Spanish veteran Joaquim Rodriguez was initially enticed back to racing in 2017 with Bahrain-Merida, but instead will join the new squad as a member of staff
Spanish star Joaquim Rodriguez has decided to continue with his original plan to retire from professional cycling at the end of 2016, having been temporarily enticed back to racing with team Bahrain-Merida.
The 37-year-old classics and grand tour star announced he would end his professional career after the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro after 16 years as a pro – the last seven with team Katusha.
However, he said that he was not happy with how his racing career had ended and signed a contract with new Bahrain-Merida team through 2019. His plan was to race and then transfer later to the team’s support staff.
“After taking enough time to think and also trying to come back to a working routine, I realised it was not possible for me,” he said. “So with the support of my family and friends, I decided not to come back to the competition at the highest of levels.
“I realised, speaking with them, that I am not prepared physically and mentally, for a 100 per cent comeback. I wanted to announce this before the start of the new season, because the riders are the protagonists and they deserve the full attention.”
The small, punchy Catalan counts nine stage wins in the Vuelta a España and three in the Tour de France. He placed top three in all three grand tours, but never won one. In the 2012 Giro, Ryder Hesjedal overtook him in the final day’s time trial.
He also excelled in one-day races. He won Flèche Wallonne and Il Lombardia twice.
Instead of racing, Rodriguez will take a director/mentor role in Bahrain-Merida, which has signed grand tour star Vincenzo Nibali. The new team said that he will start by working with its young talents. He will also take an ambassador roles with Merida bicycles and Bahrain.
“We support ‘Purito’ with this difficult decision, we know how hard it is for a professional cyclist to end his racing career and we wanted to give him the opportunity to end his career with our team,” General Manager Brent Copeland said.
“We left the final decision up to him and wanted him to be free with what he best decided. As we have said before the first contact with Joaquim was made with the intention of him working with the technical staff of the team so we are pleased that he has decided to continue in this direction.”
Rodriguez brought valuable points to the new team during its push for a WorldTour licence. Without Rodríguez, it should have received a licence regardless, but with him, it stood first in line ahead of Bora-Hansgrohe with world champion Peter Sagan.