Who isn’t a fan of the little pocket rocket Joaquim Rodriguez?
Our heart sank a bit when Rui Costa, waiting until the last possible, tactically brilliant second, shot past the Spaniard to win a rain-soaked rainbow jersey in Florence, Italy.
The devastated look on Rodriguez’s face as he stood on the podium with his silver zero-consolation medal told the entire emotional story. Contrast that with the confusing look on the face of his teammate Alejandro Valverde.
While Rodriguez broke down in tears, Valverde appeared to be dealing with a far more complex set of emotions we couldn’t quite read. Our visual interpretation was stunned resignation, bewilderment and a distracted quality that made us think he was already preparing his justifications on tactics. (He looked like police has just informed him that a homicidal Jesus Marzano was headed to Valverde’s house with a loaded gun.)
What you see is what you get with Rodriguez. He was classy when Ryder Hesjedal beat him in last year’s tightly contested Giro d’Italia. Purito was also honest about his disappointment and generous in the congratulations when Contador stole his Vuelta with a stunning surprise attack in the final week. Rodriguez thought he had his first grand tour title wrapped up but was nothing but class in Madrid.
There have been a number of terribly frustrating second places for Rodriguez — Giro, Vuelta, Worlds — but he never seems to whine or act bitter or call out teammates or rivals. The little climber takes the high road.
So there was no particular surprise when Rodriguez refused to get caught up in the post road race dissection of what Valverde did or didn’t do. If there were any issues between the two riders, he kept it in house. “After the Worlds, that night we said what we had to say. Every one of us has his own point of view,” said Rodriguez.
What we read in that statement is that Rodriguez wasn’t entirely satisfied with the way Valverde raced. Having two ambitious captains, both with a one in four shot at a World Road Race Champion title, makes a perfect scenario for conflicting agendas but Rodriguez isn’t throwing that out for public discussion.
Chapeau to Rodriguez.