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Katusha officials confirmed Thursday that Joaquim Rodríguez will start the Tour de France next month despite his early exit from the Giro d’Italia due to injuries.
Rodríguez rode to a career-best third place in last year’s Tour, but had planned to skip it this year in favor of an all-out bid for victory in the Giro. A heavy crash on rainy roads on stage 6, however, put an end to his maglia rosa hopes, leaving him with a fractured rib and thumb.
Though Rodríguez said it still hurts when he trains, he insisted it would hurt more if he stayed home instead of racing the Tour.
“The third week [of the Tour] looks nice, and I want to win one or more stages. I have that goal, and in the meantime, I will enjoy my bike. Otherwise it would be hard to watch TV without being there. It hurt during the Giro, and it would hurt in the Tour, too,” Rodríguez said in a team release. “Those races are ‘my’ races. It’s only when I watch races like Paris-Roubaix on TV that I don’t have the feeling that I’m missing something.”
As team manager Viatcheslav Ekimov told VeloNews earlier this month, Rodríguez said he would start the Tour without GC ambitions, and instead will ride into form to hunt for a stage win during the final week, with an eye on racing the Vuelta a España to win.
“I have Tour ambitions too, though not for the GC,” he continued. “The other goal I put in place at the beginning of the season, the [Vuelta], is still there. The course suits me and I want to win that race. This does not mean that I go to the Tour de France as preparation for the Vuelta.”
Earlier this year, Rodríguez outlined an ambitious 2014 season, with peaks during the spring classics and Giro, and later, the Vuelta and world championships.
Bad crashes during Amstel Gold Race, and later at the Giro, all but ended the first part of his season. Since returning to training at his home base in Andorra, Rodríguez hopes to salvage the remainder of the 2014 campaign with a strong comeback at the Tour before the Vuelta and worlds later this year.
“I really wanted to perform well in the first part of the season. I had big ambitions, but my crashes in the Amstel Gold Race and the Giro ruined my chances for the classics as well as for the first grand tour of the season,” he said. “My rib still hurts a bit, but already there is much less pain than in the beginning. It gets better every day, and we still have three more weeks until the Tour.”
Rodríguez’s inclusion for the Tour won’t shake up Katusha’s ambitions very much. The team was planning on bringing an on-form Alexander Kristoff for stage wins and giving Simon Spilak, who was second at the Tour de Romandie, a chance to try his luck in the GC. Otherwise, the squad was going to be filled out with Russian riders.