Broken and bruised, Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) reluctantly exited the Giro d’Italia before having a chance to shine.
The veteran Spanish rider, who was hoping to win his first grand tour after a career of close calls, is now taking aim at the Vuelta a España, with an outside chance of racing the Tour de France.
The big question mark will be if Rodríguez will be able to fully recover from his injuries in time for the Tour.
“The Vuelta was, and is, the next big goal for Rodríguez,” said Katusha manager Viatcheslav Ekimov. “In light of the recent situation, his participation in the Tour cannot be excluded. Everything will depend on his recovery.”
Rodríguez was one of the main victims of Thursday’s brutal crash that wiped out most of the Giro peloton as the pack jostled for position near the base of the Montecassino climb. Several GC favorites lost time and/or crashed, but Katusha bore the brunt of the damage. In addition to losing Rodríguez, Angel Vicioso crashed out with a broken femur, and Giampolo Caruso also was forced to abandon.
Katusha vows to press on during the Giro with its remaining riders, and has changed its priorities from the GC to hunting stages. On Saturday, Dani Moreno attacked near the finish line, coming close to surprising the bunch, but jumped a bit early to capture the victory.
“I didn’t know the finale was so hard. I really wanted to win, and the victory was in my plans the whole time, but I have to admit I went too early,” Moreno said Saturday. “We were taking a long time to catch Arredondo and Rolland, but the final climb was very hard, and the finale was too much for me.”
Rodríguez, who broke three ribs during Thursday’s crash, returned to Spain to recover from his injuries. He said he would “disappear” for 10 days to fully recover before returning to training.
“There’s nothing more you can do than to accept what happened, and keep looking forward, and focus on what remains of the season,” said Rodríguez. “I am not going to start any race unless I am 100 percent. It’s not the right moment to talk about the Tour. … To speak now about the Tour or any other race is pure speculation.”
Despite finishing third overall last year, Rodríguez had planned to skip this year’s Tour to focus on the Giro, Vuelta, and the world championships set for Spain in September.
Katusha, meanwhile, was going to focus its Tour effort on Alexander Kristoff and some promising Russian riders.