very little time difference. At last year's Vuelta, the difference was less than a minute, before that, between Contador and Leipheimer, it was also assessed in seconds."

The recent fifth place finisher at the Clasica San Sebastian is without question hitting his stride in 2010. The Spaniard has long been a capable racer, but the move to Katusha provided the impetus for him to make the last step to the upper echelon in the sport. Some might say that perhaps this big step up in his level could have been achieved earlier had he moved from Caisse d'Epargne sooner. Rodriguez, however, believes that his time with Eusebio Unzue's squad was time well spent.

"I cannot deny that this is my best season since I became a professional. I'm still the same, but with more experience. It is clear that if I had made the leap earlier, it would have been different, but I would not have learned as much anywhere as I did under Eusebio Unzue, who won Grand Tours with Delgado, Indurain, and Pereiro."

The goal now, following a great ride at the Tour de France, is the top step of the podium in Madrid at the end of September.

"To win the Vuelta would be a great accomplishment and a confirmation of everything for which I've fought."

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