Joaquim Rodriguez drops Tour de France dreams, opts for Giro and Vuelta in 2011
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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Joaquim Rodriguez drops Tour de France dreams, opts for Giro and Vuelta in 2011

by Jered Gruber at 8:32 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
UCI's #1 ranked rider in 2010 opts to focus on races that cater to his skills

It seems an out and out rarity for a Grand Tour rider to openly admit that they cannot win the Tour de France. How many riders sacrifice entire seasons to finish 6th at the Tour de France? In the case of Joaquim Rodriguez, who waited an entire career before he could make his Tour de France debut last year and finished 8th, he seemed yet another potential Tour suitor on the verge of making the call to continue jousting at the windmill of the Grand Boucle, but instead, in a conversation with Marca, he admits that he'll take a step back from the world's biggest race and focus on the year's two other Grand Tours: the Giro and the Vuelta.

"This year we had to select a good schedule, and while the Tour is very nice, I must be realistic and recognize that I cannot win the Tour, but I can win either of the other two."

With that in mind, last year's UCI #1 ranked rider will forego the Tour de France in favor of the Giro, Vuelta, the Tour of the Basque Country, and the Ardennes Classics. The Ardennes Classics, in particular, are races that 'Purito' holds close to his heart. Rodriguez took 2nd at Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 2009 and 2nd at La Fleche Wallonne in 2010, along with a three 8th place finishes in the Ardennes Triptych in 2008.

"It has taken many years to become a leader, and I want to win one of the greats: the Amstel Gold Race, Fleche Wallonne, and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, so I have to start at a high level from the beginning of the season."

Following the Classics, the winner of the Volta a Catalunya in 2010 will focus his full attention on the Giro, and after that, the Vuelta. Following a dismal time trial in last year's Vuelta, which saw him plummet from first to fourth overall, many thought that the Catalonian climber would go back to the drawing board to focus on his time trailing abilities. Not so says Rodriguez.

"I'm not a rouleur. I weigh 56 kilos. I know that it won't be too difficult to get better, but I'm not going to jeopardize other aspects to gain a lot of time against the clock. If I focus a lot on that, then I'll lose my explosiveness in the mountains. Explosiveness is my forte."

There's something refreshing in the attitude of the 31 year old rider, who has spent most of his career in the shadow of a vaunted team leader - he's a climber, and he wants to win, but not at any cost. After a go at the Tour, which was by all accounts a great success in his first ever go - 8th overall with a stage win - Rodriguez realized the apparent and is focusing his attentions elsewhere, namely on races that he has a chance at winning. With those races, he still understands where his talents lie, and while improving his time trial is important, it's not more important than the talent, which has made him the rider that he is - an explosive climber.

While Rodriguez's attitude toward racing is practical and encouraging, some might disagree with his opinion on the two fallen Spanish heroes, Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde. Rodriguez feels that both have been wrongly singled out and something needs to change in the future.

"There's something wrong and someone will have to slam their fist on the table, so that cases such as these don't happen anymore. The two cases of Alejandro and Alberto are very unfair. Valverde has been suspended without giving a positive, and Contador has been the victim of contamination, which can happen to anyone. These are two cases defined by bureaucracy more than anything else."

The native of Parets del Valles echoes the sentiment of another Catalonian climber from earlier this week, Xavier Tondo. Tondo admitted to being scared of eating beef for fear of getting a contaminated cut. While many laugh incredulously at Contador's line of defense, it's apparent that at least two Spanish riders are taking the possibility very seriously.


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