Joaquim Rodriguez, the 2012 WorldTour champion, put his Ardennes Classics and Tour de France hopes at risk on Sunday with a crash in the Amstel Gold Race.
"It's s**t," Katusha sports director, Valerio Piva said briefly to Cycling Weekly after the race.
"He was in the crash before the Gulpenerberg. He had pain in his back and legs. It's a shock, I know, what can I do now? I'm not happy about it, for sure, but afterwards we'll know more."
Piva saw his star briefly when he arrived at the bus after the race. He and the Spaniard exchanged a couple of words, before a required anti-doping test and hospital visit.
"He needs to go to the hospital. It's a haematoma, for sure. After the X-rays, we'll know better."
Rodriguez hit the deck with about 43 kilometres to go, before the 26th climb of the day, the Gulpenerberg. TV images showed Maurits Lammertink (Vacansoleil-DCM) covered in mud and picking himself up. A Katusha rider stood on the road further in the distance. The broadcast in the pressroom was in Dutch, but everyone's ears perked when the announcer said Rodriguez.
The Katusha captain planned his season around winning the Tour de France. Instead of the Tour of Basque Country, which he normally races before the Ardennes Classics, he trained at altitude in Tenerife. The Ardennes Classics remain important, but Rodriguez's eyes are fixed on the Tour de France.
The Amstel Gold Race crash could spoil not only his ambitions in Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but also the Tour de France.
Shimano neutral service arrived and put his bike in order while he limped around to protect his left leg. Piva arrived with the team car. Katusha's mechanic jumped out and looked over Rodriguez's bike. Piva helped him get going.
Rodriguez gingerly pedalled along and later abandoned.
Overnight, Katusha's press office sent a brief update out. The good news is that Rodriguez came away without a fracture, but the bad news is that he suffered a setback for the Ardennes Classics and his Tour preparations.
"Rodriguez today was subjected to medical examinations in Maastricht," read the press release. "The scan showed a strong contusion at the left femoral biceps muscle. During the next days the team's doctors will decide the recovery time of 'Purito', in order to understand if he's going to take part to the other Ardennes Classics."
Rodriguez won Flèche Wallonne last year. Piva told CW this morning that it and Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday were his main Ardennes Classics goals. Now, his goal will be just to get himself back in order to train for the Tour de France.
Roman Kreuziger wins Amstel Gold Race
Joaquim Rodriguez: Rider profile
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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