Joaquin Rodriguez, the UCI number one ranked rider in 2012, was beaten in the Giro d’Italia by dark-horse Ryder Hesjedal of Garmin-Sharp. Rodriguez was then beaten in the Vuelta a Espana by the return of Alberto Contador.
The question is, who will beat him out of a possible grand tour win or podium finish in the 2013 Tour de France?
Is is the Russian Denis Menchov and his long association with evil dope doctor Michele Ferrari? Is it the dark US Postal past of team manager Viatcheslav Ekimov? Or could it possibly be the EPO positive of sprinter Denis Galimzyanov or the allegations that Alexander Kolobnev sold the 2010 Liege-Bastogne-Liege to fellow scofflaw Alexander Vinokourov?
Take your pick because in the secretive and mysterious ways of the UCI License Committee, nobody really knows for sure. The only guess is, the failure is not financial but moral.
Rodriguez has the dubious privilege of perhaps being knocked out of the Tour de France by his own teammates at Katusha. He isn’t losing his invite to Le Grand Shindig for sporting reasons but rather ethical concerns.
Little “Purito” now has a big incentive to leave the Global Russian Cycling project, sometimes called the Global Russian Ethical Disaster.
According to reports, he already has a three year offer from a WorldTour squad with an automatic invite to a mountainous Tour perfectly suited to his climbing skills. His agent says they have no concrete plans but that’s just smoke screen agent talk.
One thing is for sure: Rodriguez isn’t feeling real close to Menchov and the boys. Team spirit is at an all time low, like a sub-zero Siberian winter. The Spaniard is in the UCI gulag and a rescue plan from the Court for Arbitration is a weak and very glacial option. The season could be half over by the time those judges rule on the case– they’re still recovering from the Contador debacle.
It’s hard to accurately predict what will happen but two things seem concrete givens. First, Rodrigues has publicly stated on numerous occasions that he has every intention of riding this year’s Tour de France. Second, Katusha’s attempt to fast track some kind of deal or resolution with the UCI and CAS isn’t working. Sum those two thing up and it says Rodriguez takes whatever contract he can find and waves dasvidania to the Russkis.
Right now it’s a raw deal for Rodriguez who rode at a consistently high level last year. He seems likable, has a good sense of humor and always puts on a show whenever there’s a hard, punchy climb with an insane grade. He’s standing on the roadside with his thumb out and his shoes and pedals in a small bag hoping BMC’s Andy Rihs picks him up. Maybe Argos-Shimano will throw enough euros at him to gain instant grand tour cred.
Rodriguez was beaten by Hesjedal, Contador and Menchov. The last one might just hurt the worst.