CORTINA d’AMPEZZO, Italy (VN) – Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) walked out of a post-stage press conference in tears after being asked about the one-year anniversary of the death of Xavier Tondo.
Rodríguez was one of Tondo’s closest friends and he dedicated his victory to Tondo, who died in a horrific accident in a parking garage in Spain one year ago. Rodríguez wore a black armband in honor of Tondo, but couldn’t control his emotions when journalists queried him about the gesture.
“I will remember him for the rest of my life, not just today. I do not like to talk about it in public because I prefer to remember him privately,” Rodríguez said, his voice quivering. “I knew him since he was a kid. Other people talk about him without really even knowing him. I do not like to speak about it. It’s something I keep inside my heart.”
Moments after speaking, Rodríguez teared up and quickly walked out of the press conference.
A Katusha press officer returned a few moments later to apologize, with the expectation that the Giro’s overall leader would return. Rodríguez did return, only to fetch his Blackberry, and quickly left again without further comment.
Before the emotions overtook him, Rodríguez said he was satisfied with his performance in Wednesday’s challenging stage.
“I didn’t win the stage to show I am strong,” he said. “I did well throughout the stage. Perhaps Basso was stronger and he deserves a special recognition of how he rode today. I felt protected throughout the stage by my teammates.”