Rodríguez: ‘Valverde told me to attack’

After speaking with Alejandro Valverde, Joaquim Rodríguez is trying hard to turn the page on Sunday's bitter worlds disappointment

Photo: Watson

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LEON, Spain (VN) — Joaquim Rodríguez is trying to put the best spin on Sunday’s bitter disappointment of losing the world title in a thrilling finale against Rui Costa.

The Spanish veteran, speaking to Spanish daily MARCA, said he’s already looking ahead to this weekend’s Giro di Lombardia, but admitted it won’t be easy to turn the page so quickly.

“To have the world title so close and not win it, you don’t forget that,” Rodríguez told MARCA. “I had the legs to win, and I went for the victory. But we didn’t win, when Alejandro [Valverde] and I were the strongest. It’s not easy [to turn the page]. I am a person who always looks ahead, not backward, even though sometimes it’s not so easy.”

Spain has been broiling in an intense debate over how the national team missed the rainbow jersey on Sunday when it had two riders in the select, four-man group in the final kilometers.

Many have blamed Valverde for not following Costa’s late attack, but others suggested that Rodríguez should not have attacked a third and final time with three kilometers to go, and instead rode in together to set up Valverde for the sprint.

“I am reading things on the social network that are not correct,” Rodríguez countered. “It was Alejandro who told me with 3km to go to attack. He said, ‘attack, I’ll cover,’ and thanks to him, the group [of four] split, and I went ahead. It was the right thing to do, we had spoken about it, and it’s what the coach had asked of us from the beginning.

“The first attack was obvious and Alejandro knew I was going to try. I played my card, thinking to cause some damage, thinking that if they caught me, Alejandro could finish off the sprint. All he had to do was watch Costa, because I would have taken care of [Vincenzo] Nibali.”

Valverde has been the target of heavy criticism for not following Costa’s counter-attack with just under 2km to go. Rodríguez had sharp words for Valverde at the finish line Sunday, but said the pair spoke about the race later that night.

“After the race, during the night, we each said what we had to say. Each of us has their point of view,” Rodríguez said. “There might be more chances [to win], but this one will never come back. We had it in the palm of our hands, either I won or he won. We were the strongest and it was up to us.”

Rodríguez will try to defend his Lombardia title on Saturday and did not discount racing the Tour of Beijing in a bid to chase the WorldTour points title that he won in 2012. Chris Froome (Sky) leads Rodríguez 587-507, with Peter Sagan (Cannondale) third, with 491 points.

“To win, I would have to win [Lombardia] or second, and Froome would have to finish out of the points. Even if I didn’t win the WorldTour title, winning Lombardia again would be a nice way to end the season,” Rodríguez said. “It would leave a good taste in my mouth.”

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