Joaquim Rodriguez has been atop several podiums,...

Rodriguez poised for Tour return to prepare for Vuelta run

The Spaniard is eyeing a Tour de France spot as he prepares for the Vuelta a España and a potential grand tour win

Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha), one of the top names to crash out of the Giro d’Italia, is poised to make a return in time for the Tour de France next month.

Katusha general manager Viatcheslav Ekimov told VeloNews a final decision is still not made, but said it’s likely the Spaniard will race the Tour (July 5-27).

“He returned to train [last] week, and we’ll decide soon,” Ekimov said. “If he does the Tour, it will be to try to win a stage, and prepare for the Vuelta a España.”

Rodríguez, 35, crashed heavily in stage 6, injuring his ribs and fracturing a finger. Second to Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) in 2012, the Spaniard was one of the pre-race favorites for the pink jersey.

Rodríguez resumed training last week from his home base in Andorra. It appears he is riding without pain, so the Tour start looks all but certain.

As Ekimov suggested, if Rodríguez lines up for the Tour, he will readjust his priorities. Instead of trying to match his third-place in 2013, the Spanish climber will instead use the Tour to put some racing into his legs, and perhaps try to win a stage.

Rodríguez already had decided to bypass the Tour this year, simply because he knew the challenging route and deep field would make it all but impossible to have realistic chances to win. The Giro, however, was ideal for his qualities.

Rodríguez had a solid spring, winning a stage and the overall at the Volta a Catalunya, but heavy crashes at the Amstel Gold Race and the Giro have knocked him back.

Even if he uses the Tour as a three-week training camp, he won’t have it any easier in the Vuelta (August 22-September 14).

Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Alejandro Valverde, and Giro winner Nairo Quintana (both Movistar), Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp), and defending champ Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida) are all expected to start.

Following his heart-breaking second in last year’s road world world championships to Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Rodríguez admits time is running out.

“I am missing a grand tour and a world title on my palmares,” Rodríguez said during the Giro. “I’ve won small races and one-day races, but I want to win a grand tour. If I don’t win a Giro, maybe I will never win a grand tour, who knows?”