By Gregor Brown
Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha) shifted his schedule to avoid regrets. After three podiums, never on the top step, he wants a Grand Tour victory. Instead of the Tour de France, where he placed third, he will race the Giro d'Italia.
"I've been racing the Giro for five years. I don't have many chances to win it," the Spaniard told Cycling Weekly. "I hope that when I leave cycling I don't have to look back with regret but with a Grand Tour win in my palmarès. I hope that it'll come this year or next year."
Rodríguez dressed in his red Katusha kit and sprayed sun block on before stepping out of the team's van to speak. He sit down in the shade in Tilisarao's square to avoid the 35°C temperature at the start of Tour de San Luis stage three. The race is part of his build up for the Giro d'Italia, starting May 9 in Belfast.
At the Tour de France last year he placed third behind Chris Froome (Sky) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar). He thought he could win. He already placed second in the Giro and third in the Vuelta a España in 2012. That Giro, only 16 seconds off the win and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin) after a time trial in Milan, was the closest he has come to Grand Tour victory.
The Tour de France attracts more attention but after looking over the route Rodríguez directed his attention to Italy. The Giro features one long, 46.4-kilometre time trial to Barolo and six summit finishes in the final nine days.
"This year the Tour is not suited to me, there are too many TT kilometres and the first week is dangerous with pavé," he said. "I can't make a difference in those stages, and I can lose time. I don't think I'd have the condition to take a lot of time in the climbs. Not even to get on the podium."
Rodríguez spoke quickly in Italian. He learnt it racing with different teams, including Saunier Duval. He said that Bella Italia also swayed him.
"Italy is great. I'm not Italian but I'm treated that way. I like the country," he added. "The Giro usually suits me: never a flat stage. For that reason I like Italy and the Giro. A little bit because of the Italians and a little bit because of my racing style."
The Giro this year attracts several top riders, including Quintana, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), Richie Porte (Sky) and Rigoberto Urán (Omega Pharma-Quick Step). Rodríguez knows this. He joked two days ago that he wished Quintana would race the Tour instead of the Giro.
"It's harder but it's worth more if you win," he said. "The more stars there are the more difficult it is, but that motivates me to try harder."
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