Joaquim Rodriguez confident heading into the Vuelta a España
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Monday, August 15, 2011

Joaquim Rodriguez confident heading into the Vuelta a España

by VeloNation Press at 7:22 PM EST   comments
Categories: Mountain Biking
 
Katusha rider determined to make amends after time trial implosion cost him 2010 victory

Joaquim RodriguezPerhaps unfairly, Joaquim Rodriguez’s Vuelta a España performance last year is remembered as much for his meltdown in the final trial as he is for his performances in the race. The Team Katusha rider won stage 14 to Peña Cabarga, led the race for a day after stage ten and stage 16, and seemed in the running for the overall title. However a disastrous performance against the clock on stage 17 saw his 33 second lead over Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) evaporate; he placed only 105th, losing six minutes and twelve seconds, and dropped to fifth overall.

This time round, he hopes that things will be different. “My performances against the clock have improved at the Giro and the Dauphiné but it doesn’t mean that I’m becoming a specialist of time trials”, he said. “I’ve worked to ride better than I did in Peñafiel last year. I hope to avoid another disaster like that/”

When the dust settled on last year’s race, Rodriguez was fourth overall in Madrid, four minutes and 22 seconds behind Nibali. Given that he lost over six minutes in the time trial, it is clear that he could otherwise have taken the final red jersey.

This year, he structured his season around being in his best shape possible for the Vuelta a España. He rode the Giro d’Italia instead of the Tour de France, taking a break in July and then returning to win the Tour of Burgos. The 32 year old is psyched, and is determined to fight all the way.

“I’m not hiding that I’m well and that I’m going to race for the victory,” he said. “It will be twenty days of stress. Many things can happen but I know that I’ve worked as well as I could in order to deliver a better result than last year’s fourth place overall.”

Rodriguez may have lost the race but his performance there and general consistency throughout the season saw him end the year as the top-ranked rider in the world. He and his team came up with a different race programme this year, with the Vuelta being one of the main objectives.

Early on, he took a stage of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, was second in both the Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne, and placed fifth overall in the Giro d’Italia. He was also fifth in the Critérium du Dauphiné, and blazed to impressive stage victories on the final two days. Victory in the points and mountains classifications capped off what was a fine performance.

Following a rest, he’s worked hard. “Before and after the Tour of Burgos, I trained here in Andorra,” he said. “I didn’t go and reconnoitre many stages of the Vuelta because I know most of them already. I went to see the finale of El Escorial (stage 8) and that will be harder than high mountains! It’s necessary to arrive in good shape at the start because the first hills come quickly, with the Sierra Nevada on stage four. There won’t be many hills during the last week.

“There will be Peña Cabarga [where he triumphed in 2010] and a few attacks by desperate riders but whoever will have the red jersey at the top of the Anglirù (stage 15) will have a good chance of winning in Madrid. It’ll be hard to recover time after that stage.”

He said that a big thing is to know that he gave his absolute best this time round. “I want to reach Madrid with my mind free of regrets and worries”, he continued. “The most important will be to have a good race and to improve the fourth place I got last year. I’ve looked at the news about the other riders apparently coming to the Vuelta with good form: Menchov, Nibali, Scarponi, Antón, Brajkovic, Wiggins.”

The Catalunyan rider said that he was relieved that Alberto Contador isn’t taking part, although he said that the Spaniard seems a little more mortal after not winning this year’s Tour de France. The Saxo Bank SunGard rider had to settle for fifth overall, with much of his strength being burned up in winning the Giro d’Italia.

Aside from his own hard work, Rodriguez – who is well known for his punchy style and aggressive racing – said that he will have the advantage of strong backup. “I go to the Vuelta with the advantage of having a great team around me. I was not the only one from Katusha going well at the Tour of Burgos, Dani Moreno [2nd overall], Joan Horrach, Alberto Losada, etc. were doing well,” he said. “I also learned that the guys doing the Tour of Poland were also on good form. Everything makes me optimistic.”

The 2011 Vuelta a España starts this Saturday with a team time trial in Benidorm.

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