Despite Amstel crash, Rodríguez to start Flèche with Liège on horizon

Joaquim Rodríguez crashed hard on his left leg during Sunday's Amstel Gold Race

RIEMST, Belgium (VN) — Joaquim Rodríguez will start tomorrow’s Flèche Wallonne, but admits he’s handicapped by injury and discounts his chances to defend his 2012 title.

The Katusha captain crashed out of Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race and only made the decision to race tomorrow after training for three hours Tuesday morning.

“I will start, but tomorrow will be difficult to think of winning,” Rodríguez said Tuesday to a handful of journalists at a press conference. “I know it will be complicated tomorrow to be with the best. I will take the start to help my teammates and try to recover in time for Sunday.”

Rodríguez, aka “Purito,” said he landed hard on the back of his left leg in a pileup with about 45 kilometers to go Sunday. MRI scans on Monday confirmed there were no muscle tears, only a heavy hematoma.

Rodríguez endured a light, three-hour training session Tuesday morning and made the call to start Flèche.

The Spanish puncheur rolled into Ardennes week with top form and high ambitions. His crash changes everything, however, and he’s going to try to salvage his spring with a strong ride Sunday at Liège.

“It’s a real blow because I am arriving here with better form than last year,” he said. “If it were any other race, it wouldn’t be so bad, but these are my favorite one-day races of the year. It’s going to be difficult to start tomorrow knowing that I probably have no chance of winning.”

Dani Moreno, Rodríguez’s ever-loyal lieutenant, will now earn the team captain role, with Purito waiting in the wings to see how his legs feel.

“I hope to get to the base of the Mur de Huy in the front group, above all to help Dani,” he said. “And if I am feeling good, why not? If I will, we can call it the ‘Miracle of the Mur.’”

With Rodríguez questionable, he said other teams will have to step up to control the race, most likely Movistar.

Rodríguez hopes to get through the week and be able to start Liège on Sunday without pain.

“Liège is the race I dream of winning,” he said. “I hope to be there ready to try to win. That’s what I’ve been working for all these months. It’s a shame that the crash happened, but that’s life. I can only look forward. I want to be ready Sunday, we shall see.”