BARCELONA, Spain (VN) — Joaquim “Purito” Rodríguez says he’s all but sure to stay with Russian-backed Katusha through 2014 and adds that he likes what he sees of the route for the 2013 Tour de France.
WorldTour champion Rodríguez, speaking to Spanish journalists Saturday in Barcelona, said a deal is imminent that will keep him at Katusha for two more seasons. He hinted that the exit of former manager Hans-Michael Holczer and the arrival of Viatcheslav Ekimov will only help matters.
“I can almost say it’s done, all that’s lacking is a signature,” Rodríguez said of his contract extension. “With the change of management, things are going into a good direction and I suppose it can only be for the better. We are negotiating to stay until 2014. Everything’s gone well so far (with Katusha). Why change now?”
Holczer, the former manager of Gerolsteiner, left Katusha after two seasons. Ekimov is poised to move in as the team’s new general manager for 2013. Ekimov so far has remained elusive with the media and has not spoken publicly about the Armstrong Affair or about his new duties with Katusha.
Rodríguez, who recently returned from vacations in the Caribbean, hinted there were troubles with Holczer at Katusha.
“It’s clear that (Holczer’s) departure was the result of many circumstances,” he told the Spanish wire service EFE. “I don’t think it was because he was good or bad with me. I certainly wasn’t the only one who thought he wasn’t doing a good job. Certainly someone from upstairs realized that he wasn’t up to the task.”
Rodríguez, meanwhile, is already looking ahead to 2013 and considering his top goals for the season.
After enjoying his best season ever, with second place at the Giro d’Italia, third at the Vuelta a España and victory at the Giro di Lombardia, Rodríguez ended the year ranked No. 1 in the world and with more motivation than ever.
For 2013, Rodríguez hinted he will not repeat the Giro-Vuelta double as he has the past two seasons and instead focus on the Tour de France. Despite not yet seeing the Vuelta route, “Purito” says the mountainous Tour route offers him his best shot at the podium.
“It will be a long time before there’s another Tour so mountainous, so I hope to race it next year,” he said. “I would like to try to achieve the podium in all three grand tours. I wouldn’t mind wearing the yellow jersey, especially after having worn the pink jersey and the red jersey. The Tour motivates me now.”
So far, Rodríguez has done better in the Giro and Vuelta, due in large part to his struggles in individual time trials. But he’s smelling opportunity in this year’s Tour route and wants to improve on his seventh-place finish in 2010, the only year he’s raced the French tour.
Rodríguez said he will speak with his Katusha teammates and sport directors during team meetings next month before finalizing his racing schedule for 2013.